Isanti to add performance center to Bluebird Park

Residents along Wendover Street NE voiced their objections to the Isanti City Council about a housing development that is slated to go in to the east/northeast of their homes. The development would extend Wendover Street NE roughly parallel with County Road 5/Heritage Boulevard and wouldn’t intersect with it, resulting in only one inlet/outlet to Wendover at the intersection with Eighth Avenue NE (at the far left of this map).

Uses for Bluebird Park in the City of Isanti will be expanding with the addition of a performance center, which was approved by Isanti City Council in a split vote at its June 1 meeting. Council members Jimmy Gordon and Paul Bergley opposed the project; Mayor Jeff Johnson and council members Steve Lundeen and Dan Collison voted in favor of the project. 

Introducing the topic, Parks, Recreation, and Events Coordinator Alyssa Olson broke down the costs, which were higher than the original estimated $248,230 due to increased labor and material costs. The new costs are estimated to be $298,884, and that is with lighting and sidewalk installation. 

“I don’t think that its going to get used the way that you guys do, that’s not a problem we disagree,” Gordon said. He stated that he thought the city should have a subcommittee of residents planning and raising funds for these types of projects, with the subcommittee raising half the money in order to make sure it is something that the residents of the city really want. He also said he thought the money for this project could be better spent towards the new liquor store or other needed infrastructure projects. 

Another thought was that city street dances could be moved to the park with the new performance center. Gordon noted that the point of street dances was to have them on the street downtown to showcase businesses downtown. 

“You can have concerts in the park and you have a better public safety standpoint on it,” Johnson said. “I mean, I think both police and fire would both say it would be easier, I hate to say corral our residents, but that’s what it would be essentially, is we are corralling them in the park and easier to maintain the public safety in that, and that was the original intent of a whole performance center.” 

Collison pointed out the numerous events that can take place at a performance center, such as open mic night, kids dances, and plays.  

Olson noted that she will be working with a number of organizations to fill the scheduling for the space.

Bergley said that, although in favor of the project, he thought it should not be done this year due to people still struggling after the pandemic. Collison and Johnson pointed out this wasn’t an issue when the project was planned and budgeted for construction this year.

Isanti residents try to shut down development 

Voicing their concerns over safety, a group of Isanti residents nearly derailed plans for Fairway Greens South, a development of 45 single-family plots on the northeast side of Isanti.

Residents’ concerns over the development were entertained for nearly two hours at the council meeting. The residents live on Wendover Street Northeast, which will be extended to accommodate access to the development, but there will not be another access to the street.

Introducing the topic, Community Development Director Sheila Sellman stated a public hearing took place at the May 18 Isanti Planning Commission meeting regarding the preliminary and final plat for Fairway Greens South. A preliminary plat with the same plat configuration was approved in 2014 (preliminary plat Fairway Greens Phase Seven), according to Sellman. 

However, the final plat of Fairway Greens Phase Nine in 2017 platted the site into Outlot A. The developer is now asking the city to approve the 2014 preliminary and final plat, which is allowed since there are no changes to that plan, Sellman explained.

“This development is governed under our planning and development, and you have 15 years to execute this plan,” Sellman said regarding the development agreement. “So, that’s why staff is recommended approval. It also meets our zoning code. We did reach out to the county engineer and he said that this plat has restricted access along County Road 5, so we will not be able to get a second access along that road.”

She acknowledged the city received a petition of signatures from people that would like a second access. There were 54 people who expressed their opinion via an online poll, but 26 that signed it were not in Isanti, and five that signed did not provide an address. 

“The development was already approved years ago and unfortunately everybody in the city knows that the city is going to grow,” Johnson said, noting the city had exhausted its options in getting a second outlet to satisfy the residents. “If they wanted to put in houses on my street, I’d unfortunately have to live with that, because I know the city is going to grow. I knew it before I bought my home. Not what I would probably want to hear as a homeowner, but it is what it is.” 

The main concern for the current residents of Wendover Street is not having another outlet for the development. All residents of the current homes (24 lots) and the residents of the potential 45 additional homes will only have one inlet/outlet to Wendover Street Northeast via Eighth Avenue Northeast. 

Residents argued that this would not only increase traffic on the street, which already is a problem, but other concerns included fire safety and bus stops. They cited Isanti Fire District Chief Al Jankovich’s concern over not providing two separate and approved fire apparatus roads for developments with more than 30 homes. 

At one point, Johnson offered delaying approval of the final plat to the July 6 meeting of city council, but the developer, Anthony Hanson, noted that would drastically affect his plans for starting the development of the area and potentially cost him a lot of money – a gamble he was not willing to take.

Residents were encouraged to go to the county board meeting to ask the county to re-examine whether a second access could be obtained off of County State Aid Highway (CSAH) 5. Isanti County Commissioner Mike Warring was in attendance at the meeting and also encouraged them to come to the county board meeting, but cautioned this would not be a quick or easy solution. The road would have to be widened and turn lanes installed, which potentially would mean the acquisition of additional land, all of which was not in the budget this year.

Sellman and city engineer Jason Cook of Bolton and Menk also cautioned the council that even if the county would allow for a second access, the estimated $350,000 cost to build the city street to the access would fall on the city or the developer and may not be feasible. 

The plat was finally approved by the council, with the City of Isanti entering into an agreement with the developer for the city to have first right of refusal for lots 10, 11, and 12 for a potential city street to exit the development to CSAH 5. 

Odds and ends

In other business, the council:

•Approved special event permits for Jubilee Days and the Isanti Firefighters PRCA Rodeo.

•Approved a special even permit for Cambridge-Isanti Soccer Club recreational tournament.

•Approved a development agreement for Fairway Greens North.

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