Answers to Litchfield’s housing shortage are on the way.
Two housing development plans received initial approval from the Litchfield City Council last week that could provide nearly 100 housing units.
The City Council unanimously approved plans for both developments. A preliminary plat for the bigger of the two developments, submitted by Gregg Schilling, calls for a mix of duplexes and apartment buildings and a total of 84 units in the northwest part of the city. The other development is a 12-unit apartment complex on the east side of the city.
“Just with these two things we’ve done tonight, there’s some brightness ahead for us,” Mayor Keith Jonson said.
Rod Lindquist of Quad Hospitality LLC applied for a waiver to allow a lot split, change in zoning and a site plan review for property at 1525 U.S. Highway 12 E., north of AmericInn hotel.
In a letter to Litchfield Planning Commission, Lindquist said that AmericInn ownership had approved sale of the 1-acre site for a multifamily housing development, and that the sale still left adequate room for AmericInn expansion, if it chose to do so.
Approval of the request clears the way for a multifamily townhome-style apartment development on the north side of the lot, which at this point is called Villages East Phase 2.
Currently zoned for general business, Lindquist sought a change to multifamily residential. The proposal includes a 12-unit apartment building with six two-bedroom patio-style attached homes on the ground floor and six one-bedroom apartments on the second floor of the structure. All of the units would be rentals, according to the site plan, similar in character to the Villages East complex located east of the proposed site.
Access to the unit would be from the existing frontage road that runs through the property.
The Planning Commission recommended approval of the zoning change, lot split and site plan review, but with a list of 12 conditions.
Among concerns for Planning Commission members was parking, with plans calling for a total of 25 parking spaces — six attached garage spaces, six detached garage spaces, seven surface parking spaces, and six spaces in front of the attached garages.
While the plan met zoning ordinance requirement of one space per unit, some commissioners wondered about the split of space availability between the two-bedroom units and one-bedroom units.
City Council members discussed the issue but agreed the plan met criteria before offering their unanimous approval.
The second housing development that came before the City Council was a preliminary plat for a Park Village Third Addition, which calls for 16 lots and two outlots. Schilling plans to develop duplexes on the property along Willmar Avenue North and the west side of a newly created Yale Avenue North, according to his plan. On the east side of Yale Avenue, he plans three four-unit apartment buildings. The plan also calls for three 16-unit apartment buildings in the development.
The 16-unit apartments would be the first phase of the plan, and construction of the duplexes and four-unit apartment buildings would follow later.
The Planning Commission recommended approval of the preliminary plat, but it also made suggestions for the development and the new streets or street extensions that will have to be built to serve the development.
The commission suggested a bike lane be part of the newly constructed streets of the development and/or a sidewalk in front of the lots that front Willmar Avenue.
"They feel that pedestrian and bike safety in the area with the increased traffic is very important," city planner Hannah Rybak wrote in a memo to the City Council.
Schilling said he was OK with dedicating land to a bike path and sidewalk, if the city would pay for the necessary improvements. "The Planning Commission recommends that the City Council explore this possibility," Rybak's memo said.
The commission also noted that the preliminary plat did not include dedication of land for public use and that city staff had recommended Schilling pay a fee. However, commission members thought a fee would be unfair and suggested that instead, the dedication of land for a sidewalk and bike path would satisfy the public land requirement.