Mayor votes to break tie as controversial housing development gets green light from council

DLPF web graphic Detroit Lakes city welcome 2020
(Robert Williams / Tribune)

A controversial plan to build a 22-unit housing development on Village Lane sparked more than an hour of lively debate at Tuesday night's meeting of the Detroit Lakes City Council, which ended with Mayor Matt Brenk voting to break a 4-4 tie and green-light the project.

The fact that the council was once again meeting remotely May 12 due to the coronavirus pandemic didn't prevent roughly a dozen residents of the Village Lane neighborhood from speaking out against the project, which was actually an expansion of an earlier plan to build eight twin homes on the 3.8-acre site in the Long Pine Estates development.

Developer Raymond Reading had originally applied for, and received, a conditional use permit to build the 16-unit project at the site last summer. Most of the neighborhood residents who spoke at Tuesday's meeting noted that they had not objected to the original plan — it was the expansion to add three twin homes to the planned unit development that caused the dispute.

"I think everyone was pretty OK with the 16 units that were originally planned," said neighborhood resident Leigh Nelson — but putting 22 units on a site that was just under 4 acres was simply too much.

"The addition of six units just seems unnecessary," she added, noting that "over 30 residents" had voiced their opposition to the expansion.


"To me that speaks volumes," Nelson added "One of the things we’re trying to do is maintain our community, and the feeling of it — you won’t do that by allowing high density housing in here."

"The fabric of this community is not high density housing," added another neighborhood resident, Brian Jordan. "There isn’t any high density housing here. It doesn’t fit with character of neighborhood."

"I would ask that the city council represent us," he continued. "Just because the developer may have done what was required and ticked all the boxes … doesn’t mean it should be automatically passed. It is just not what this area needs, and is not consistent with what this area is."

In the end, however, the motion to approve the conditional use permit for the new development did pass — albeit just barely. With Alderman Jay Schurman having resigned his position on the council last month, the eight remaining council members were split down the middle.

Aldermen Bruce Imholte, Madalyn Sukke, Ron Zeman and Jamie Marks-Erickson voted against the project, while Aldermen Dan Josephson, Matt Boeke, Natalie Bly and Dan Wenner voted in favor — leaving Mayor Brenk to cast the deciding vote.

"I do feel that the developer has met all the conditions (of the permit), and I’m going to vote yes so the motion passes," Brenk said, though he also acknowledged that "these are tough decisions for all of us."

In other business, the council:

  • Approved two cooperative agreements with Becker County, for street and multi-use trail improvements on the West Lake Drive corridor between Legion Road and County Road 6; and street and utility improvements on South Washington Avenue between Willow Street and West Lake Drive. The South Washington project is scheduled for completion this summer, while the West Lake Drive project has been pushed back to 2021. In addition, they passed a resolution approving a county project within the municipal corporate limits, which was also related to the South Washington project.
  • Approved a contract with Confluence, a landscape architecture, planning and urban design firm with offices all around the Midwest, to provide a schematic design and renderings for the Washington Avenue-North Shore Drive intersection, which is set to be reconfigured as a mini-roundabout this summer as part of the aforementioned South Washington project.
  • Though the reconstruction of West Lake Drive won't begin until next spring, the council did approve advertising for bids on a project to relocate electric mainlines and related infrastructure along the corridor, to be completed this year.
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