The proposed large Walden of Hastings development cleared its first hurdle with the City of Hastings.
The Hastings City Council on Monday night reviewed findings of an environmental assessment on the 71-acre site and passed a resolution stating that no Environmental Impact Statement is necessary for the development to proceed.
A public comment period was held on an Environmental Assessment Worksheet submitted by the developer’s engineering firm, and a handful of nearby residents expressed concerns about traffic from the development and about the loss of prime agricultural land.
Community Development Director John Hinzman told the council, “Adoption of the resolution would conclude environmental review of the property and allow for consideration of future development applications.”
He said that the council action doesn’t authorize approval of the development, which now will move through the city approval and permitting process. Hinzman said a site plan review could appear on a planning commission agenda this month, though there aren’t any planning commission meetings on the city calendar for February. If recommended for approval, the city council could act on it in March.
The project is planned for the east side of Hwy. 316 at Michael Avenue. Hinzman said a preliminary plat received by the city shows 450 units, and developers would like to start with site preparations this year.
The property is being developed by LandEquity, LLC, which plans to purchase it from Best Development, which has owned it for about 25 years and leased it as farmland.
A 17.5-acre portion of the plan that are Sand Coulee would be donated to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, and the DNR has responded it is eager to take control of that portion of the property.
Walden at Hastings is planned as “life-cycle housing,” meaning housing for every stage of life. The development would have trails and park-like amenities, according to plans. The environmental study states, “The project aims to incorporate family living in one development. Whether a person is owning their first, having their second child, living their active lives in their senior years or needs assistance and care, they are welcome. The goal is to have families living and thriving in the same development.”
Walden at Hastings will be developed in two phases, under the plan. This year, phase one would begin after city approvals. That would include 54 twin homes, 68 townhomes, 170 apartment units, 24 senior units, 80 active senior living units and 80 assisted living units.
Phase two is set for 2029 and would include 55 single family homes.
LandEquity plans for the development to be all rental units, with rents in the neighborhood of $2,000-$4,000 monthly.
The city approved annexation of the land into the city in the spring.
Because of the size of the Walden at Hastings development, it triggered the need for the Environmental Assessment Worksheet, which allowed for comments from various state and federal agencies, as well as neighboring property owners and the community.
“The environmental assessment worksheet is a brief document designed to lay out the basic facts of a project necessary to determine if an environmental impact statement is required,” Hinzman wrote to the city council.
As part of the process, a traffic study was conducted in the area. There isn’t a roundabout planned at Hwy. 316 and Michael Avenue, but in its comment on the worksheet, Joe Widing of the Metropolitan Council wrote, “Council staff recommends the consideration of a roundabout at this location as it would increase safety for non-motorized travel.”
The traffic study predicts that the development will generate a total of 2,709 trips each day, with 180 during morning peak hour and 226 in the afternoon peak hour upon full development. In addition to Michael Avenue, there will be a secondary access point 1,300 feet to the east of Michael Avenue.
Based on Minnesota Department of Transportation guidance, there will be 300-foot left and right turn lanes for Hwy. 316 approaches to Michael Avenue, and a 300-foot right turn lane for the westbound Hwy. 316 approach to the secondary road.
The traffic study states that with the new traffic, “All study intersections operate acceptably under their existing intersection control.”
Area residents voiced concerns.
“It is sad to think that the city is considering sacrificing this prime farmland to allow a development with 511 rental units to be built. Farming is important to this community too,” wrote Scott Sandkamp, who lives on Shannon Drive. “We bought our house because of the view and the country feel. This type of development concept does not fit the location that is being proposed. This is Hastings, not Eden Prairie or Woodbury.”
Steen Engstrom, who lives on Red Wing Boulevard, wrote, “I am concerned about the coverage and strain on emergency services, ambulance and first responders. The fire station is over three miles away and has to travel completely though town and navigate three mini roundabouts for which there is not room for vehicles to yield right of way. The ability to handle emergency calls on the edge of town, particularly to senior living facilities, deserves significant consideration.”