Hamilton Council rejects proposed senior housing development

Mayor Pat Moeller on $54M, 244-unit plan: ‘The density concerns me.’

Credit: Nick Graham

Credit: Nick Graham

Hamilton City Council has rejected a $54 million, 244-unit senior housing development.

Dominium, a Minnesota-headquartered multifamily developer and management company, proposed the senior housing development on Gateway Avenue adjacent to the Woods of Sycamore Creek. It was seeking a rezoning of one of two parcels it planned to purchase and a preliminary planned development.

The unanimous vote on Wednesday evening was due to five variances being requested and a high density. The variances included building the facility at 7551 Gateway Ave. one story higher than permitted, having nearly 100 more dwelling units than permitted and having fewer parking spaces than required.

“I’m really uncomfortable with all the variances,” said council member Michael Ryan. “I’m really uncomfortable with the density situation. I believe it’s a public safety hazard written all over it. I really don’t like any of this, it just really makes me uncomfortable.”

That was the sentiment of council member Tim Naab and Mayor Pat Moeller, the other council members who spoke as the board deliberated the request prior to the 6-0 vote (council member Carla Fiehrer was absent from the meeting).

Naab said he spoke with a neighbor in the Woods of Sycamore Creek and compared it to trying to put 10 pounds in a 7-pound bag.

“That’s what I believe the developer is trying to do,” he said. “We would certainly welcome the development if it fit onto the footprint of the property.”

Preliminary plans for the now-rejected 68,000-square-foot building showed three types of apartments (one-, two-, and three-bedroom units) limited to senior tenants earning 60% or less of the area median income as defined by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Also, there was a minimum age of 55 for the primary resident and 40 for any secondary resident within a unit.

The density of the development would have been 18 units per acre, but code would only allow for 11. Woods of Sycamore Creek has a density of 3.5 units per acre, and surrounding multifamily units range in density from nine to 12 units per acre.

Naab acknowledged the effort by Dominum in trying to work with the HOA, having meetings and community discussions with the HOA board and neighbors in the subdivision. The project would have taken the subdivision’s private park, and Dominum would have built a new one on a separate property the HOA intended to purchase if the project was approved.

“If there just one or two (variances) and there was an opportunity to lower the ratio per unit, I’d say good for us, but like Councilman Ryan said, I’m really, really troubled with this.”

Moeller said it was a tough decision because “I personally think there’s a need of this type of housing, I really do, and the affordability of this type of housing. But even since (the presentation at Hamilton) Planning Commission, the density concerns me.”

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