Once-denied Mendota Heights development gets the green light

A year and a lawsuit after the process started, Marilyn and David Olin, along with Royal Oaks Reality, are able to move forward with transforming a 13.5-acre former orchard into 18 single-family home lots at 1136 and 1140 Orchard Place in Mendota Heights. (file graphic)

The Mendota Heights City Council unanimously granted approval Sept. 4 for the final plat of “The Orchard” development, and also approved a developer agreement with Orchard Heights, LLC. 

The approvals came almost a year after the council initially denied the development. The land owners, Marilyn and David Olin, and developer sued the city over the denial, and a recent judge’s decision said the city was wrong in its decision to deny. 

Now, redevelopment of 1136 and 1140 Orchard Place — the 13.5-acre site of a former orchard — into a neighborhood of 18 single-family homes, is moving forward


Approval granted

Back in April of this year, the city gave preliminary approval to the development after it lost the lawsuit. 

According to court documents, Judge Karen Asphaug said in her ruling that the city’s denial of the preliminary plat was “arbitrary and capricious.” 

The judgment stated that the preliminary plat application submitted in August 2017 complied with the subdivision ordinance set forth by the city in all respects.

“The fact that the city council may desire that the property be developed differently, apart from the requirements of the ordinance, is not basis for denial,” Asphaug said in her ruling.

In its denial, the council raised concerns about the length of a proposed cul-de-sac and how the number of proposed homes might change the character of the area. These concerns led the council to denying variances and putting a hold on the development plans. 

Though chastened by the ruling, council members still raised concerns about emergency access to the development during construction, as well as issues brought up by neighbors of the former orchard.

Council member Liz Petschel said a work session was held on the developer agreement, which was attended by many area neighbors. 

She said that, while not in the developers agreement, she hoped the city could find a way to work with the developer to create a buffer in neighboring front yards. 

“The headlights coming down that street are going right into their huge front picture window and that is a real source of sadness and aggravation for them,” Petschel said of neighbors.

Work on the development, which will include road closures in the area, begins Sept. 10.


– Hannah Burlingame can be reached at 651-784-7824 or hburlingame@lillienews.com

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