Construction is in full swing for the season but residents may be looking for a break from the clatter and congestion.
The fast-moving development on Wayzata Boulevard and Lake Street have left the Planning Commission with questions about the direction the community is going. The commission met virtually with the Wayzata City Council Monday for a workshop to discuss enacting a moratorium on development until some clarity can be found.
The commission brought forth “observations and questions” which it summarized in three key points, which are:
- The 2040 Comprehensive Plan notes that up 30 units per acre may be considered in the Mixed Use Commercial/Residential and Central Business District parcels, but the corresponding Zoning regulations are not yet updated to reflect when, why, and how this density would be permitted.
- The updates to the Design Standards will be reviewed in public meetings in April, May, and possibly June; however, project proposals may be submitted before the updates are adopted.
- Questions on how the community’s vision for more housing choices at varying levels of affordability can be incorporated into regulations and policies that guide development on Lake Street and Wayzata Boulevard.
“This is in no way a consensus vote nor are we opposed to development,” said Chris Plantan, commission chair. “Rather it’s a time to consider or clarify our current and future development. We’re looking for a balance that satisfies residents and developers while maintaining our proposed values.”
A moratorium would not stop construction that is already underway. They are often used to allow a city to amend current policy or conduct a study which helps plan future actions.
Mayor Johanna Mouton noted a moratorium would be established for a specific amount of time with a planned set of actions to take place during that time. City attorney David Schelzel added while a set time limit would be set when starting the moratorium — six months for example — the council could take action to extend it or end it early if it wanted to.
Councilman Jeff Buchanan questioned whether the observations and questions posed by the commission should be grouped together.
“These three bullet points are quite diverse in scope and the amount of time required,” he said. “The 2040 Comprehensive Plan, amending that would take a considerable amount of time. The design standards updates are imminent probably in the next 60 days. I’m a little confused how a moratorium might affect each of those.”
Commission member Lindsay Bashioum said the commission is simply unclear on if the housing density and the design standards in place for the districts in question align with the city’s vision for the future.
“We were having difficulty as a commission weighing the pros and cons with each project based on the comprehensive plan and the desire for the council to increase density,” she said. “We’re struggling to find a happy medium and still be able to hold true to what our charge is. That’s really what is driving us to thinking a pause in new projects would help us figure out all the details of these two districts in particular.”
Councilwoman Cathy Iverson said she doesn't want to see 30 units per acre in either district. She also wants more clarification on what affordable housing is because the term is broad.
Buchanan and councilman Alex Plechash spoke against a moratorium for anything beyond the design standards issue because of timeliness. They are also skeptical that a moratorium would positively affect the other two issues.
“The 2040 Comprehensive Plan wasn’t done in a smoke-filled room,” Buchanan said. “That was a several year process with an incredible amount of citizen input.”
Plechash added that any pause in development would only lead to an increase in activity once the moratorium is lifted.
“The comprehensive plan is set,” he said. “The density standards, I object to that but they’re there.”
Iverson countered by questioning why the council can’t make changes.
“Density is a concern for residents of Wayzata. When I hear the comprehensive plan is what it is and we can’t go after it, why?” she said. “We should have the ability to control what goes into our city. We have the right to step back and say maybe we need to look back at our 2040 plan. Maybe what we set out isn’t what the city wants. If it’s truly a concern for our city we fight for it.”
The workshop concluded with the council asking for a menu of options to be presented during a regular council meeting. One of the options could be to do nothing and move forward as planned, according to Schelzel. The soonest this would be brought to council would be the April 20 meeting.
Wayzata Design Standards
Following the workshop, the Planning Commission held a regular meeting. Architecture firm Van Meter Williams Pollack presented its first draft of revisions to the Wayzata Design Standards. As part of the development of this first draft, the firm conducted a visual preference survey which 380 people responded to.
VMWP project manager Andrew Faulkner said respondents likely felt more strongly about their opinions than the average Wayzata resident, due to the voluntary nature of the survey.
According to the results, respondents tended to prefer a more charming, quaint, active and relaxing design for the Lake Street and Bluff districts. For the Wayzata Boulevard District they were open to a commercial look, but would like the area to be active, vibrant and walkable.
Faulkner noted “charm” is a broad term that could mean different things to different people.
“We’re pretty confident the perception of charm is tied to building bulk,” he said.
Faulkner added what made Wayzata charming historically smaller-scale buildings. As land values rose the size of buildings also grew, especially horizontally. This has led to some of the concern around development as respondents feared Wayzata could lose some of its charm.
“We’re afraid the existing design standards have only exacerbated these challenges,” Faulkner said.
One of the changes VMWP is proposing is implementing massing breaks which add space between buildings and improve walkability on Wayzata Boulevard. They are also recommending upper floor stepbacks to reduce the perceived height of buildings, and building recesses to open more outdoor dining and seating.
A public hearing was opened during the meeting and will remain open through the April 19 meeting to allow for public comments. After the public hearing closes, staff will be directed to prepare a report and recommendations for the City Council.