Inver Grove Heights delays splitting up city land


courtesy of City of Inver Grove Heights • The Inver Grove Heights City Council voted Aug. 13 to delay splitting up a portion of city-owned land, outlined in black, after residents raised concerns about the move. A plot that would have been created was to be purchased and used by AmericInn Hotel and Suites for a park and ride; the hotel currently has overflow parking at a nearby AMC Theatre.

The Inver Grove Heights City Council voted Aug. 13 to delay dividing up a piece of city-owned land along Highway 52, that would have been used as a hotel park and ride. The delay came after several residents spoke out against the proposed plan.

 

The land

Tom Link, the outgoing community development director, said the property is located along the west side of Blaine Avenue and south of Upper 55th Street near the AmericInn Hotel and Suites. 

The lot is owned by the city, though the application was in response to a request by AmericInn to acquire 2.5 acres of the land on the south side of the hotel for a park and ride. 

Link said the new plat would consist of two lots, with one purchased by AmericInn and the other for future development. There would also be two outlots created from the 13-acre parcel, one of which would be absorbed into McGroarty Park.

The hotel’s current park and ride facility is located at a nearby AMC Theatre parking lot, though the city has asked the hotel to stop parking cars there.

Link said city staffers are comfortable with the proposal and recommended approval. However, the Planning Commission unanimously recommended denying the application.

“They believe that this area should be preserved as an entire lot instead of breaking up into smaller lots, and that we should continue to reserve it for office development” Link said, adding office use is in line with the location’s current comprehensive plan designation.

Before the site could be developed, Link said there would need to be a change to the comprehensive plan, rezoning and other city actions.

 

Community concerns

Joseph Scott Smith, a resident who lives near the site, said at the time that he and his wife purchased their home, they relied on the 2030 comprehensive plan and any available city information about the lots possible future use.

“All I’m asking is the city council honor the commitment made in the 2030 comprehensive plan and confirm the Planning Commission’s recommendation and deny the proposal,” he said.

Smith added he wanted the council to take into consideration the impact future changes will have on neighboring residents, wildlife and aesthetics when determining future use of the site.

He added there’s a nearby lot that’s over an acre in size, which is for sale and already zoned for parking.

Molly Steiner said when she moved into her home four years ago, she also relied on city information about how the property was zoned. 

She said some of the conversations at the Planning Commission meeting about the property focused on how there had been little to no concerted effort to market the property for the original office use.

 

Impact of delay

Mayor George Tourville said the city is almost the cause of its own problem, since it told AmericInn it has to stop parking cars in the movie theater parking lot.

Council member Rosemary Piekarski Krech said the quandary she sees is the council sometimes not being business friendly, while also trying to cater to residents.

“People want Kohl’s. They want Home Depot. They want Costco. They want all these things. They also want parks right next door to them or open space they don’t have to pay for that wildlife can be on,” she said.

The city is going to be “unique Inver Grove Heights,” Piekarski Krech continued, with open spaces and rolling fields, or the city is going to develop more like Woodbury and Eagan, which is a hard choice to make.

The question for her is if residents want to pay higher taxes to keep the city as it is, or allow businesses to come in and expand the tax base.

Council member Paul Hark said if council members are going to look down the road for higher quality development, they probably don’t want to put a park and ride lot at this spot.

“At the end of the day, I don’t think the neighborhood is ever going to be happy, because if we go in there and this is guided [as] office and that stays, I can’t imagine what that meeting would be like, when you find out its going to be a rather large development,” he said, adding it will change the character of the neighborhood regardless of what the landscaping looks like. 

However, he noted, it sounds like most of the neighbors understood how the lot was guided when they moved in.

The council decided to table the resolution in order to clarify things like ownership of nearby land while working on getting a bigger picture of what it wants from a potential development. Tourville asked city staff and police to work with AmericInn on an interim place for overflow parking.

The question of what to do with the city-owned land will be back at the first regular council meeting in January, with work session updates happening along the way.

 

– Hannah Burlingame can be reached at 651-748-7824 or hburlingame@lillienews.com

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