THE IMPACT OF DEVELOPMENT
Between 2007 and mid-2019, 2,753 single family homes and townhomes were built in the city. Almost all of these were built in Northwest Plymouth.
Today, there are hundreds more single family homes under construction. Elm Creek, just west of the high school, has not yet been completed. There's a proposal for a 300 unit apartment building on the Dundee Nursery site just 1 mile south of Hollydale. There's still empty land on County Road 47.
The Environmental Assessment paid for by the developer says that the purpose of the Hollydale development is to "respond to the demand for housing in Plymouth".
Does that mean we're supposed to build everywhere possible?
There's demand for housing in Edina too, but they're not plowing over Braemar.
We're fortunate to live in such a great city. But that doesn't obligate us to build on every last patch of grass. The costs of development are getting high.
LOSS OF GREEN SPACE
Hollydale is the last large parcel of green space in the city. Its 130 acres of grass, trees, rolling hills, and abundant wildlife personify the description of the rolling and wooded terrain that city planners purport to protect.
Yet open space acreage is in severe decline. Parks, Open Space, Agricultural, and Vacant Land acreage declined by almost 29% between the 2006 and 2016. Residential land use increased by 10%. Building seems to take place everywhere, and many of the city's "parks" seem to be man made play fields with manufactured equipment and chain link fences. Even the Greenway Trailhead is planned to include parking lots and corporate venues.
Development of Hollydale would reduce Park and Open Space acreage by another 130 acres, or by 5%.
The City's 2040 Comprehensive Plan cites a Land Use policy to "Apply development standards that protect the environment and advance community values, while allowing sound use of private property." The community values here are definitely to protect this environment. As more green space gets replaced by asphalt and Hardie Board, this proposal - residential development of the last remaining large parcel of green space - is no longer a sound use. It's sadly shortsighted.
In 2010 there were about 700 fifth graders in Wayzata Schools. Today, nine years later, there are over 900. Wayzata Schools taxpayers have built two new elementary schools and added on to two others. We've expanded Central Middle School to its maximum capacity, and spent $60 million to expand the high school to meet the needs of 4,000 students.
Yet still, there's not enough space. Parents complain of kids being taught in the atriums. Boundary lines have again been redrawn, disrupting families and childhood friendships. Class sizes are large, and resources are spread thin.
In August, Wayzata's superintendent informed the parents that enrollment is expected to increase by another 1000 students, and more than 750 new homes are planned to be built over the next three years.
None of those 750 homes were assumed to be built at Hollydale.
If Hollydale is approved, 750 will turn into over 1,050.
Enough is enough. Classrooms are crowded enough. Taxes are high enough. We do not need another 319 homes.
Spring thaw on the wetland south of Hollydale.
Rainfall is absorbed into soils. With land development, the natural landscape is replaced by surfaces impervious to water. Thus, more stormwater runoff occurs - runoff that is collected by drainage systems that combine curbs, storm sewers, and ditches to carry stormwater to Plymouth Creek, Medicine Lake, and into the Mississippi River.
This development would turn more than 30% of Hollydale land - 39 acres - into impervious surface. That will significantly increase the runoff into the wetland, potentially increasing water levels, polluting the waters, and damaging a fragile ecosystem.
The Environmental Assessment Worksheet uses words like "mitigate" and "minimize" and "to the extent practical" in their discussions of how the developer will manage the issue.
While we don't question the engineers' expertise, commitment to following standards, or sincerity of intent, when it comes to controlling water around Hollydale, we know from experience that it doesn't work.
Through the years of development of Schmidt Lake Road and the neighborhoods surrounding the golf course, drainage was an issue for its owners. City documents show exchanges between the City and Hollydale's lawyer regarding efforts to keep impervious surface drainage away from the golf course to prevent flooding. The owner attended Council meetings, testifying that runoff increased with new development. Because of the water, the City required a hold harmless agreement from the developer of Nanterre.
Yet these efforts did not prevent problems at the newly built homes. After 25 years, residents in surrounding areas are still plagued by wet basements, collapsed swimming pools, and sump pump discharge - even in the dead of winter.
The proposed development has more than twice the homes of the adjacent developments to the north and east of the golf course. Failure to control runoff in existing neighborhoods suggests that the denser planned development, with 319 new homes on smaller lots, combined with 40 more across the street at Timbers Edge, will only exacerbate the problems for these homeowners.
Much of the soil in this area is poorly draining clay. Hollydale's elevation drops into the wetland over 50 feet. Some of the wetland was filled in to create the golf course. Water and gravity are powerful things. With 39 acres of new impervious surface, the chances of avoiding damage to existing homes, new homes, and/or the wetland, are slim.
Sump pump drainage at Autumn Hills. December 18, 2019
TRAFFIC & SAFETY
Hollydale has only one access point; Holly Lane on the west, out to Old Rockford Road to the south. Developments of this size are required to have at least two access points, so the plan is to extend a future Comstock Lane out to Schmidt Lake Road to the north.
The Comstock/Schmidt Lake Rd access poses concerns of both size and safety. The entrance was designed to accommodate private road access to fewer than 40 homes. Less than 500 feet east of the bridge over the tracks at Schmidt Lake Road, cars coming fast over the hill from the high school need to slow down quickly so as not to hit those coming from or going into Comstock. For 319 more homes, this will be a safety problem.
The traffic engineer's suggestion is to prohibit cars from turning left from Comstock. This means that the people who live in Courts of Nanterre will go from living in a serene environment on a golf course with zero traffic, to having a new road carrying 1000 cars per day cutting through their neighborhood from which they are no longer able to turn left to get on to Schmidt Lake Road. Even the developer conceded their property values would take a hit for him.
The second access point is two entrances from Holly Lane. Presently, fewer than 100 homes use that neighborhood street. A 40 unit development is under construction.
The traffic study assumes 9.44 trips per day per home. So we can expect some portion of 3,400 more trips per day on a neighborhood street that presently carries fewer than 1000. All these cars will be routed south to Old Rockford Rd - a two lane collector on which there are two elementary schools and an intersection to the primary street to the high school. There's so much traffic already on Old Rockford that the schools won't allow the students to ride their bikes to school. Kids who live in a development across the street take a bus.
So we increase traffic, create an unsafe driving situation, and destroy property values in order to squeeze a huge development that's neither wanted or needed into a space in which it really doesn't fit. Why? This benefits the developer. No one else.
The proposed development would add over 1000 cars per day at this intersection at Comstock and Schmidt Lake Road. Because of the dangers of cars approaching from the west, the traffic study suggests that the residents be prohibited from turning left here. They want to reduce Schmidt Lake Road from 4 lanes to 3, install a median in front of Comstock, and require all the residents in Courts of Nanterre and Hollydale to drive south to Old Rockford Road instead.
This would inconvenience everyone who uses Schmidt Lake Road, make it harder and more dangerous for those who live in Courts of Nanterre to get out of their neighborhood, and adding a median in the middle of the road just after the bridge would make it more dangerous for the young drivers from the high school.