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Zoning changes OK'd for housing near high school

The Farmington Planning Commission voted 3 to 0 June 13 to deny a proposed Comprehensive Plan amendment to rezone land for a new residential development near Farmington High School, but the City Council approved the changes. Kara Hildreth / contributor 1 / 2
The Farmington City Council on June 19 approved Giles Properties, Inc., to purchase 24 acres of farmland owned by Richard Sayers. The land is located off Highway 50 and Flagstaff Avenue next to Farmington High School. Kara Hildreth / contributor2 / 2

Farmland near Farmington High School will be developed into residential neighborhoods after zoning changes were approved by the Farmington City Council.

Farmington City Planner Tony Wippler presented a proposal to the council June 19 to review comprehensive plan amendments and rezone a portion of agricultural property owned by Richard Sayers.

The 24-acre parcel is part of 50.61 acres at the northwest intersection of County Highway 50 and Flagstaff Avenue. The land has been for sale for years and was farmed in years past.

"The Comprehensive Plan Amendments are to change the 2030 land use designation for the 24.08 acre parcel of land legally depicted from agricultural to low medium density residential to include the property within the city's Metropolitan Urban Service Area (MUSA)," Wippler said.

As an advisory board, the Farmington Planning Commission voted 3-to-0 to deny the proposed comprehensive plan amendments and rezoning during its June 13 meeting. The commission heard public testimony and then recommended the Farmington City Council vote against the amendments.

The farmland is largely surrounded by land utilized for agriculture. Several single-family homes built on larger lots are located north and northeast of the property. Flagstaff Avenue is adjacent and the land is east of Farmington High School that sits on land north of Hwy. 50.

Council discussion

The council passed all of the resolutions on a 4-to-1 vote in favor of the redevelopment. Farmington Mayor Todd Larson voted against the amendments, rezoning and residential development in this area of town.

Council member Katie Bernhjelm asked Wippler if the city had conducted a study on water table issues. She added how perhaps these drainage issues could be resolved with the new development.

"I don't think there has been a full study done on the drainage in that area recently, but staff is certainly willing to work with those property owners if they want to come down and sit down and discuss what those issues are," Wippler said. "Personally, I have not heard there are any drainage issues out there, but it doesn't mean there aren't any out there."

The mayor asked Wippler to share feedback from the planning commission meeting.

"Largely what was said was that after the building of the high school and rebuilding of Flagstaff Avenue that the water table has basically increased, and now there is standing water and now there are sump pumps running 24/7," Wippler said.

Bernhjelm said she would have a hard time turning away development.

Council member Terry Donnelly said traffic safety concerns will be addressed development progresses.

"We knew at some point there would be development, so we have to solve this problem," Donnelly said. Roadway or drainage issues should be not deter development because the issues can be addressed.

The mayor explained his vote against the proposal.

"What I have a little bit of a concern with — a lot of concern with — was that I wasn't a big fan of where to put the school back then, but I am learning to live with it and I have gotten over it," Larson said. "But one of the things I did say back then is that I do think we need to fill up the areas of our town that are part of MUSA before we start development out there because there is a school out there and that is exactly what is happening now."

Larson said he wants to spur development but thinks Lakeville and Apple Valley will "reap the benefits" of the housing development.

"I just wanted to say that out loud, and that is the way I felt way back then and that is the way I still feel, but I do recognize this area is going to develop," Larson said. He added he did not expect it would take this long for development to come to Farmington.

City Administrator David McKnight said the city will listen to residents' concerns.

"We are very able to work with them on a one-on-one basis," McKnight said.

Tim Giles, owner of Giles Properties, Inc., is the contract purchaser for the roughly 24 acres of property. The plan would create a subdivided, single family development neighborhood.

Giles has a long relationship with Farmington, having developed 750 lots in Farmington since 1986.

"I have a good reputation in this town," Giles said.

The rough development concept plans calls for a total of up to 65 single-family lots. The subdivision will need to be approved as a planned unit development because the gross density of the proposed development calls for 2.7 dwelling units per acre, falling below the minimum 3.5 dwelling units per acre required in the R-2 zoning.

There will be a request for the property to be included in the city's MUSA since the property is located adjacent to the existing MUSA boundary. Currently, city sanitary sewer services are available on Flagstaff Avenue and on site near the northeast corner.

Traffic controls

When asked about how traffic will be controlled at the intersection of Highway 50 and Flagstaff Avenue near the high school after the development, McKnight said the city talks with the county every year and will continue to be open to future discussion after development plans are cemented.

"We will continue to work with the county and look at all the options at that intersection since County Road 50, that is a county road," McKnight said.

As a Farmington native, McKnight said: "I personally knew when the high school was built, people would inevitably want to live near the high school."

McKnight encouraged Farmington residents to engage in discussion about the development of the 2040 Comp Plan where public meetings will be scheduled in upcoming weeks.

Recommending Farmington residents attend the meetings to share feedback about future development, Wippler said: "I think it is the people's community and they should feel vested in the community and see the growth."

"Our role it is to give guidance and technical assistance as we work with the development community and to provide professional recommendations to the city council and planning commission," said Adam Kienberger, Farmington community development director.

McKnight added: "We are happy the developer is able to develop property to offer more home ownership in Farmington."