By Sean Miner
Sun Current Newspapers
Continuing south from work done on past projects, the Eden Prairie City Council held a public hearing and adopted a resolution to move forward with street and utility improvements on Eden Prairie Road.
That former work extended as far south as Frederick Place, and this upcoming project will concern the roadway down to where it ends at Flying Cloud Drive. The road surface will be redone, and slightly realigned to make the drive safer.
Likewise, the road surface will better accommodate storm water after the project. As detailed in a report by City Engineer Rod Rue, storm water will drain down the road into infiltration basins and ponds on Flying Cloud Drive, which the county will be installing during an upcoming project on that road.
Under the surface, the city will install sanitary sewer and water service, which buildable properties in the area may be able to access in the future. That part of the project was added per a petition received by the council on Feb. 14, asking the city to review options for providing these services to the Lion’s Tap and an adjacent property.
The resolution eventually adopted by the council ordered the preparation of plans and specifications for the project, which means that aspects of the project may still change. The proposed timeline for the project, which anticipated plans to be complete by December and a contract for the work awarded in February of next year, depend partially on the timing of the county’s Flying Cloud Drive project.
“This project is tied very closely to the Flying Cloud Drive project,” said Rue. “What we’re trying to do is build this project when Flying Cloud Drive is closed west of Spring Road.
Initially, at the beginning of the year, when the project was on schedule, they were going to have that road closed in 2018. If something changes, this [project] could be adjusted as well.”
The council approved the project to move forward, but not before asking a few questions. Most of their questions, and much of what was raised during the public hearing, centered around how assessments for the work would be levied on nearby properties.
Properties that take access from the affected portion of Eden Prairie Road would be assessed for the street and storm drainage improvements. Any properties that hooked up to the extending water and sanitary sewer services would be responsible for accompanying assessment charges, beginning whenever they did so.
Complicating that prospect is the jagged line cut through the area what the council called the MUSA line, referring to the boundary of the Metropolitan Urban Services Area, as defined by the Metropolitan Council. Essentially, some properties are outside of the MUSA, i.e. the area in which Eden Prairie’s comprehensive plan suggests it may provide these services. The boundary isn’t a hard cutoff between being guaranteed or prohibited service or something of the like, but the properties outside of the MUSA would at least have to petition for service.
All told, the project was estimated to cost approximately $4.49 million. The city would pick up approximately $4.12 million (92 percent) of the cost, and the remaining $363,500 would come from
Resident Dean Edstrom, who lives along Eden Prairie Road in the considered portion, asked the city to reconsider the road realignment, citing the impact it would have on the area.
“My wife and I have lived in that home for 43 years,” said Edstrom. “During the entire course of that, I have done everything I could to preserve the natural amenities down in that area.”
Of most concern, said Edstrom, would be the impact on the bluff.
“If you go down there and look at what’s going to happen to the bluff, it’s really pretty devastating,” said Edstrom.
He noted that at least he and his wife did not find value in the improvements for their own lives, particularly faced with the prospect of being assessed for the work. He also suggested that the drive behind the improvements had come from new home developments that had taken place to the north.
“We’re perfectly happy with Eden Prairie Road,” said Edstrom.
Another resident in the area, Adam Buenz, echoed Edstrom’s disapproval of the assessments.
“I think it’s just something to maybe examine more precisely, and see if maybe there’s more flexibility with the city eating some of that cost, so it doesn’t hit working families like us so much,” said Buenz.
He also expressed concern about the road realignment, citing Edstrom’s comments on the bluffs as well as the fact that the newly-drawn curve would bring the road closer to his own home.
With regard to assessments, Councilmember Brad Aho posed a question to city staff and the rest of the council.
“The residents who are on the street directly are not the ones who are asking for the improvement, but I think the improvement really is, for safety and other reasons, because of the development that has taken place,” said Aho.
“Is there any ability or any standard that allows us to assess a greater area than just the houses and properties that are adjacent to the road?”
Public Works Director Adam Ellis noted that the proposed assessments were in line with a methodology the city had followed for years.
“For any number of roads that we’ve built through assessment, it really has been the methodology that we’ve used as the city has grown,” said Ellis.
Councilmember Ron Case noted the issues raised by deviating from that history.
“It just raises the issue of precedent,” said Case. “We’re not taking any one situation as unique, but following a trend.”
A resident of the area, Michelle Wolter, also voiced concerns with regard to the assessments.
“I certainly echo my neighbor’s comments,” said Wolter. “I don’t know that we are receiving the proportionate benefit for this project, for what we are being taxed.”
Lastly, resident Perry Ryan spoke on behalf of himself and his wife Michelle, registering support for the project as it was proposed.
“We’re in favor of the project,” said Ryan. “I like how it’s structured. I think city staff did a good job.”
The council will tentatively review the completed plans and specifications in December.
Contact Sean Miner at [email protected]