Development in northwest a cause for safety and infrastructure concerns
Two development proposals have been approved by Plymouth Planning Commission totaling 177 new single-family homes in northwestern Plymouth. When they came before the Plymouth City Council for final approval, the bigger of the two project drew concern from residents and city staff in nearby Medina.
GWS Land Development, of Plymouth, submitted an application to develop a large parcel of land, including the Elm Creek Golf Course site, north of Highway 55 adjacent to Medina.
The property, Creekside Hills, would contain 156 single-family homes on a 69-acre parcel. A creek divides the plot, and Creekside Hills would be built out north of the creek, while the Wayzata School District has purchased the 38 acres of land on the south side.
The first phase of construction could begin next year, and traffic concerns were the primary topic of discussion when the council reviewed the application at a regular meeting May 28.
William Lough, a resident of the Medina Highlands development directly west of the project, said safety was his main concern with Creekside Hills.
CREEKSIDE HILLS PRELIMINARY PLAT
“The City of Medina asked [Plymouth] to do a traffic study before you approve this plan,” Lough said. “We’re extremely concerned with the safety hazards of small children or elderly folks crossing the road. Take a look at the traffic during the peak times. You’re setting us up too close in our own residency and potentially putting us in danger.”
Medina City Administrator-Clerk Scott Johnson submitted a request to Plymouth to conduct a traffic study of the area, including County Road 101 and Evergreen Road.
Evergreen is proposed to act as the primary construction access route during the first phase of Creekside Hills construction. As part of the application, developers must build a road (54th Avenue) upon final approval of no more than 75 of the single-family homes.
The idea is that 54th Avenue would ultimately provide and east-west connection between County Road 101 and Peony Lane.
While most of the Medina residents who spoke on May 28 said they believed increased use of Evergreen Road was a problem, Johnson said the city of Medina’s main issue was the additional cars traveling on County Road 101.
Hennepin County conducted a traffic study of the area in 2001 when plans for Medina Highlands were discussed, but the study has not been updated and the county will not require Plymouth to conduct an additional study regarding Creekside Hills.
The 2001 study assumed a two-percent growth rate per year over a 20-year period. Johnson speculated that the growth rate could be more substantial when development in Plymouth, Maple Grove and Medina are considered.
“It seems to make a lot of sense to ask the developer to update the 2001 study or conduct an entirely new one,” Johnson said. “It seems beneficial for our residents.”
Councilmembers reiterated that Hennepin County is satisfied without the study. Essentially, neither Plymouth, Medina nor the developer want to pick up the tab for a costly traffic study that isn’t mandated.
Plymouth Director of Public Works Doran Cote weighed in, stating that County Road 101, although configured as a two-lane middle turn lane road, has the ability to handle much more traffic than it does.
“[County Road 101] has a significant capacity compared to other two-way roadways,” Cote said. “It’s also wide enough to function as a four-lane road, should the county decide.”
Medina resident Gerald Leinfelder shared his perspective as a homeowner in the area.
“I haven’t done a study and I’m not a traffic analyst,” Leinfelder said. “But with all the development around, much of it funneling congestion, I think the volume of traffic on 101 has exceeded this, now, 12-year-old report.”
Plymouth Councilmember Tim Bildsoe said he spent time over the weekend parked alongside County Road 101, watching traffic patterns and looking for potential issues. He said, while there may be some sight line issues that could be corrected, his opinion was that County Road 101 could handle more cars.
Plymouth Councilmember Bob Stein also sided with the Plymouth argument.
“I don’t agree with [Medina] that the traffic plan is flawed,” he said. “I think it meets everyone’s needs.”
The Plymouth City Council unanimously approved the preliminary plat of Creekside Hills – without the updated traffic study and with the stipulation that the developer constructs 54th Avenue upon completing no more than 75 homes.
“Building 75 units before an additional access, I think, this is a much better plan given what we’ve seen in the past,” said Plymouth Mayor Kelli Slavik. “If I were a resident in Medina, I suppose I would be raising concerns as well. But Evergreen and County Road 101 were designed to handle this sort of traffic.”