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    12.    
City Council Regular
Meeting Date: 06/04/2019  
Subject:    PC 19-5, Consider Preliminary and Final Site Plan for 168 Unit Apartment, Springbrook Dr. and 94th Ave., Real Estate Equities
From: Scott Harlicker, Planner

INTRODUCTION
The applicant, Real Estate Equities, is requesting preliminary and final site plan approval to construct a 168 unit apartment building. The applicant is also requesting approval for a corresponding preliminary plat to configure the 4.68 acre site into one lot and right-of-way for Springbrook Drive.
DISCUSSION
Background

At the March 21st meeting the Planning Commission considered this request and postponed it to the April 18th meeting. At the March meeting, the Commission and residents expressed concerns regarding several issues. Those issues included density, parking, open space, and how the aforementioned would impact the neighborhood. Prior to the April 18th meeting, the applicant requested the application be postponed to the May 16th meeting. They wanted time to further evaluate the project and reduce the number of units further.

The plans submitted for the April 18th meeting reduced the number of units from 184 to 176. The reduction was accomplished by eliminating units on the south wing of the building. The applicant also added additional parking spaces and revised the site layout to provide more usable green space.

The current plans have reduced the number of units further, down to 168. This was accomplished by reworking the mix of units. They converted some of the one bedroom apartments into two and three bedroom units. The applicant is still asking for use flexibility for density, and design flexibility for parking and building setback from Flintwood Street.  

Request for Use Flexibility

Use Flexibility
Per Section 11-903.12(4),  Use flexibility may be approved provided the following findings are made:
  • The modification significantly advances the intent of this Section;
  • The modification is necessary to develop the property in an efficient well organized way; and
  • The plan provides significant site amenities, buffers, and other elements to offset any potential harmful effects that could be caused by the use.
Density

The applicant has reduced the number of units from 184 to 168. This reduced the density from 41.7 to 38.1 units per acre. The reduction was accomplished by eliminating units on the south wing of the building and reworking the unit mix. The applicant is requesting use flexibility to exceed the 30 unit per acre maximum density allowed. Use flexibility may be approved provided the following findings are made:

Advances the intent of the Section: The density of 38.1 units per acre promotes a compact and vigorous development that takes advantage of the nearby transit and commercial opportunities along Coon Rapids Boulevard. It includes a well organized vehicular and pedestrian circulation pattern. The applicant will construct the initial link in the sidewalk along Springbrook Drive that will connect with Coon Rapids Boulevard. The building is constructed of high quality materials and reflects a unique design. It is constructed with the goal of locating high density residential in the PORT district.

The modification is necessary to develop the property in an efficient well organized way:  The project will shrink the gap between affordable housing and the high demand within the city. The proposed density will allow the applicant to include upgraded finishes and amenities. The project will also act as a catalyst for additional development in the PORT.  

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 provides site amenities such as walking paths, preservation of existing trees and new landscaping and construction of a privacy fence. The parking is designed so that a majority of it is located in the center of the site surrounded by the building. On site recreation is provided, and an open space activity area and outdoor seating is provided overlooking Pleasure Creek.  The building includes tenant amenities, as well, such as a club room, fitness center, and underground parking.

Request for Design Flexibility

Per Section 11-903.12(3), design flexibility may be approved provided the following findings are made:
  • The modification is necessary to respond to site conditions, will result in better integration of uses or additional public amenities, and will further the intent of this Section.
Parking

The applicant has increased the total number of parking stalls from 270 to 285. The number of surface stalls was increased by 19, from 98 to 117. The number of underground stalls has decreased by four, from 172 to 168. The parking ratio was increased from 1.46 spaces per unit to 1.7 spaces per unit. The ratio was increased by a combination of reducing the number of units and adding additional parking. The applicant is requesting design flexibility to allow 1.7 spaces per unit where the code requires 2.25 spaces per unit.  

The applicant is requesting design flexibility for the required number of parking spaces. The applicant is proposing 168 underground spaces and 117 surface spaces for a total of 285 spaces. That equates to 1.7 spaces per unit. The code requires 2.25 spaces per unit with 230 surface spaces and 184 underground spaces for a total of 414 spaces. Design flexibility may be approved provided the following findings are made:

The modification is necessary to respond to site conditions, will result in better integration of uses or additional public amenities, and will further the intent of this Section: The applicant is basing the proposed parking ratio on past experiences on other similar projects, their traffic study and documentation from the Institute of Traffic Engineers (ITE). Similar projects in the Twin Cities have parking ratios of about 1.5 spaces per unit. The comprehensive traffic study done by the applicant's consultant supports the proposed parking is sufficient to meet the needs of the project. ITE study shows the parking demand during the week for a low-rise apartment is 1.22 and on the weekend it is 1.28. The proposed parking ratio allows for open space for site amenities such as a dog park and a green activity area.

Request for Design Flexibility

Per Section 11-903.12(3), design flexibility may be approved provided the following findings are made:
  • The modification is necessary to respond to site conditions, will result in better integration of uses or additional public amenities, and will further the intent of this Section.
Building Placement

The applicant has angled the north end of the building and shifted it to the west. By doing this the applicant opened up the middle of the site to accommodate additional parking and the dog park. To reduce the number of units, the applicant has shortened the length of the south wing. This also allowed for additional surface parking. However, this also resulted in moving the building further from Springbrook Drive. The setback has increased from 30 feet to 90 feet. The maximum setback allowed is 20 feet. The applicant is requesting design flexibility to the maximum setback requirement.

Setback from Flintwood St.

The applicant is requesting design flexibility for the required setback from a local street. The applicant is proposing a setback of 90 feet from the right-of-way for Flintwood Street. The code requires a maximum setback of 20 feet from local streets. Design flexibility may be approved provided the following findings are made:

The modification is necessary to respond to site conditions, will result in better integration of uses or additional public amenities, and will further the intent of this Section: To reduce the number of units, accommodate additional parking and a 50 foot easement along Pleasure Creek, the building must be placed further away from the right-of way than the code allows. This also allows the applicant to maximize the open space between the building and Pleasure Creek.

Open Space
The area between the building and Pleasure Creek has been designed for usable open space. The open area includes a gazebo, a trail and a bench overlooking Pleasure Creek. A dog park is located to the center of site. A tot lot is located adjacent to the dog park.

Landscaping

At the request of the Planning Commission, the number of trees along the east property line, between Highway 47 and the building, has been increased from 20 to 29 trees since the original March submittal. They include a mix of overstory trees, evergreen trees and ornamental trees. Overstory trees have also been added along Springbrook Drive, as well as the west side of the driveway. The open area at the south end of the site, along Pleasure Creek,  will be landscaped with overstory and ornamental trees. The interior of the site is also landscaped with a mix of overstory and ornamental trees. Foundation plantings are proposed around the base of the building.

City landscape standards require 27 overstory trees and evergreens, the plan has 32 overstory and 18 evergreens. The landscape standards require 54 ornamental trees and 66 are proposed. The plan has 107 shrubs, 326 are recommended. Given the site layout and the preservation of trees along Pleasure Creek, the proposed plan has responded to site conditions and meets the intent of the landscape standards.

Grading, Drainage and Utilities

Grading, drainage and utilities are addressed in the engineering memo. Underground treatment of stormwater is a component of the drainage plan. This allows for open space between the building and Pleasure Creek. On previous plans this area was a stormwater treatment basin. The proposed lighting plan includes LED lights with pole and wall mounted fixtures. The plan complies with the city's illumination standards.

Park Dedication

Park dedication in the amount of $1,360 per unit must be paid prior to release of the plat for recording and issuance of a building permit.

Building Design

The building is four stories high. The exterior of the building includes a variety of materials. Exterior materials include stone, horizontal, vertical and board and batten cement board siding.The variety of materials is carried through on all sides of the building. The sides facing Highways 610 and 47 include more than 30% stone finish.

The building is designed in a C-shape to help break up the facades. The facades are broken up by recessed and staggered building components. There is a patio with outdoor seating in front, next to the main entrance. There are also rooftop decks proposed above the entrance and common areas, overlooking the front and rear of the building. Bicycle racks are provided next to the main entrance and indoor bike storage will be provide in the garage.

Planning Commission Meeting

At the Planning Commission meeting held on May 16th, five residents spoke at the public hearing. Branden McShane, 201 94th Avenue, was concerned about the project's impact on the neighborhood, and it did not fit with the neighborhood. He did not feel the buffer along the west property line was sufficient, he questioned the grading impacts on his trees, there was not enough open space and no nearby parks, the project would generate to much traffic, the density was to high and the lack of bus service. Kim and Paul Will, 213 94th Avenue, thought there would be to much traffic, no place for kids to play, the building was to close to Highway 610, there was not enough parking, lighting would be to bright and there would be to many wood ticks. Shariff Soneya, 236 94th Avenue, thought there would be to much traffic and was concerned about the impacts during construction. Lilas Anderson, 224 94th Avenue, was concerned about stormwater runoff and thought the proposed project was to big for the lot.

The Planning Commission voted 4 to 3 to recommend approval of the site plan. Those that voted against the motion believed the project was to big or dense for the site, there was not sufficient open space, the project was to far from the nearest park and transit, and there was not enough parking. Those that voted to recommend  approval liked the proximity to the industrial park, thought it was a good fit for the PORT and did not believe it was to dense, and thought the parking was sufficient. All the Commissioners thanked the applicant for for modifying the plans and trying to address the concerns that were raised during the review process.
RECOMMENDATION
In Planning Case 19-5, the Planning Commission voted to recommend the Council approve the preliminary and final site plan for the apartment building with the following conditions:
  1. Compliance with Title 11.
  2. All engineering comments be addressed.
  3. The applicant enter into a site security agreement with the City.
  4. All comments from MNDOT be addressed.
  5. The preliminary and final plat are approved.
  6. Park dedication in the amount of $1,360 per unit be paid prior to release of the plat for recording and issuance of a the building permit.
  7. Use flexibility for density and design flexibility for parking and setback from Flintwood Street are approved.
The Commission also voted to recommend approval of use and design flexibility based on the following:

Findings for Use and Design Flexibility

The following findings are offered for Use Flexibility :
  • The modification significantly advances the intent of this Section;
  • The modification is necessary to develop the property in an efficient well organized way; and
  • The plan provides significant site amenities, buffers, and other elements to offset any potential harmful effects that could be caused by the use.
Density

Advances the Intent of the Section: The density of 39.9 units per acre promotes a compact and vigorous  development that takes advantage of the nearby transit and commercial opportunities along Coon Rapids Boulevard.It includes a well organized vehicular and pedestrian circulation pattern. The applicant will construct the initial link in the sidewalk along Springbrook Drive that will connect with Coon Rapids Boulevard. The building is constructed of high quality materials and reflects a unique design. It is constructed with the goal of locating high density residential in the PORT district.

The modification is necessary to develop the property in an efficient well organized way:  The project will shrink the gap between affordable housing and the high demand within the city. The proposed density will allow the applicant include upgraded finishes and amenities. The project will also act a catalyst for additional development in the PORT. 

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 provides site amenities such as walking paths, preservation of existing trees and new landscaping and construction of a privacy fence. The parking is designed so that a majority of it is located in the center of the site surrounded by the building. On site recreation is provided and and open space with a gazebo and outdoor seating is provided overlooking Pleasure Creek.  In addition, the building provides tenant amenities including a club room, fitness center and underground parking.

The following findings are offered for Design Flexibility:
 
  • The modification is necessary to respond to site conditions, will result in better integration of uses or additional public amenities, and will further the intent of this Section.
Parking

The modification is necessary to respond to site conditions, will result in better integration of uses or additional public amenities, and will further the intent of this Section: The applicant is basing the proposed parking ratio on past experiences on other similar projects, their traffic study and documentation from the Institute of Traffic Engineers (ITE). Similar projects in the Twin Cities have parking ratios of about 1.5 spaces per unit. The comprehensive traffic study done by the applicant's consultant concludes the proposed parking is sufficient to meet the needs of the project. ITE study shows the parking demand during the week for a low-rise apartment is 1.22 and on the weekend it is 1.28. The proposed parking ratio allows for open space for site amenities such as a dog park and a green open area.

Parking Setback from Flintwood Street

The modification is necessary to respond to site conditions, will result in better integration of uses or additional public amenities, and will further the intent of this Section. To reduce the number of units, accommodate additional parking and a 50 foot easement along Pleasure Creek, the building must be placed further away from the right-of way and exceed the maximum 20 foot setback requirement that the code allows.

Attachments
Location Map
Development Plans
Building Layout and Elevations
Artist Rendering of Site
Applicant's Narrative
Engineering Comments

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