Crestview Lane apartment proposal splits Planning Commission vote
Proposed development moves to Brainerd City Council
BRAINERD — Whether a five-unit apartment fits into a Crestview neighborhood may be in the eye of the beholder.
The Brainerd Planning Commission was divided after looking at the proposal for the apartment building proposed, with a conditional use permit, at 2307 Crestview Lane in south Brainerd. Even as goals continue to be to increase density, the question becomes how that can fit in existing neighborhoods and what it should look like.
In this case, the applicant was proposing to create visual interest by varying the types or direction of vinyl siding, adding a stone or brick to the facade, and adding an exterior door on Crestview Lane for one of the units. It would have 12 parking places and a landscape plan would provide screening with vegetation or a fence and planting around the building.
The goals before the Planning Commission include fitting harmoniously into the neighborhood, providing a diverse mix of housing choices for all stages of life and income range, expanding home ownership and rental opportunities through rehabilitation of existing places or new construction. Crestview has single family homes, some twin homes and duplexes. Brainerd staff recommended approval of the building as it adheres to the city's zoning code requirements.
Don McFarland, Crestview Lane resident, lives next to the proposed apartment building.
“I don’t know what value that is going to add to my neighborhood and I’m concerned that he is going to gain while I lose,” McFarland said of the developer Dave Peterson.
McFarland said there are no sidewalks in a neighborhood with retired people and this project would increase traffic.
“I don't know how many kids or how many other people and I don't know who keeps track of what people they move in there or how often they come in and out,” McFarland said, noting he’s lived by other apartments in the past and also had a concern for garbage left and piling up around a trash container. “I’m going to be in that neighborhood right next door to that and I don’t like it.”
Susan Haskins, who recently moved to Crestview Lane, said the architectural covenants established for the neighborhood are restrictive, making it hard for her to add a porch or patio, which left her wondering how this proposal could go through so quickly. Other residents also brought up concerns about the density and how this could fit in on part of the street dominated by single family homes all on similar lot sizes. Karen Doyle said there were some twin homes on the opposite side but that was in a planned community. Doyle brought a list of people, more than 20 she estimated, who opposed the development.
“So we're taking the area of the neighborhood in question, and because all of them have single family homes, then we're taking all of the extra units available and condensing them into one area?" asked Planning Commission member Theresa Woodward.
“That’s correct,” said James Kramvik, community development director. Kramvik said they don’t look at individual properties but as a neighborhood and just need to be consistent with it.
Planning Commission member Chuck Marohn said he agreed with the density, the impervious surface coverage but struggles with the way units are regulated and compatible with the neighborhood.
“We have created an ordinance that essentially gives us the worst style and development of Baxter in terms of density and placement, and then goes and tries to mitigate that by having screening that tries to cover up the bad design,” Marohn. “I think that this parcel should have five units. I think it should have six units., I think that that would be just fine. But in the configuration that you've got right there, I would not want to be anywhere near this. I think this is a poorly oriented building. I think the building itself is disrespectful to the neighbors, the adjacent neighbors, not to mention the neighborhood.”
Marohn said the building should be oriented toward the street like the others with the parking in the back by a nearby church parking lot, which would be more respectful to the street.
Kevin Yeager, Planning Commission member, said he went out to the neighborhood and there was a mishmash of different building types, construction methods that looked good or didn’t based on one’s view.
“One of the things that I struggle with a lot in this body of work is the subjectivity that enters into the conversation and seemingly on every single project of what looks good, what doesn't look good, what looks best and so forth. And I find that very, very frustrating,” Yeager said. “I wish everybody designed these amazing beautiful looking buildings and every single opportunity but that just isn't the nature of building in today's climate. It isn't the nature of construction, and it certainly does not appear to be the general nature of progress, especially in high density construction.”
A motion wasn’t readily forthcoming, causing Yeager to note otherwise they would pass this on, as an advisory commission to the council, without any action.
Planning Commission member Michael Duval sought a modification to the lighting so that it would be downcast and reduce the light spillage and light pollution. The applicant was fine with that change. When the motion came up to approve the development, Marohn said he would not approve it but if it failed would propose a supplemental motion.
The commission voted 4-2, with Woodward and Marohn opposed.
The next step for the development puts it before the City Council Monday, March 20.
Editor's Note: This story was updated from a 3-2 vote to a 4-2 vote noting the Brainerd City Council liaison also votes on the city's planning commission.
Renee Richardson, managing editor, may be reached at 218-855-5852 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/DispatchBizBuzz.