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Rural-themed development advances

A neighborhood designed with a rural aesthetic appeal will soon crop up in Farmington.

The new development will be marketed as a place to build a dream home within a neighborhood designed toward a more agrarian, country lifestyle.

Fairhill Estate at North Creek will build at the southwest intersection of Highway 3 and 190th Street West in Farmington. Empire Township is to the south.

The Farmington City Council heard and approved the preliminary plan and PUD amendment at the Aug. 21 regular council meeting.

Rural aesthetic

True Gravity Ventures of Minnetonka is planning to build 217 single-family homes spread over 86.6 acres.

The neighborhood may have some gravel roads and some streets may be without curbs. The neighborhood will offer green space to plant and harvest organic gardens that will thrive with the utilization of an alternative, green watering system.

"It has been almost 10 years since the original Planned Unit Development (PUD) was approved and being that housing markets have shifted, this development attempts to deal with the new environmental challenges and evolving consumer preferences," said Tony Wippler, city planning manager.

Years ago, the original planned development was made on more than 1,000 acres in a master plan from Newland Communities. Then the great recession led to a real estate recession that slowed development in Farmington, across the state and country.

The developer designed the neighborhood with open space for agricultural purposes such as a vegetable farm or other farming component.

"To complement the agriculturally-purposed open space, the developer is proposing a water reuse component where stormwater is collected in a stormwater facility pond," Wippler said.

The water collected would be reapplied to the agricultural open space within the housing development.

"Some of the road sections within the development propose the use of gravel parking lanes and shoulders, and staff has expressed concerns with the long-term maintenance and viability of these gravel areas," Wippler said.

City staff agreed to allow the gravel areas on a trial basis provided a security is posted, and maintenance will become the responsibility of the developer or homeowners' association.

Council concerns

Farmington City Council member Robyn Craig asked about the octagon-shaped design areas in the development in regard to snow plowing.

"We are working with the developer and they are working on some modifications to the corners so it will not have such a sharp edge and that is something, again, we are working on," Wippler said.

Council member Terry Donnelly inquired about the irrigation system and who would be responsible if there were problems.

"The way we are looking at it is that it will fall on the homeowner or the developer for the ag-purposed area and not the city," Wippler said. "A portion of the development's stormwater systems uses a series of riser pipes and storm inlets to collect stormwater and stormwater runs off the rooftops, gutters and driveways, and it is collected into individual grassy swales, yard inlets and then will be conveyed through a network of small diameter pipes."

The stormwater from the street will be collected in the same inlets and they will be connected to riser pipes that connect driveways and swales and that parallel the streets.

Donnelly stressed a long-term maintenance plan be in place since he said he works in the agricultural industry as a farmer. He said he is familiar with irrigation and pipes and they are not free of issues.

John Shardlow, senior principal with Stantec Consulting, spoke on behalf of the Fairhill Estate team.

"I want to remind us where we have been — this is a very unique project and we came to the city a little over a year ago and we basically requested this, a kind of unique thing and we asked if the planning commission and council could meet together for a workshop so we could talk about unique project we were thinking about pursuing," Shardlow said.

"I am here before you tonight to say I am very confident that we have a great design project," he added. "The whole issue of alternate stormwater management is a really hot issue around the United States right now, and I have toured projects with alternative stormwater management systems used for agriculture."

People who chose to live in this master plan community chose to do so on purpose because they want to be a part of this unique lifestyle and be able to grow organic vegetables near their home, Shardlow said.

City staff discussion

Farmington City Engineer Katy Gehler said there is continued discussion on the storm sewer system, design and function and ongoing maintenance.

Shardlow reassured the council the stormwater system design is designed to work.

Gehler said is there was failure, there could be flooding and ditch water standing in front yards.

City Attorney Joel Jamink will work to further define a system failure.

Shardlow said he wants to make sure the language is clear on both sides.

"We are totally open to working on the refined language," he said.

Council member Craig confirmed agreement language must be reworked and refined.

"We are very close here and we are working on the semantics and the wording, and we are not wanting to upend the apple cart . . . there are nuances that will be flushed out in the PUD and the homeowners' association documents," said Adam Kienberger, city community development director.

Council members approved the preliminary plat and PUD amendment with an understanding more discussion will take place before both sides agree on the final plan.