Arbor Ridge rezoning approved
For the second time in 12 months, the De Soto Planning Commission approved a rezoning request for the Arbor Ridge subdivision southeast of the Kill Creek Road/83rd Street intersection.
The Planning Commission's unanimous decision Nov. 23 was in contrast to a split-decision in favor of a rezoning made 12 months before. The De Soto City Council later voted unanimously to deny the earlier rezoning.
But last week's rezoning request differed greatly in form and substance from the 2003 application. The earlier request was actually two requests to change the low-density residential zoning on the 90-acre site. One was for a residential zoning that would have allowed the developer to build 181 single-family homes, and a second rezoning that would have allowed the construction of 58 townhomes.
Consistent with the city's recently updated comprehensive plan, the latest application was for planned-development zoning, which ties the zoning to a preliminary site plan. That site plan indicated a total of 212 single-family homes in the development and the elimination of all townhomes or duplexes. The revamped plan increased the projected costs of the lowest-price homes in the subdivision from $150,000 to $250,000, Arbor Ridge developer Jim Lambie said.
All of this contributed to another noticeable difference in the Planning Commission's consideration of its newest rezoning proposal. The meeting was without a steady stream of eastside residents speaking out in opposition to the development.
In fact, the only eastside resident to comment in the abbreviated public hearing was Toni Caldwell, who acknowledged she represented eastside neighbors in discussions with Lambie. The talks led to the compromise proposal the developer submitted.
The city and developer were in agreement on 90 percent of the application, Lambie-Geer attorney Chase Simmons said. Those points of agreement included infrastructure improvements, he said.
The contractor's required phased-in street improvements include.
¢ A sidewalk on 83rd Street and turn lanes at Kill Creek Road and the entrance to the subdivision with the start of construction.
¢ Commissioning ongoing traffic studies that would help determine the schedule of future improvements.
¢ An east entrance to 83rd Street with turn lanes with the start of the developer's third phase.
¢ The developer also agreed to participate in a future benefit district to help pay for traffic lights at the 83rd Street intersections with Valley Springs Drive and Kill Creek Road when needed.
Lambie-Geer also agreed to participate in improvements to the sewer pump station serving the subdivision as needed.
Simmons said Lambie-Geer's only stipulation to those requirements was that the be shared with other future developments benefiting from the improvements.
Planning commissioners shared the concern of the De Soto Park Board that without playgrounds available in the subdivision, children would walk to nearby Miller Park, crossing a busy 83rd Street on the way. To rectify that, the Park Board recommended the developer dedicate 1.5 to two acres for parkland.
In addition to the two ravines that define the east and west boundaries of the subdivision -- which could be part of a future city trailways park -- the developer was prepared to donate two lots totally about two acres for "pocket parks," Simmons said. In addition, Lambie-Geer would pay the city park fee in lieu of donation, he said.
Although De Soto City Engineer Mike Brungardt questioned the viability of the two parcels for pocket parks because of their steep terrain, Lambie-Geer's engineer said he was confident both could hold limited playground equipment and picnic tables.
Planning commissioners challenged the developer to prove that assertion, leaving it to the City Council to make the final determination. They agreed should the developer demonstrate the usefulness of the two lots, they could develop the pocket parks instead of paying the park fee if it was to Lambie-Geer's advantage.
The other sticking point for the Planning Commission was reconciling the developer's home design standards with those in the city's comprehensive plan.
Simmons argued there wasn't a conflict, pointing out that the conceptual design standards the developer proposed in its application seemed in concert with those in the city's comprehensive plan.
Homes in the subdivision would include both custom and spec homes, Simmons said. The designs of all homes not built by Lambie-Geer would have to be approved by the developer, he said. The developer wanted enough flexibility to allow property owners to build their "dream home," he said.
What the developer didn't want was another layer of approval at the city level, Simmons said.
"We're not in favor of going further than we have here," he said. "This is not multiple-family. There is individual taste involved.
"I'm not sure the city wants to get involved in the color someone wants to paint their home."
Most of the discussion focused on the size and placement of garages, with planning commissioners echoing concerns about a preponderance of three-car garages and those that protruded from the front facade. At the suggestion of City Attorney Patrick Reavey, compromise language was approved that required the subdivision's garages to be "differentiated" in size and design.
Should the rezoning win the City Council's approval later this month, there was no guarantee the city would issue building permits for any homes, Brungardt said. The possible bottleneck was the city's shortage of sewer capacity.
However, the city engineer said it was currently estimated the city had enough sewer capacity for about 100 new homes, or the first two phases at Arbor Ridge.