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Former golf clubhouse could be donated to Eden Prairie

BY LYN JERDE - SUN NEWSPAPERS
(Created: Wednesday, July 12, 2006 9:36 PM CDT)

Members of the Eden Prairie Planning Commission had both questions and reservations about a developer's proposal to give the city land that includes a former golf clubhouse - in exchange for permission to build homes in a part of the development that some commission members say is environmentally sensitive.

The commission Monday deferred a decision on an array of proposed changes to Phase B of the Hennepin Village development in southwest Eden Prairie. Officials of Pemtom Land Co. have been asked to meet with city staff to discuss the proposal further, before it goes back to the commission at its Aug. 14 meeting.

Pemtom had proposed changing the comprehensive guide plan for the area from medium-density residential to public open space on 3.2 acres, then changing from public open space to medium-density residential on 2.5 acres.

This swap, said developer Dan Herbst, would give the city almost 73 acres of open space that would include the clubhouse from the former Cedar Hills Golf Course. One possible use for the clubhouse is as an arts center.

Commissioner Vicki Koenig said she isn't sure the deal is a good one for the city.
The proposed change, she said, would allow Pemtom to build in an area that offers a spectacular view of the Minnesota River Valley, but where building could be detrimental to the area's ecological balance. "This area is delicate environmentally," she said. "I question whether it is in the city's best interests to go with this tradeoff."

Commissioner Fred Seymour said he would have to know more about the city's proposed use of the clubhouse, and the costs of renovating it, before making any decision. "I'm not sure this tradeoff is right for us," he said.

The Eden Prairie Parks, Recreation and Natural Resources Commission had a visit to the clubhouse on its itinerary for the annual parks tour Monday evening. Stu Fox, manager of parks and natural resources, said city building and facilities employees have examined the structure of the clubhouse, which was built in 1944 and renovated about 20 years ago.

One potential use of the building, Fox said, is as an arts center, which is a facility that many Eden Prairie residents have frequently requested. How much it would cost to make the building usable, Fox said, would depend on what use city officials decide to make of it.

"It's not in move-in condition," he said, " but it's close to it."

Pemtom's proposal before the commission also included a change in building plans that would result in a reduction of housing density.

By changing the proposal from 167 single-family and townhouse units to 93 small-lot single-family homes - plus three more homes in the area with the view - density would be reduced, Herbst said. Hennepin Village - for which three of four phases have been approved for rezoning and subdivision - was envisioned to echo the architectural and community style of a 19th-century settlement in the same area, which also was called Hennepin Village.

The plan called for office, retail and park space, as well as housing. "We're trying to create what the original Hennepin Village had - a place to live, a place to work, a place to shop," he said. Modifications have been made over time, he said, to accommodate changing markets in residential and commercial real estate. Commissioners said they generally had no problem with the proposal for single-family housing.

But Commissioner Jon Stoltz said he was concerned about the effects on the bluffs if construction were allowed in the area as proposed. Also, he echoed Seymour's concerns about whether the city's use of the clubhouse would be feasible, and how much it would cost. Pemtom officials were asked to meet with city staff before the Planning Commission's Aug. 14 meeting, to talk in more depth about their proposal and possibly to revise it.

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