St. Louis Park council lists reasons for denying Bridgewater project

A rendering shows a proposal by Dominium and Bridgewater Bank for a development at Excelsior Boulevard and Monterey Drive. After more than two years of controversy over the project, the St. Louis Park City Council began the process of denying approvals. (Submitted art)
A rendering shows a rejected proposal by Dominium and Bridgewater Bank for a development at Excelsior Boulevard and Monterey Drive. After more than two years of controversy over the project, the St. Louis Park City Council denied approvals. (Submitted art)

The St. Louis Park City Council has formally denied the Bridgewater development proposed at Excelsior Boulevard and Monterey Drive.

The council voted 6-0 to approve a resolution denying approvals for the project at a April 17 meeting. Councilmember Tim Brausen had left the meeting by the time of the vote, but Mayor Jake Spano noted that Brausen had supported the project.

“He has been a strong advocate of this project for a long time and really would have liked to have seen it go forward but understands the direction – that that is not going to happen,” Spano said. “He just wanted me to say that he has been a supporter and he hopes something comes back.”

The rest of the council disagreed with Brausen’s perspective on the proposal and criticized numerous aspects of the plan to build 148 residential units and 17,500 square feet of commercial space on the site of a single-story commercial building adjacent to the existing Bridgewater Bank building. Concerns ranged from the density and the six-story height to the reduction in affordable housing units offered at the site from a previous proposal.

The council resolution denied rezoning and a preliminary plat for the project.

The resolution states that the St. Louis Park Economic Development Authority, which is made up of council members, does not support selling property it owns to the applicant for the project.

“Without the property owned by the EDA, the plat cannot be approved or recorded and the project cannot be constructed,” the council’s resolution states.

Acting as the authority, the council members had voted unanimously at a meeting earlier April 17 to decline an offer to purchase city property at 3743 Monterey Dr. and to deny a request for tax-increment financing, a form of city financial assistance that returns new taxes generated by a development to the developer for a period of time.

The developer, a partnership of Bridgewater Bank and Dominium, had sought $4.5 million in tax-increment financing.

The current general commercial and residential multifamily zoning districts allows a reasonable use of the property, the council’s resolution states as a basis for denying rezoning to accommodate the proposal.

A planned unit development district the developer sought aims to “promote higher standards of site and building design” and “encourage a more creative and efficient use of land,” the resolution states.

However, it adds, “The standards and building design of the proposed development are traditional and the use of the land is not creative.”

The development’s scale, including its height and proposed footprint, is not sensitive enough to adjacent land uses and would allow less area than desirable for landscaping and amenities for residents and passersby, according to the resolution.

The applicant failed to show that service vehicles would be able to maneuver on-site within existing access easements, and the development plan does not justify an increase in density from that allowed by the current zoning to the amount allowed in a planned unit development, the resolution states.

The project would require variances, or exceptions to city code, the resolution points out. It lists reasons for denying variances such as a lack of special circumstances or conditions affecting the property to the extent that the applicant or owner could not make reasonable use of the land. For example, the applicant could have reduced the footprint of the proposed building or repositioned it on the site, the resolution suggests.

It adds, “The requirements for a variance are not satisfied because there is no unusual hardship.”

Without the variances the applicant requested, a plat for the project would not meet city code requirements.

Contact Seth Rowe at [email protected]