UPDATE: The Shakopee Planning Commission voted Thursday evening to postpone the proposed rezoning of Prairie Pointe, which will most likely be revisited at the next Planning Commission meeting on July 6, 2023.
The Shakopee Planning Commission is hosting a public hearing Thursday evening to consider a rezoning change that could jeopardize a housing project that would add several dozen new affordable apartment units.
The proposed rezoning comes three years after the Shakopee City Council voted in 2020 to allow Beacon Interfaith Housing Collaborative to develop a 42-unit apartment complex in the south metro suburb. City staff claim that Beacon failed to follow appropriate steps, and some residents have expressed concerns about the development’s impact on their quality of life and property values.
The project, Prairie Pointe, is aimed at families who make less than 50 percent of the area median income. Beacon said the proposed rezoning will prevent them from developing the project as planned. The best-case scenario is that the size of the project would be significantly downsized, according to Beacon. However, the group doubts that downsizing would be viable, and believes the entire project would likely be threatened by the rezoning.
“This kind of challenge in a property that we thought was on track is just completely distracting to us getting more people housed, and we desperately need more affordable housing in Minnesota,” said Heidi Mastrud, Beacon’s vice president of advancement and communications.
In 2020, the city council approved Beacon’s request to rezone the area at 4th Avenue East and Sarazin Street for the project to allow greater flexibility and space. However, city staff have long claimed that Beacon did not hold a neighborhood meeting about the project, which is required by city code. Beacon said they engaged with the neighborhood and provided those results to the city’s planning staff.
The agenda for Thursday’s planning commission meeting said that since the neighborhood meeting “has never been held, staff believes the original rezoning was in error.”
The city released a statement about the issue Thursday afternoon, saying that under the proposed rezoning, “the project can move forward, with the most significant change being that the building would need to be constructed 75 feet from adjacent residential properties instead of 20 feet from those properties.
“The City of Shakopee looks forward to seeing this project move forward after significant delays.”
The project has most of its funding secured and plans finalized, and is set to begin construction next year. In a recent letter sent to city staff, Beacon stated they have a vested interest of nearly a million dollars in the project, which is estimated to cost more than $16 million.
Beacon is a nonprofit composed of congregations that work to provide equitable housing in Minnesota.
Beacon addressed the first rezoning proposal at a June 2, 2020, City Council meeting. According to Beacon, City Council members received a report compiling public comments gathered from residents living near the development who had received information about the project. Beacon said the report fulfilled the requirement to have a neighborhood meeting.
“The city has already considered this question. There has been a sound process. Beacon has followed all of the rules,” Mastrud said. “To revisit it because there’s ongoing community sentiment that might be against Prairie Pointe doesn’t seem like it’s in good faith to me.”
Shakopee Mayor Matt Lehman said nearby residents have expressed concerns about the project since 2020, which have been magnified because of recent news coverage. In April, FOX9 reported that residents at Lonoke Apartments in Minneapolis, which is partly owned by Beacon, reported experiencing “violent squatters and unresponsive management.”
“There’s been a consistent, large outpouring of concern by residential neighborhoods around the project area of decreased valuation of their properties because of the use and a quality of life impact,” Lehman said.
In response to Lehman’s comments, Mastrud said Prairie Pointe is focused on housing families with children.
“Obviously, we wish that nothing bad ever happened at any Beacon property, but when things happen, we solve for those challenges. That’s who we are,” Mastrud said. “I just want to be really clear: We have no expectations that anything similar would happen at Prairie Pointe in Shakopee.”
Mastrud said Beacon is considering taking legal action in response to the proposed rezoning.
Three percent of the Shakopee’s current housing stock consists of units affordable to households that make 30 percent of the area median income or below, according to a city report.
However, Lehman said that compared to other cities in Scott County, where Shakopee is located, the city is “ahead of the ball game” on affordable housing. He added that other factors contribute to the city’s lack of affordable housing, such as higher interest rates and state and federal building regulations.
Beacon maintains that it wants to work with the city.
“We have met all of the requirements, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t want to show up as good neighbors. It’s clear that some don’t think that we have done a sufficient job,” Mastrud said. “And we want to have strong partnerships and working relationships with the city, with neighbors, with the community, because eventually that’s the community that will welcome these families home.”