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    5.    
Planning Commission Regular
Meeting Date: 07/20/2017  
Subject:    PC 17-20, Site Plan for 128 unit Apartment Building, 3525-3551 Coon Rapids Blvd, Firm Ground Architects & Engineers
From: Scott Harlicker, Planner

INTRODUCTION
The applicant is requesting site plan approval for a 128 unit apartment building along with 1,800 square feet of commercial/office space. The applicant has also submitted applications for corresponding preliminary plat, land use amendment and zone change.
ACTIONS
Conduct a public hearing
Decision by Planning Commission
Appeal to City Council Available
Decision City Council for Use Flexibility on: August 2

 
60 DAY RULE
The applicant submitted this application on:  June 12

To comply with the requirements of Minnesota Statute §15.99, the City must approve or deny the application by: August 11
LOCATION
The property is located at 3525 - 3551 Coon Rapids Boulevard.
 
  Existing Use Comprehensive Plan Zoning
Subject
Property
Vacant Office/ High Density Residential Office/High Density Residential/River Rapids Overlay District
North Single Family Residence/Townhomes Low Density Residential/Moderate Density Residential Low Density Residential 2/Moderate Density Residential
South Coon Rapids Boulevard N/A N/A
East U-Haul General Commercial General Commercial/River Rapids Overlay District
West Single Family Residence Office Office/River Rapids Overlay District





 
DISCUSSION
Background

The applicant is proposing to construct a 128 unit apartment building and 1,800 square feet of first floor commercial/office space. The plan includes 105 enclosed parking spaces and 53 exterior spaces. The building is five stories high and includes a mix of studio, one and two bedroom apartments. The plan includes 69 one bedroom units, 19 studio units and 40 two bedroom units.The building's unique design, opening in the center of the building, is a result of accommodating  an existing sanitary sewer line. The opening allows access to maintain the sewer line while allowing units above it. It also creates an opportunity for a unique focal point.

In 2016 the City Council approved a zone change and land use amendment to change the zoning and land use to High Density Residential. The property is also located in the River Rapids Overlay District. 

The applicant is requesting use flexibility for density and the mix of commercial/office space. Use flexibility requires Planning Commission recommendation and City Council approval. The applicant is also requesting design and dimensional flexibility for building height, setbacks, parking and other design features. Dimensional and design flexibility can be granted with Planning Commission approval.

Site Plan Criteria
 
Required Finding - Chapter 11-325 - General Requirements for All Site Plans Staff Analysis and Comments
(1) Be compatible with surrounding land uses OK - The proposed site plan is compatible with the adjacent land uses.
(2) Preserve existing natural features  whenever possible OK - The existing arborvitae hedge along the north property line will be preserved.
(3) Achieve a safe and efficient circulation system OKThe drive aisles are of sufficient width to allow for safe and efficient traffic circulation. See Parking and Access discussion.
(4) Not place excessive traffic loads on local streets OK - See Parking and Access discussion.
(5) Conform to the City’s plans for parks, streets, service drives, and walkways OK- A sidewalk is proposed along Coon Rapids Boulevard along with connections from Coon Rapids Boulevard into the site.
(6) Conform to the City’s Goals and Policies OK - The proposal is consistent with the Comprehensive Plan.
(7) Achieve a maximum of safety, convenience, and amenities OK - A sidewalk connects the building entrance with the parking lot. Bike racks are provided near the main entrance. Seating is also provided adjacent to the main entrance.
(8) Show sufficient landscaping OK–  See discussion.
(9) Not create detrimental disturbances to surrounding properties OK – The project will not create disturbances which will be detrimental to the surrounding properties. The building is setback as far as possible from from adjacent residences and landscaping is proposed as an additional buffer.
(10) Meet Title 11 OK-  No variances are needed. However, use, design and dimensional flexibility are needed.
(11) Show efforts to conserve energy whenever practical OK 

Parking and Access

Parking
The plan includes 158 parking spaces at a ratio of 1.23 spaces per unit. The code requires 2.25 spaces per unit; the applicant is requesting dimensional flexibility for the number of required parking spaces. The plan includes 105 enclosed spaces; the code requires 96 enclosed spaces. Forty-one enclosed spaces are located on the first floor of the east wing of the building and 64 are located below grade.

The surface spaces on the west end of the building are shown at 18 feet deep, code requires 20 feet. The additional depth can be gained by narrowing the drive aisle and changing it to one-way flow.

The parking is setback 5 feet from the west property line, 8 feet is the required setback. Drive aisles are required to be setback 10 feet from non-living areas of the building. The plan shows the drive aisle setback 5 feet from the west end of the building and 6 feet in the center drive through area. Dimensional flexibility is required. The parking and drive aisle comply with the setback requirements in other areas.

Access
The 41 enclosed spaces on the first floor are accessed from 115th Lane. The driveway from 115th Lane provides access only to those 41 spaces. There are two driveways proposed from Coon Rapids Boulevard, one in the center of the site and one at the west end. These two driveways provide access to the 53 surface parking spaces and the 64 below grade spaces. The site plan has been sent to Anoka County Highway Department for their review.

Landscaping

Along Coon Rapids Boulevard
A mix of overstory trees, ornamental trees, shrubs and perennials are proposed. An additional two overstory trees are required along Coon Rapids Boulevard, west of the center driveway. Shrubs and ornamental trees should be added in front of the garage area on the east end of the building.

Parking Lot
Landscaping is provided on the islands and peninsulas. A hedge is shown between the parking lot and Coon Rapids Boulevard as well as along the north side, adjacent to the residences.

Open Space
The landscaping in the open space in the center of the site is designed so that it provides screening for the residence to the north, provides shade and enhances the outdoor living space and playground. There is an existing arborvitae hedge along the north property line that will stay. The plan includes evergreen trees and overstory trees that provide screening. The shrubs and ornamental
trees fill in the site. Overstory and evergreen trees should be planted along 115th Lane to replace the trees removed as a result of grading. A mix of overstory and ornamental trees should be planted along the east side of the 115th lane driveway.

Park Dedication
Park dedication for this project should be paid in the amount of $1,300 per unit. Payment of park dedication fee s are due prior to the issuance of building permits, unless otherwise determined by Council.

Engineering Comments

The Engineering Department has reviewed the development plans. The Engineering memo is attached.

River Rapids Overlay Development Guidelines
 
RRO Standard (Chapter 11-1003.11) Proposed
Two-Story Expression, 11-1003.11(1)
Pitched roofs, dormers, gables containing windows
OK – The building is five stories high.
Building Massing, 11-1003.11(2)
Staggered components, columns,   recessed entry areas, avoid long, even facades
OK – The building elevations includes breaks and overhangs to break up the facades.
Facades, 11-1003.11(3)
Articulated building facades, 20 to 30 foot intervals
OK – Relief  in the facades are are provided by bump outs and overhangs in various locations. Decks with stairs are  provided on first floor units along Coon Rapids Boulevard.
Varied Roof Shapes, 11-1003.11(4)
Variety (pitched roofs, dormers, chimneys, parapets, cornices)
OK – The roof is flat but has parapets at different levels.
Focal Features, 11-1003.11(5)
Focal element (canopies, porticoes, overhangs, arches, recesses/projections, peaks/parapets over doors) on each building

 
OK – The center driveway into the site and the adjacent main entrance are the focal features of the building.
Canopies/Awnings/Entry Treatments, 11-1003.11(6)
Entries or focal features facing public streets

 
OK –The main entrance is set off by a canopy and faces Coon Rapids Boulevard.
Building Materials, 11-1003.11(7)
High-quality materials (brick, natural stone, stucco, textured cast stone, fiber-cement siding; no steel panels, aluminum, vinyl, or fiberglass siding).

 
OK - The exterior of the building includes a  variety of materials, colors and textures.  See architectural discussion below.
Windows and Doors, 11-1003.11(8)
Primary street level facade for
commercial or office uses between 3 and 8 feet above grade must be 60% glass
OK - Facade of the commercial/office space and   apartment common area include large windows facing Coon Rapids Boulevard
Outdoor Spaces, 11-1003.11(9)
Plazas, seating areas, outdoor furniture

 
OK– Seating areas will be incorporated near the entrances.
Parking, 11-1003.11(10)
Locate parking to rear or sides of buildings.

 
OK – The parking is located to the rear and side of the building.
Pedestrian/Bicycle Access and Circulation, 11-1003.11(11)
Complete system from public ROW to buildings; minimum 5' wide sidewalks

 
OK – Internal sidewalks are provided. A sidewalk will be installed along Coon Rapids Boulevard with connections into the site. Bicycle racks are provided near the main entrance.
Urban Design Furniture/Amenities, 11-1003.11(12)
Compatible furniture/amenities (benches, trash receptacles, pedestrian-scale lighting, bicycle racks)

 
OK - Benches and a trash receptacle are provided at the main. entrance. 
Landscaping and Screening, 11-1003.11(13) OK - A 25 foot wide landscaped yard is provided between the parking lot and the sidewalk on Coon Rapids Boulevard. Street trees and a three foot high hedge along the parking lot are included in the area.

 
Lighting, 11-1003.11(14)
Accent lighting for building facades; compatible with applicable standards

 
OK – Pedestrian scaled lighting is proposed along the internal sidewalk. Wall sconces are proposed for the building. The fixtures will be a modern design so they are compatible with the building. 

 Exterior Building Materials

The building includes a mix of face brick and fiber cement board siding. The cement board is designed to have a texture that appears to be either cedar wood or architectural metal of different colors and textures. The mix of materials and colors are continued around the building. The code requires that elevations facing Coon Rapids Boulevard include a minimum of 30% brick or stone. The current renditions of the Coon Rapids Boulevard facade include about 15% brick; the applicant will revise the elevations to comply with the 30% requirement.  

Requests for Use, Design and Dimensional Flexibility

Use Flexibility

The applicant is requesting use flexibility for density and mix of commercial and office uses. Section 11-1003.16(3) states that
the Planning Commission may recommend a use, a density of use, or a mix of uses different from what is allowed upon findings that:
(a)        The modification significantly advances the intent of this Section;
(b)       The modification is necessary to develop the property in an efficient, well-organized way;
(c)        The plan provides significant site amenities, buffers, and other elements to offset any potential harmful effects that could be caused by the use; and
(d)       The use does not detract from uses in Port Districts.

Density

The applicant is proposing 128 units at a density of 47.7 units per acre. The River Rapids Overlay District has a maximum density of 7 unit per acre (19 units).
  1. Advances the intent of this Section: The density of 47.8 units per acre promotes a compact and vigorous development that takes advantage of the nearby Anoka Ramsey Community College, Mercy Hospital and associated medical office buildings. It is being developed with an eye towards students and faculty at the college and the medical staff at the hospital and other medical offices. It includes a well organized vehicular and pedestrian circulation pattern. The development is constructed of high quality materials and reflects innovative urban design.
  2. Develop the property in an efficient well organized way: The proposed density will allow for the redevelopment of vacant and underutilized property along Coon Rapids Boulevard.
  3. The plan provides significant site amenities, buffers, and other elements to offset any potential harmful effects that could be caused by the use: The plan includes outdoor amenities for both the adult and children population with a playground and patio that includes BBQ grills and outdoor seating. The outdoor spaces are located in the central portion of the site buffered from the street exposure. Additional screening and landscaping will  will buffer the the outdoor space and building from the adjacent residential uses.
  4. The use does not detract from uses in the PORT district:  The proposed density will help support existing uses in PORT Campus Square and PORT Wellness. It will provide additional housing for those that are associated with the principle uses in those PORTS, Anoka Ramsey Community College and Mercy Hospital.
Mix of Uses

The applicant is also requesting use flexibility to allow for a mix of uses in the building. The applicant has included 1,800 square feet of commercial/office space in the building. The code does not allow for for a mix of uses, it only allows accessory retail shopping.
  1. Advance the intent of this Section: The proposed mix of uses will encourage compact, vigorous mixed use development by combining commercial an/or office uses in the same building as residential. The scale of the proposed uses are compatible with the proposed high density residential development. They will be supported by those residing in the apartments.
  2. Develop the property in an efficient well organized way: The mix of uses is at a scale that can be supported by the area residents. It makes good use of first floor space along Coon Rapids Boulevard.
  3. The plan provides significant site amenities, buffers, and other elements to offset any potential harmful effects that could be caused by the use: The proposed mix of uses should not adversely impact the development. Clients or customers using the commercial/office space will likely visit during the day when the residents are gone and more parking is available.
  4. The use does not detract from uses in the PORT district: The small scale commercial/office space will not adversely detract the PORT Campus Square or PORT Wellness. One possible tenant is s chiropractor that likes the proximity to the hospital.

Design Flexibility

The applicant is requesting design flexibility for maximum building height.  Section 11-1003.16(2) states that the Planning Commission may approve an alternative approach to meeting any of the design standards in this Section if an applicant demonstrates the following:
  • Such modification is necessary to respond to site conditions;
  • Will result in better integration of uses, or provide significant site amenities, buffers, and other elements to offset any potential harmful effect that could be caused by the use, and
  • Will further the intent of this Section:   
Building Height

The applicant is proposing a building height of 66 feet measured to the top of the parapet; the maximum height allowed is 45 feet.
  1. Such modification is necessary to respond to site conditions:  The applicant designed the building at 66 feet high, based on the 70 foot allowed in the HDR district, to achieve the desired unit count and density along this underutilized section of Coon Rapids Boulevard. They believe the building will serve as a landmark destination along the Boulevard and serve as an example of higher density.
  2. Will result in better integration of uses, or provide significant site amenities, buffers, and other elements to offset any potential harmful effect that could be caused by the use:  The building height will allow for parking and commercial/office uses on the first floor while allowing the density needed to make the project possible. To offset potential harmful effects on the surrounding residential areas, additional screening is proposed and the building will be setback as far as possible from the residences behind the site. The building's urban design and variety of materials will create an attractive facade as seen from the Boulevard.
  3. Will further the intent of this Section: The proposed building height allows for the proposed density of 47.8 units per acre which will promote a compact and vigorous development that takes advantage of the nearby Anoka Ramsey Community College, Mercy Hospital and associated medical office buildings. The additional height will allow for a density that will support nearby retail and service uses.
Dimensional Flexibility

The applicant is requesting design flexibility for a number of  dimensional standards including lot coverage, minimum finished floor area, minimum lot area and open space, and building and parking setbacks.  Section 11-1003.16(1) states that the Planning Commission may approve modification of one or more area or dimensional standards of an underlying district if:
  1. An applicant demonstrates such modification will result in better integration of uses or additional public amenities that will further the intent of this Section.
Parking
The applicant proposes 158 parking spaces at a ratio of 1.23 spaces per unit; Code requires 2,25 spaces per unit. The modification will result in the better integration of uses  in that constructing additional spaces would result in the reduction of open space and landscaping. The proximity to the college, the hospital and bus service on Coon Rapids Boulevard should reduce the demand for parking. 

Lot Coverage
The applicant is proposing lot coverage of 60.5 %; the maximum allowed is 50%. The additional lot coverage is needed to accommodate the necessary parking. The applicant is providing enhanced outdoor amenity space to further the project's desirability for residents.

Open Space
The applicant is proposing 47,339 square feet of open space and the code requires 36,000 square feet. However, the open space areas do not meet the minimum dimensional requirement 50 feet in any direction. The building's footprint inhibits the 50' of contiguous space. However, the space available is designed and programmed for highest and best use. The space is landscaped to allow residents to fully enjoy the open space.

Lot Area
The project's lot area is 115,774 square feet; based on the mix of uses, code requires 280,200 square feet. The maximum lot area
is related to the number and size of units. Density of the project is also a function of lot area. The application for design flexibility
promotes a compact and vigorous development that takes advantage of the nearby Anoka Ramsey Community College, Mercy Hospital and associated medical office buildings.

Building Setbacks
The applicant is seeking flexibility for building setbacks from the Low Density Residential 2 and Moderate Density Residential districts to the north and the General Commercial district to the east. The code requires a setback of 85 feet from the LDR2 district (50 feet is proposed), 60 feet from the MDR district (50 feet is proposed) and the 50 feet from the GC district (15 feet is proposed). The applicant has moved the building as far as possible from the residential uses to the north. The granting of dimensional flexibility to setbacks allows the building to be setback the maximum possible from the residential lots, and allows the building to be better integrated into the neighborhood while enhancing the streetscape along Coon Rapids  Boulevard.

Parking Setbacks

Property Line
The applicant is proposing a parking setback of 5 feet from the west property line when 8 feet is required.  The configuration of the site minimizes the space available for parking and still comply with the setback requirements. The 5  foot parking setback on the west property is what would be required if the drive aisle was adjacent to the lot line. Flipping the drive aisle with the parking spaces is not practicable given the limitations of the site. Granting flexibility results in the better integration of uses on the site; it results in an more efficient parking lot design. 

Building
The applicant is proposing a setback of 5 feet and 6 feet between the drive aisle and the building; code requires 10 feet. The setback between the drive aisle and the stairwell on the west end of the building is 5 feet. This allows the drive aisle to abut the sidewalk on that end of the building. The setback between the center drive aisle and the building is 6 feet. This also allows the drive to abut the sidewalk.

Minimum Finished Floor Area
The applicant is proposing 19 studio apartments. Code requires a minimum floor area of 500 square feet. Eleven of the 19 studio apartments are less than the required 500 square feet; those 11 units are 480 square feet. The applicant believes that the smaller units would be palatable to their target population. The programmed outdoor space and the large community space on the first floor provides opportunities to gather and interact with other residents.

  
 
RECOMMENDATION
In Planning Case 17-20, the Commission move to approve the site plan with use, design and dimensional flexibility with the 15 conditions and the findings for granting flexibility listed below:

Conditions for Approval
  1. The project comply with City Code Title 11.
  2. The applicant enter into a site security agreement with the City.
  3. All Engineering comments be addressed.
  4. Park dedication in the amount of $1,300 per apartment unit be paid prior to the issuance of building permits, unless otherwise determined by Council.
  5. Approval and recording of the final plat.
  6. Approval of the land use amendment and zone change for the parcel located at 3551 Coon Rapids Boulevard.
  7. All landscaped areas be irrigated.
  8. All signs require separate permits.
  9. The parking area at the west end of the building be modified to include parking spaces that are 20 feet long and the drive aisle be changed to accommodate the revise parking spaces.
  10. All Anoka County Highway comments must be addressed.
  11. An additional two overstory trees are required along Coon Rapids Boulevard.
  12. Shrubs and ornamental trees are required in front of the garage area at the east end of the building.
  13. Overstory and evergreen trees must be planted along 115th Lane to replace those removed.
  14. A mix of overstory and evergreen trees must be planted along the east side of the driveway from 115th Lane.
  15. The elevation facing Coon Rapids Boulevard must be revised to include a minimum of 30% brick or stone.
Findings for Use, Design and Dimensional Flexibility

Density (Use Flexibility)

The density of 47.8 units per acre promotes a compact and vigorous development that takes advantage of the nearby Anoka Ramsey Community College and Mercy Hospital and associated medical office buildings. It is being developed with an eye towards students and faculty at the college and the medical staff at the hospital and other medical offices. It includes a well organized vehicular and pedestrian circulation pattern. The development is constructed of high quality materials and reflects innovative urban design. The proposed density will allow for the redevelopment of vacant and underutilized property along Coon Rapids Boulevard.  The plan includes outdoor amenities for both the adult and children population with a playground and patio that includes BBQ grills and outdoor seating. The outdoor spaces are located in the central portion of the site buffered from the street exposure. Additional screening and landscaping will  will buffer the the outdoor space and building from the adjacent residential uses. The proposed density will help support existing uses in PORT Campus Square and PORT Wellness. It will provide additional housing for those that are associated with the principle uses in those PORTS, Anoka Ramsey Community College and Mercy Hospital.

Mix of Uses (Use Flexibility)

The applicant has included 1,800 square feet of commercial/office space in the building. The proposed mix of uses will encourage compact, vigorous mixed use development by combining commercial an/or office uses in the same building as residential. The scale of the proposed uses are compatible with the proposed high density residential development. They will be supported by those residing in the apartments.  The mix of uses is at a scale that can be supported by the area residents. It makes good use of first floor space along Coon Rapids Boulevard. The proposed mix of uses should not adversely impact the development. Clients or customers using the commercial/office space will likely visit during the day when the residents are gone and more parking is available. The small scale commercial/office space will not adversely detract the PORT Campus Square or PORT Wellness. One possible tenant is s chiropractor that likes the proximity to the hospital.

Building Height (Design Flexibility)

The applicant is proposing a building height of 66 feet measured to the top of the parapet; the maximum height allowed is 45 feet. The applicant designed the building at 66 feet high, based on the 70 foot allowed in the HDR district, to achieve the desired unit count and density along this underutilized section of Coon Rapids Boulevard. They believe the building will serve as a landmark destination along the Boulevard and serve as an example of higher density.  The building height will allow for parking and commercial/office uses on the first floor while allowing the density needed to make the project possible. To offset potential harmful effects on the surrounding residential areas, additional screening is proposed and the building will be setback as far as possible from the residences behind the site. The building's urban design and variety of materials will create an attractive facade as seen from the Boulevard.  The proposed building height allows for the proposed density of 47.8 units per acre which will promote a compact and vigorous development that takes advantage of the nearby Anoka Ramsey Community College, Mercy Hospital and associated medical office buildings. The additional height will allow for a density that will support nearby retail and service uses.

Parking (Dimensional Flexibility)

The applicant proposes 158 parking spaces at a ratio of 1.23 spaces per unit; Code requires 2,25 spaces per unit. The modification will result in the better integration of uses  in that constructing additional spaces would result in the reduction of open space and landscaping. The proximity to the college, the hospital and bus service on Coon Rapids Boulevard should reduce the demand for parking. 

Lot Coverage (Dimensional Flexibility)

The applicant is proposing lot coverage of 60.5 %; the maximum allowed is 50%. The additional lot coverage is needed to accommodate the necessary parking. The applicant is providing enhanced outdoor amenity space to further the project's desirability for residents.

Open Space (Dimensional Flexibility)

The applicant is proposing 47,339 square feet of open space and the code requires 36,000 square feet. However, the open space areas do not meet the minimum dimensional requirement 50 feet in any direction. The building's footprint inhibits the 50' of contiguous space. However, the space available is designed and programmed for highest and best use. The space is landscaped to allow residents to fully enjoy the open space.

Lot Area (Dimensional Flexibility)

The project's lot area is 115,774 square feet; based on the mix of uses, code requires 280,200 square feet. The maximum lot area
is related to the number and size of units. Density of the project is also a function of lot area. The application for design flexibility
promotes a compact and vigorous development that takes advantage of the nearby Anoka Ramsey Community College, Mercy Hospital and associated medical office buildings.

Building Setbacks (Dimensional Flexibility)

The applicant is seeking flexibility for building setbacks from the Low Density Residential 2 and Moderate Density Residential districts to the north and the General Commercial district to the east. The code requires a setback of 85 feet from the LDR2 district (50 feet is proposed), 60 feet from the MDR district (50 feet is proposed) and the 50 feet from the GC district (15 feet is proposed). The applicant has moved the building as far as possible from the residential uses to the north. The granting of dimensional flexibility to setbacks allows the building to be setback the maximum possible from the residential lots, and allows the building to be better integrated into the neighborhood while enhancing the streetscape along Coon Rapids  Boulevard.

Parking Setbacks (Dimensional Flexibility)

Property Line
The applicant is proposing a parking setback of 5 feet from the west property line when 8 feet is required.  The configuration of the site minimizes the space available for parking and still comply with the setback requirements. The 5  foot parking setback on the west property is what would be required if the drive aisle was adjacent to the lot line. Flipping the drive aisle with the parking spaces is not practicable given the limitations of the site. Granting flexibility results in the better integration of uses on the site; it results in an more efficient parking lot design. 

Building
The applicant is proposing a setback of 5 feet and 6 feet between the drive aisle and the building; code requires 10 feet. The setback between the drive aisle and the stairwell on the west end of the building is 5 feet. This allows the drive aisle to abut the sidewalk on that end of the building. The setback between the center drive aisle and the building is 6 feet. This also allows the drive to abut the sidewalk.

Minimum Finished Floor Area (Dimensional Flexibility)

The applicant is proposing 19 studio apartments. Code requires a minimum floor area of 500 square feet. Eleven of the 19 studio apartments are less than the required 500 square feet; those 11 units are 480 square feet. The applicant believes that the smaller units would be palatable to their target population. The programmed outdoor space and the large community space on the first floor provides opportunities to gather and interact with other residents.



 

Attachments
Location Map
Development Plans
Engineering Comments
Project Narrative

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