Northfield residents showed up en mass to voice their opposition to the Kraewood Addition preliminary housing plat during an emotional public hearing held Thursday as part of the Northfield Planning Commission meeting at City Hall.
Residents spoke for more than two hours; each speaker was given 2 minutes to voice views and concerns. The City Council chamber was full, as was an adjoining room. Residents showed up to speak their minds, most against the potential housing project and how it would negatively affect Northfield, its quality of life and public safety.
The Planning Commission ultimately voted to table the item, creating a subcommittee that will craft a memo for the public record and address a few issues raised during the hearing.
The commission was asked to conduct a public hearing to gather input on the request from Rebound Real Estate on a preliminary plat for Kraewood Addition, sometimes referred to as the Paulson property. Northfield property owners who own land, historically operated as a Christmas tree farm by the Paulson family, within 350 feet were notified by mail of the hearing.
Rebound Real Estate has already come before the Planning Commission for voluntary review of the 12.5-acre subdivision and met with the surrounding neighbors to gather feedback. Rebound has responded to neighbors’ concerns, recently decreasing the number of apartments from 140 to 100.
According to the plat, Rebound proposes to create a multi-use development consisting of single-family homes, townhomes, a quad-style home and a multifamily apartment building.
Located west of Linden Street North between Greenvale Avenue, and Lincoln Parkway, the proposed site layout would construct 22 single-family homes, two twin homes and one four-plex or row house and an apartment building.
Most residents who spoke during the public hearing gave reasons to vote against the housing plat, although a few showed support.
Northfield resident Raymond De Vries opposed the plan, saying “We must keep in mind that return on investment is measured not just in dollars, but in creating environments that promote human and community flourishing now and for future residents of Northfield, and concentrating 130 affordable living units —100 of which are rentals — in one part of town will not promote diversity, but will ghettoize our fellow citizens.
“If the city is committed to affordable housing, it must find ways to integrate that housing into all neighborhoods, a strategy that will better protect the environment and generate healthy diversity.
“The proposed plan harms the physical environment, poses a danger to pedestrians (many of whom are school children), diminishes green space and will fail to achieve the goal we Northfielders seek: increasing the diversity of our town. It’s wild lack of proportion will generate short-term profit for a few and the expense of a long-term health of our community,” De Vries said.
Orick Peterson, who supports the Kraewood Addition, said, “the project provides a good connection and through street between established residential neighborhoods, mostly south of Greenvale and the largely immigrant housing further north. It will further the city’s plans to provide less segregated neighborhoods and will enhance diversity.”
Many locals spoke about the destruction of the existing property.
But Jessie Fuller felt the plan would enhance the city.
“For proper decision-making here, we need to remove our parochial blinders and realize that Northfield is a nerve center; just off a major interstate, connecting commerce in the western part of the state to the Mississippi River cities and serving as a bedroom community and a hub between the Twin Cities and Rochester. Pollinator opportunities can be engineered. A parking lot is a small price to pay for opening our community to newcomers and extra revenue to schools and elder services to keep taxes low,” said Fuller.
Most who spoke opposed the project for public safety or environmental reasons.
Joan and Chris Ennis said, “Developing this area into homes and apartments will destroy a forest-like area that has functioned for many years as a significant carbon offset within the city boundary, partially compensating for what seems like ever increasing traffic and emissions within our neighborhoods.”
Adrienne Falcon wrote “I am very troubled by the proposed development at the Paulson property and oppose its current model and design. Northfield is in need of affordable housing, as the city itself has prioritized; however, this project does not meet that need.”
As a parent with young children who attend the nearby Greenvale Park School across from the proposed development, Alyssa Melby worried about how the proposed development could affect traffic, especially if her children would be able to safely cross the street. She asked if there would be crossing guards working there before and after school hours.
Physician Amy Ripley, was concerned about public safety due to the increased traffic, saying the project would make it less safe for residents who walk and bike in the neighborhood.
Streets, sidewalks, trails
This project calls for sidewalk and street connections and in one case allows for a future extension.
According to Rebound’s plan, Kraewood Drive will run through the parcel north and south connecting with Lincoln Parkway and Greenvale Avenue. Juniper Avenue, on the northeast corner of the site, will extend west to connect to Kraewood Drive.
And Highland Avenue, on the southwest corner of the site, will extend east to connect to and past Kraewood Drive, to the eastern property line, aligning with Highland Avenue for a possible future connection.
Sidewalks would be constructed along both sides of all streets. A sidewalk would also be included along the south side of Lincoln Parkway from Green Meadow Court of Linden Street North.
The properties to the south, east and west include mainly single-family residential development with a church approximately one block east of the site. Greenvale Park Elementary and the Northfield School District Office & Area Learning Center are located to the north.
A report suggests housing demand is the top reason to move forward with the project, finding a need for both rental housing and single-family housing in Northfield. The report states today there is a short market time for sale of existing homes, and a low inventory of buildable lots.
The recently completed 5th Street Lofts in downtown reportedly have a 100 percent occupancy rate with a waiting list of prospective tenants.
Derek Haars, a resident for more than 40 years, said “I am vehemently opposed to the development as it is presented. This proposal is self-serving to the individuals looking to profit from our community. It … is not what Northfield needs.”