A proposed affordable housing project in Edina has stirred strong opposition from some residents who claim the city is disregarding its own zoning rules and not considering the concerns of the community.
A tenant of the building that would be demolished, who requested anonymity for fear of retaliation, expressed frustration with the process.
“They sent a letter to people living within 1,000 feet of the proposed development, but not to us. None of the tenants knew about it,” he said.
The business owner, who has been a tenant for 24 years, lamented the potential impact of the development on his business, stating, “It definitely will be a monstrous pain in the ass for us to get moved.”
The tenant believes past school enrollment declines is a major reason why the city is seeking to bring an affordable housing development to Edina, saying that the schools have been losing funding due to enrollment declines.
The City of Edina told Alpha News that the notices sent to residents who live within 1,000 feet of the proposed development were sent by the project developer, Solhem Companies, ahead of an informational meeting. “There have not been any City meetings for the proposed project that require an official public notice,” the city explained.
The city said a notice would only be given to the building owner after the developer submits a “formal application for site plan approval.”
“At that point, there would be two public hearings scheduled, and a public notice would be sent out to property owners within 1,000 feet of the project and the current building owner,” the city explained. “The only public meetings held to date were for ‘sketch plan reviews’ by the Planning Commission and City Council to give nonbinding feedback on the concept of the project and actions related to contingent preliminary funding approval to support an application to the State.”
The affordable housing project is proposed to be built at 5780 Lincoln Drive, at the entrance to the Parkwood Knolls neighborhood in western Edina. According to the Sun Current, the Edina Housing and Redevelopment Authority approved $2.5 million in preliminary funding to help boost the developer’s funding application to the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency. The project still needs to go through additional rounds of approval, the Center of the American Experiment explained in an article.
The proposed project would consist of 141 units between two buildings on a 2.5 acre lot that is currently zoned for industrial use.
Residents of Edina who would be impacted by the proposed development also expressed concerns.
“Edina essentially doesn’t adhere to their own zoning rules and laws,” said a longtime resident of the area who asked to remain anonymous.
He criticized the city’s approach to zoning, stating, “The zoning right now doesn’t allow for that space to be made into affordable housing unless they change the zoning. The city acts unilaterally without any concern for the residents.”
He expressed concern for the tenants who own businesses in the building that would be torn down for the project. “Tenants in the building are really upset that they are getting displaced after 25 years,” he said.
“Townhomes across the street from the proposed site sent out a petition, and everybody in the complex said, ‘No, we don’t want it there because of traffic congestion and adding an estimated 300 people to the 2.5 acres,'” he said. “I believe the developer has been insensitive to the current tenants and the future potential tenants in the high-density buildings.”
The lack of community input in the decision-making process has also caused frustration among residents, he said. “The community has no say in what’s going on. They claim we do, but we don’t. They ignore what the residents want,” he commented.
Kent Kramer, another resident in the area, said the parcel has been zoned as an industrial district for several decades. “I’ve been in the neighborhood for 24 years. I bought into the neighborhood on the edge of the industrial district based on it remaining as such, which it should, due to the zoning laws,” he said.
Kramer pointed out that the neighborhood’s character would undergo a significant transformation if the affordable housing project were to proceed. “Putting affordable housing in an area that doesn’t have the resources for them isn’t going to provide them a way up in life,” he said.
While recognizing the need for affordable housing, Kramer believes this particular location might not be the best fit for such a development. “I think we probably do need more affordable housing, but I don’t think that this is the location for it. It’s far from everything, including the new light rail system,” he suggested.
Residents are actively engaging with the city through various means, including emails, letters, and attending meetings to express their opposition to the project. A Change.org petition has also been started.
The city said updates on the project will be posted online.
After publication, the city reached out to Alpha News to clarify that it is the developer, Solhem Companies, that is planning the project, not the city.
“It is not a City project. The City’s role is to review and act on any application Solhem makes to the City,” a spokesperson for the city said.
The city also took issue with comments from residents who said Edina is disregarding its zoning rules and not considering the community’s concerns.
“No application has been made. The City has not acted on anything. The Planning Commission and City Council gave Solhem non-binding feedback on their idea for the project at sketch plan reviews,” the spokesperson said. “But at this point, it’s just that — an idea.”
This article was updated Aug. 3 at 1 p.m. to reflect new comments from the city.