Planning Commission suggests next steps for Excelsior’s East Town project

(Submitted Photo
Proposed plan for the East Town development in Excelsior. (Submitted photo)
Map of the area impacted by the Excelsior development moratorium.
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(Submitted photo) Map of the area impacted by the Excelsior development moratorium.

Plans unveiled with many local objections

By Paige Kieffer
[email protected]

The Excelsior Planning Commission voted 5-0 in favor of changing the city’s zoning code in the East Town development, to halt any development after commission members expressed disappointment with the proposals.

To view the entire East Town proposal, click here.

The Excelsior City Council approved an interim moratorium Nov. 28 to allow a plan to be developed for the east end of town. The moratorium ends Sept. 5 and cannot be extended, but can end earlier.

The moratorium was created in order to halt any development and allow the city time to gather public input on what kind of development residents would like for East Town. It was also brought about by the city’s desire to sell the 810 Excelsior Blvd. property and the sale of the Bayview Event Center.

According to the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business journal, the event center sold for $4.25 million last month to Locorr Fund Management, with the desire to creating an office building.

The council hired Hoisington Koegler Group Inc. to complete a plan for the area and the firm developed two plans, based on public input from three open houses March 23, April 27 and June 1.

Participation ranged from 70 to 90 people at each meeting and more than 100 emails were gathered to draft a plan.

In February, a steering committee was developed to provide guidance to the firm and to promote public participation.

HKGi created three plans that included residential, commercial and entertainment options, with the entertainment option most strongly favored by residents.

Ann Hersman, an East Town resident and member of the steering committee, asked the planning commission why the East Town plan was necessary.

“I’m wondering who wants this, because the majority from residents who attended the open houses asked, ‘why are doing this? What’s the point of this? Why are we overbuilding? Why are we making this another Wayzata?’” said Hersman. “I don’t understand where this is coming from and whose pushing this. … If you go back and look with what residents said, they don’t want this.”

Planning Director Pat Smith said that HkGi created a few plans based on resident input and current zoning so the planning commission and city council could have a plan in place that was reviewed by the public. This plan would then be used when considering future development, not that the city is going to develop the area.

“The East Town area plan is connectional in nature and has a fluid document that can be developed and redefined as the community moves forward with implementation,” Smith said. “The other real reason why were doing a small area plan is because developers come in, and we anticipate developers looking at this part of town and we want to be able to tell the developers that we’ve had the public participation, we had this go to the Planning Commission, we had this go to the City Council and this is what the community sees and what the community desires. Also it’s so that they’ve a better understanding before they buy a property and what they’re getting themselves into. So everybody’s on the same page.”

The planning commission members said that, while they most favored the entertainment option plan, they still thought that many issues needed to be addressed and there is not enough time to do that before the moratorium ends.

Planning chair Dan Wallace suggested changing the city zoning code to prevent anyone in that area from expanding past their current footprint.

Currently the area is mostly zoned B2 or B6, which allows a maximum height of 35 feet or three stories.
“My concern is still time,” said Wallace. “My suggestion is to make a blanket change to the zoning code to halt dramatic increase and redevelopment at this point.”

The city council meets 7 p.m., Monday, July 17 and to consider the planning commission’s suggestions. The planning commission meets 7 p.m., Monday, July 24.

Follow Paige Kieffer on Facebook at facebook.com/mnsunsailor.