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Smithtown Crossing Redevelopment Study

Thank you to all residents who contributed comments regarding the study. All comments have been compiled for the Planning Commission and will be discussed at the August 7 commission meeting. Any changes will be determined and included in a final draft of the study which will be presented to the city council. A final draft will be posted on the web site for public review. If you have any questions regarding the study contact Marie Darling, Planning Director, 952.960.7912.

Comments received:

Overall I think the study is a good start. Everyone who has commented so far has some valid points, although the way a couple were worded makes you totally ignore any validity their statements might have. I do think the city needs to act like a business in this venture to make sure the project offers an economic advantage to the city. I do like the idea of planning the area--the Tonka Bay section of the city looks so nice and you look at Shorewood and it is really bad. As far as the study itself goes, I hope you will seriously encourage businesses that will take advantage of pedestrian (bike) traffic. We have an incredible resource right down the road with the LRT, plus many bike clubs use Smithtown Road as a main thouroughfare. The bus stops across the street, and, although not heavily used now, the demand of certain businesses to increase the use over the years. Eventually mass transit will improve in the suburbs--just not in my lifetime. I hope this project will utilize the construction to add a bike trail connection to the LRT. It was a waste of money that it was not done as part of the intersection project and I hope we do not overlook it. I am glad the building height has been scaled down. We really don't need buildings towering over our tree height in Shorewood. It defeats why we move to outerring suburbs. I will be interested to see the final draft and how financially you see it impacting the city.

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Thanks to you and City for your proactive efforts to get public review and comment on the Smithtown Crossing Redevelopment Study. I appreciate you alerting us in the City Newsletter and providing adequate time for online review and comment. As you know, most of us don’t follow City Council meetings. By using the newsletter you alerted all of us. Tying that to a one month online review and comment period provides just the sort of proactive outreach needed on a project of this significance.

Overall, I’m glad to see the City is doing some advance, holistic thinking about this site which in many ways is a gateway to the City. I agree that a coordinated approach provides opportunities that piece-meal does not. I have a few specific comments for your consideration:

  1. While a coordinated, unified approach has many benefits it raises questions about what will happen if not all landowners agree to participate. Although it appears the City is not planning on using eminent domain, that is not clear. Breaking the project into three chunks based on the existing road layout may reduce the risk that any given landowner that is not interested holds up other aspects of the project. It may also reduce the temptation for future City Councils to consider using eminent domain for the project.
  2. I understand the rationale behind using Tax Increment Financing but am concerned about the potential fiscal impact on the City. While the City would forego increased tax revenues during the increment period, it would be paying out for additional service needs required by the development during the same period. Toward that end, I would encourage the City to require a Fiscal Impact Analysis as part of the project planning. Should the City decide to proceed with Tax Increment Financing, I would urge the City to consider basing any financing on the net fiscal impact of the project, not just gross increases in tax revenues. Further, I’d encourage the City to use a short window of time for the financing to limit medium-term impacts on the city.
  3. As an alternative to investing future tax revenue in the project, I’d ask the City to consider working with the developer and local banks to explore Community Investment Financing. This would allow local citizens that were interested to invest into the project via the bank who would provide financing at attractive rates. This approach could reduce bank risks, lower developer financing costs, reduce or eliminate the need for City Tax Increment Financing, and provide interesting local investment options for area residents that were so inclined. Another alternative to this approach would be to use the City’s bonding authority to provide attractive financing via loans to the project as opposed to foregoing future tax revenue to help fund the project.
  4. A project like this provides great opportunities to think about future goals and community needs. Towards that end, I’d encourage the City to consider requiring or incentivizing the development to provide most or all of its energy needs through a project sponsored energy cooperative or other model that takes advantage of the scale of the project to make solar energy a reality for the site. Partnerships between the City, the project sponsors, Excel Energy, and others could create a great opportunity here to showcase innovative approaches to locally sourced energy that is fiscally real.
  5. On page 12, bullet 5, the plan references housing should “add to and enhance the variety of housing choices in the community.” Perhaps explicit reference should be provided to replacing the existing apartment stock that would be vacated by the proposed development.
  6. Page 17 referents “connections to existing and future sidewalk systems.” I strongly encourage the City to consider including access enhancements as part of the project to facilitate better pedestrian access. This should include better crossings across highway 19 and extensions of sidewalks into the community such as down Smithtown Road. And yes, my property does front and Smithtown and we’d welcome a sideway.
  7. Also on page 17 there is a reference to site planning and landscaping that would encourage “visitors to spend a little more time in the area . . . .” I suggest explicitly referencing the need to have design that encourages external access within the proposed development.
  8. Page 18 references strategies for mitigating visual impact. I encourage the City to explicitly include strategies to reduce light pollution as part of the design requirements.
  9. Page 23 references possible City land acquisition. I understand the rationale for that and the flexibility it provides. St. Louis Park’s award winning Excelsior and Grand project was made possible because the City proactively acquired the land and then sought developers that could implement the City’s vision for the site. Of course that’s a different scale project, but the process is worth noting. That said, the reference to selling to a developer “at cost” should be modified in the report to include carrying costs. Although, the City should probably sell “at market value.” Further, the City should thoroughly plan out interim uses and associated holding costs and risks before embarking on any land acquisition. Finally, I would urge the Cit not to buy any of the sites that have problem soils until they are corrected and cases are closed by the MN PCA. If the City comes into the chain of title prior to completing radiation, the City’s risk profile increases dramatically.

Again, thank you for the opportunity to comment on this important project. I look forwarding to seeing the final redevelopment study.

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Obviously you have become busy-bodies again and you are just looking for something to do. Why is it that these changes are never driven by the people but from the top down? Why impose this type of development on a community that doesn't want it? Stop letting staff drive change that your residents do not want. You are just going to start another political war in Shorewood. This is not democracy; this is expertism.

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I strongly oppose the use of tax payers' money for speculative development projects. The rationale that the private investment in the area hasn't kept up with the public investment is highly suspect. You may also want to ask whether residents are interested in having a civic campus. Stop spending!

How much will this cost the residents of Shorewood? How can residents give valuable feedback without knowing the cost to the city? As a resident of Shorewood, I feel the explanation should include the "all in" expenses associated with the project.

Since you appear to be underwriting a business venture, I think you should provide residents an objective report showing the costs of the project and the expected benefits. An assessment and an itemization of the financial risks should be part of the disclosure. The only financial information in the report is the inventory in the appendix. Does the city plan to take the properties? Are there plans to buy out the businesses?

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I am happy to see bicycle/pedestrian connections included in the plan document, as well as emphasis on landscaping and other elements that would help new construction blend in with the residential character of most of our community. I am a bit concerned about references to allowing a taller building. I rather like the existing limit of about 2 - 1/2 stories. With regard to hardscape, I wonder if permeable paving could be included instead of solid pavement. It would be nice if development could be as green as possible - an example to be proud of. I like the mention of community gathering spaces - making the result people-friendly instead of just car friendly. And I am glad to see that a traffic study is included, since extra traffic at that intersection - which is an important route for folks trying to get from the neighborhoods to Highway 7 - could create problems for Shorewood residents. Thank you for the opportunity to comment.

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" . . . people no longer trust government, generally speaking. The reason is easy to understand. Government often positions itself “in the front of the line”; while their constituents “sit in the back.” In the case of the Smithtown Road redevelopment proposal, it would therefore be quite natural to be suspicious of one or more of the following: 1) A City Council which is blinded by the prospect of more tax revenues; 2) A developer with a “hit-and-run” mentality – all too often, from out of state; and 3) The Met Council. On this latter factor, I have a question: What is the precise involvement of the Met Council? Whenever I hear “multi-unit housing”, or “senior housing”, I suspect the presence of this powerful, unelected body. Their outreach and control is an abomination to those of us who cherish the concepts of individuality, private property rights and community autonomy and character.

People live here for a reason. The character and beauty of the Shorewood/Excelsior community features a wonderful combination of quaintness, individuality and local color, serenity and seclusion. By contrast, most folks around here would consider Wayzata to be sometimes useful, but as a place to live? You would hear, “sterile, overdeveloped, and ridiculously upscale”. --How about the crowded circus that has become the new Chanhassen? Not a chance! Let’s be careful with this.

After watching my former community of the Parker’s Lake area in Plymouth be wrecked by multi-unit housing and overdevelopment, I am not interested in: 1) several years of the all-day noise, dirt, and traffic detours of major construction; 2) potential lowering of property values because of the presence of multi-unit housing; 3) groups of buildings reaching 4 stories in height, large parking lots, herding people into phony little courtyards, and all of the other artificialities that the developers come up with.

I have a suggestion. Let us take an approach which will attract the many entrepreneurs among us. Yes, the gas station and former Bayt Shop properties need action. These are good locations for many different types of quality retail oriented businesses. Scrap this outlandish proposal – one which will create great noise, congestion and upheaval – while damaging the intrinsic nature of Shorewood. In its place, create the right environment – and let the free market work."

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"My husband used to rent an apartment from those "small not to code apartments" referred to in the report. For over 30 years we have owned a home on Smithtown Rd. and have utilized services at this very convenient business location. I do like the idea of making biking/pedestrian access to a public commons area as illustrated in the proposal. It would be very useful to have a safer means of crossing this intersection when not in a car. Businesses which have left this area and we sorely miss are: the hardware store, a gas station/convenience store, a blue collar priced descent food restaurant - perhaps with views of the Glen? (Oh, we miss you Pizza Platter). I saw notes in the proposal for more health/beauty stores - really? Do we really need more of these in the area? I also would lament the loss of those apartments. In the past the rent was cheep, just the ticket for single people struggling to make ends meet especially in this economy. We should have options for this population."