Housing projects closer to ground-break in North Branch

The Sept. 25 North Branch city council meeting featured updates on a pair of housing developments, which are in various stages of being built.

The first item was for Meadows North, a development proposed for the southwest corner of 400th Street and Flink Avenue. The development involves an anticipated 591 housing units of various types, a municipal park and a convenience store on a 76-acre plot of land and is in the concept/sketch stage. As part of the initial stages of a project of this size, an EAW (Environmental Assessment Worksheet) must be performed. 

 Based on the EAW, an EIS (Environmental Impact Study) may be required to do further research into the environmental impact of the project. However, an EIS may not be required if the EAW finds minimal impact.

According to Shawn Williams, of consulting firm WSB, who performed the EAW, this project does not have the potential for significant environmental effects.

According to Williams, there are minimal wetlands in the area, so no wetland impact was determined. However, the Minnesota DNR did state there might be Blandings turtles in the area, so the developer must make every effort to not disturb the endangered species.

At the same time, a “permanent pool” (drainage pond) must be constructed to hold excess rainwater runoff.

“Well, that pond will make the Blandings turtles happy,” said council member Jim Swenson.

The potential traffic increase from such a large development was a primary concern of the council. According to city engineer Lee Gustafson, should the traffic flow become too congested, a pair of roundabouts may be constructed in the area, along with traffic control improvements at the intersection of Highway 95 and Flink Ave.

In the end, the council approved the motion proclaiming that no EIS was necessary for the project.

The other development brought before the council was a proposal for a final plat for plat 11 of the Wildridge Development, located to the south of Highway 95 and just west of County Road 68/Falcon Avenue.

“This has been a development that has been going on for 18 to 20 years now,” said City Administrator Renae Fry. “As with most developers, you are seeing this incremental development in 20 to 30 lots at a time.”

Since this is simply a continuation of a larger, pre-approved plan, without having any major changes from the original plan, Fry said it didn’t need to go before the planning commission before being heard by the council. The one exception was that the council was asked to also approve an easement for the placement of a turnaround at the end of the new road being built within plat 11.

“This development (the street) dead-ends,” said Fry. “So we are asking our developers to construct a temporary turnaround for emergency vehicles, snowplows and buses to be able to use.” Fry noted that once the next phase of the development begins and the road is extended, that easement will be vacated.

Fry said the developer hoped to finish construction of this phase in about a year.

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