More than two years after Forward Development Group initially proposed an unconventional neighborhood on the city’s next big frontier, the north side, it got a key approval Monday night.
The Common Council had little to say about Whispering Coves, which features 209 single-family homes, plus areas for condominium-style housing units, apartments, commercial space and a school on 200 acres west of County Hwy. M and south of County Hwy. PD.
Its final plat and general development plan approval are essentially the final stop for most of the development, which has gone through at least seven versions and drawn both praise and scorn for various parts of its plan.
Ald. Evan Touchett (Dist. 4) was the lone vote against several items related to the subdivision, including acquisition of city property leading into the development. He did not explain his vote, but the Public Works committee chair has frequently criticized the engineering challenges of the subdivision, which features winding roads and a series of trails connecting to a park in the middle. One prior version of the plan included nearly a mile’s worth of retaining walls.
The council added a condition requiring a stormwater plan to be approved at District 4 Ald. Heather Reekie’s request, though city staff assured her it was almost done.
“Better safe than sorry,” Mayor Luke Diaz said.
In July, Plan Commission members raised complaints that several changes they had specifically asked for months earlier were not included in the updated plan. FDG introduced the updates with a 3D flyover video, and developer representative Ron Henshue explained why the company felt some of the changes, such as a larger central park, weren’t necessary.
When the commission voted not to recommend the plan to the Common Council, FDG withdrew it and resubmitted it in October with the changes made.
The plan also addresses the annexation of additional acres for an entry to the site on land not owned or controlled by FDG.
City leaders at various levels have questioned some high-value items, such as the use of “pocket parks” inside cul-de-sacs and a stormwater area in its parkland dedication requirement, as well as terraces that had been thinner than city requirements for winter snow storage.
The school district’s request to leave space for a potential school also complicated approval of the plan. That was resolved earlier this year with the inclusion of a 12 acre area rezoned Monday as public institutional.