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Developer's unique neighborhood design would keep rural aesthetic

The proposed neighborhood on 90 acres southwest of the Highway 3/190th St. roundabout incorporates crops, ponds and parks into its design.

A different kind of neighborhood may be coming to Farmington this spring, one that incorporates the farm into the development.

True Gravity Ventures, a Plymouth-based real estate development company, wants to build 174 lots interspersed with "agriculturally-purposed open spaces" on 90 acres southwest of the Highway 3 and 190th St. roundabout.

Tentatively called "The Orchards at Fairhill," the schematic plan shows some lots following streets like a typical neighborhood and some in clusters with patches of open space in between. The preliminary plan shows the 27 acres of open spaces to be used either as community gardens, wild areas, or for cultivated crops. Three acres are planned for parks and five acres hold ponds for water run-off.

"We seek to bring forward a development plan that evokes a rural aesthetic," explained Robert Wachholz, president of True Gravity Ventures. "The idea here is to make land available to small producers in the form of what I've called 'agri-land condominium' so the hobbyist, the local organic restaurant, the craft brewer, and the growing range of other specialty growers could find a place to farm."

Plans for developing the neighborhood, which is currently cropland, began back in 2007 with original plans for 221 lots. But the housing depression put those plans on hold as construction slowed and potential buyers were faced with a seller's market. Now that housing is picking up again, the Fairhill plan has picked up where it left off, with a few changes.

The company presented a revised plan at a Farmington City Council work session earlier this month.

"It was an exciting hour and a half," said Councilman Douglas Bonar who was impressed with the plan.

Adam Kienberger, community development director, echoed his sentiments, calling the proposal "a very unique and exciting residential opportunity for the community."

Wachholz did not say exactly how much houses in this development might cost. He said the lot sizes would vary, as would the price tags, but that the cost would be similar to new neighborhoods in Rosemount, Apple Valley and Lakeville.

He said the style should appeal to most demographics but expects young families to be most interested.

"I do expect this approach to have greatest appeal to the young family, who are interested and concerned about sustainability and already attracted to Farmington for its small town feel, traditional downtown, affordable homes and good schools," he said.

Encouraged by the council's positive response, Wachholz said they would begin working on a detailed development plan and hope to break ground in the spring of 2017.