Correction: This story originally indicated a wrong vote total. Monday's vote was actually 3-3. The story has been changed to reflect this correction.
It could be back to the drawing board for a proposal to turn the vacant Eliot School building into a 144-unit apartment complex in St. Louis Park.
City Council on Monday rejected a change to the city's comprehensive plan, which is needed for the project to go forward because the area is currently zoned for civic—not residential—use.
The council ended up splitting 3-3 on the issue—changes to the comprehensive plan require five "yes" votes. Jake Spano, Sue Sanger and Steve Hallfin voted "no." Anne Mavity was absent.
“I would suggest this go back to the drawing board," Sanger said.
Sanger said her concern is that the apartment proposal calls for some high-density residential zoning, which she said doesn't fit the quiet, largely single-family neighborhood.
A number of area residents have voiced similar concerns. A petition opposing the project was signed by 65 people and delivered to the city a few months ago.
At Monday's meeting, several residents told council why they don't like the idea of a new apartment going up in their neighborhood.
“I’m really concerned," said Elaine Mense, who lives on Cedar Lake Road. “People don’t take care of property if they don’t own it."
Mense added that she's worried about noise from younger, more boisterous renters who might move in.
“What is this going to do to our neighborhood?”
Wade Hammer, who lives on Jersey Avenue, said an apartment simply doesn't fit in the neighborhood.
“It’s not that I think this plan is wrong," he said. "I’m here to advocate for single-family, owner-occupied developed.”
The development would actually include three single-family lots to the north side of the property. The proposed apartment would sit next to these lots, and would be a maximum of three stories tall.
A small green area and playground is also proposed for the southwest corner, near the intersection of Cedar Lake Road and Idaho Avenue.
With council rejecting the plan change, the ball goes back into the court of developer Dan Hunt, who could make some tweaks to his proposal and bring it back to a council study session.
When asked after Monday's meeting about what he would do next, Hunt said he didn't know. During the meeting, Hunt told council that he thought the development would be "a great attribute to the neighborhood and the city.”
Hunt agreed to buy the property from the school board in May for $2 million. The roughly 100-year-old building has been vacant since February 2010, and it has become an asbestos-ridden eyesore over the past two years. It has also been the site of occasional vandalism.
Hunt's plan calls for the demolition of the building.