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Residents oppose development planning on low-density area in Cottage Grove

The city voted to rezone the area half high-density residential and half medium-density residential. No development will be done unless the current homeowners sell. Courtesy of the city of Cottage Grove

The city council passed a controversial zoning amendment for the area around Harkness and Hardwood avenues.

Based on a Stantec Consulting Services study on the 55-acre area for the upcoming 2040 comprehensive plan, the land south of 70th Street has been rezoned high density on the west side of Harkness Avenue and medium density to the east. It was zoned for low density residential before the Oct. 18 council meeting. It also included a small area zoned urban reserve, that allowed only one dwelling per 20 acres.

The city council approved the Custom One homes development Villas of Hidden Valley on the north end of that property in March, the same meeting the council ordered the area study to be incorporated into the 2040 comprehensive plan currently underway.

Based on planning projections, the study found that the area could support that level of residential housing and increased traffic.

There are 14 properties in that area, with nine residential homes.

Staff also noted that greater population in that area would mean greater access to the Red Rock Corridor bus rapid transit, which is planning another stop on 80th Street near that area.

The other alternatives zoning options included doing nothing; adding high density on west side of harkness, low density on east side, and medium where the Villas of Hidden Valley are; and split west side high and medium density, east split low and medium.

Preliminary concept plans for development included a mixture of townhomes, apartments and villa homes.

If the homeowners decide not to sell, the higher density development will not take place.

"It will not happen, or will be delayed, if homeowners don't sell," Planner John Burbank.

Several residents opposed the rezoning, saying that they may be pressured to sell, or that their property values will be impacted.

Josh Betts, who lives in the area, worries that the natural area will be destroyed.

"We love our neighborhood, and we love our city," he said. "With that said, tonight it appears that you're voting on rezoning a beloved area of Cottage Grove. The residents of Cottage Grove are pleading with you, please do not rezone this area. This is a beautiful nature area."

Matthew Hislop also has concerns with the future concepts. "My wife and I firmly disagree with the concepts that were introduced ... to reguide, rezone and redevelop our home, our neighbors' homes and the surrounding land," he said. "I strongly sense the city of Cottage Grove is embarking on a scenario that would take away from the current and existing residents of Harkness Avenue and the greater area."

The city council passed the rezoning 4-1, with council member Wayne Johnson opposing.

"I don't see this as ever an area for high density ... I don't see this as a good direction," Johnson said.

The other council members said it was necessary to have future planning for areas such as this. "Some things that have happened in this community, where maybe if planning had gone ahead of schedule, things would might have been laid out a little bit better," council member La Rae Mills said.

Council member Steve Dennis said the city needs more diversity in housing, especially for younger generations.

"We have ... a lot of young folks who graduate high school or college, that would like to stay here, who don't have a place," Dennis said. "What ends up happening is people are moving out of our community, and to lose our young people is to lose our future."