Planning Commission rejects Parkview development plans

Proposal advances to City Council for review

Plans to build a housing development on the Parkview Golf Club property were rejected this week by the Eagan Planning Commission due to concerns the development would impede upon Lebanon Hills Regional Park.

The commission on Jan. 22 voted to recommend a denial of Eden Prairie real estate developer Hunter Emerson’s proposal to the rezone Parkview from public recreation to planned development and a denial of its proposed preliminary planned development.

Hunter Emerson hopes to turn the golf course at 1310 Cliff Road in Eagan into a development called Dakota Path that would include 177 single-family homes, a swimming pool, a tot-lot, a pavilion and a basketball court. The basketball court, tot-lot, pavilion and trails throughout the development would be open to the public, said Scott Carlston, owner of Hunter Emerson.

The development would feature a variety of home sizes to accommodate both empty nesters and growing families, he said. Hunter Emerson had previously added a senior housing complex to its plans, but removed the complex after consulting with nearby residents and Dakota County officials. It was determined the site would not accommodate the needs of a senior housing complex due to a lack of public transportation and amenities, Carlston said.

Commissioners were impressed by the proposed amenities, but worried the development would infringe upon the aesthetics of Lebanon Hills Regional Park.

The plans call for a 20-foot buffer that would be covered by deciduous and conifer trees and would separate the development from the park. The buffer would be a part of homeowners’ yards.

Most commissioners contended that the developer’s plan wouldn’t adequately separate Dakota Path from the natural parkland.

“My concern is that there is no way to properly enforce this with it being self enforceable or by a homeowners’ association,” Commissioner Mike Supina said.

Supina added that he is also concerned that the buffer is too small.

Dakota County Park Director Steve Sullivan expressed concerns about whether the development would negatively impact the view of people visiting the 2,000-acre natural area.

“This buffer has not been proven to be adequate,” Sullivan said. “The lack of an adequate buffer would change the quality of recreation uses of this park.”

Sullivan said county officials prefer a buffer similar to the 100-foot buffer at the neighboring Fairway Hills developments.

In addition to concerns about the development’s potential impacts on the park, residents expressed concerns about traffic.

A recent study concluded Pilot Knob, Cliff and other roads surrounding the proposed development would be able to safely accommodate additional traffic resulting in the added housing.

Despite the study’s results, a number of residents expressed concerns about traffic.

“I can’t begin to tell you what it will be like to live in this neighborhood if this goes in,” said Christie Soderling, who lives in the nearby Parkcliff neighborhood.

Soderling noted that the area presently experiences increased traffic during sporting events at a nearby park, which will get worse, she said, if Dakota Path moves forward.

A few residents criticized the study saying it was inaccurate, but City Engineer John Gorder sided with the study.

Others, including planning commissioners, expressed concerns about the small number of acres dedicated to parks. The developer’s plans dedicated two acres to park land, but commissioners and residents had hoped to see four acres dedicated.

“I’m disappointed there isn’t more park land dedicated,” Supina said.

The developer’s controversial plans have met a slew of criticism from nearby residents who had hoped to keep the golf course open. But Parkview co-owner Robert Zakheim has contended since June, when the development was first proposed, that the golf course is unsustainable.

One group of residents proposed in October the city purchase the golf course to turn into a city amenity, but historically, such proposals fail to pass on referendum. A similar proposal was placed on a referendum nearly 10 years ago proposing the city purchase Carriage Hills Golf Course. Voters defeated the referendum by an overwhelming majority.

While a number of residents have opposed the plans, a few others have spoke in favor of the development at previous meetings.

Although the proposal was rejected by the Planning Commission, it will move on the City Council for consideration. The council doesn’t always follow the Planning Commission’s recommendations.

The Planning Commission recommended in September a denial of a comprehensive guide plan amendment to change Parkview’s guided land use from private recreation to low-density residential, but the City Council unanimously approved sending the amendment to the Metropolitan Council, which approved the measure.