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City approves 30 new home sites in South Oaks subdivision

Thirty new single family homes are proposed for the site outlined here. (Images courtesy of the City of Hastings)1 / 2
The new development would include two new streets. A ponding basin is slated to be installed in the northeast corner of the site.2 / 2

Hastings is slated to get 30 new single-family homes just north of South Oaks Drive. On Feb. 6, the Hastings City Council unanimously approved the preliminary and final plat for the roughly six-acre subdivision, clearing the way for the site to be split into individual properties where homes can be built. Construction of public improvements is expected to begin this spring.

The site's development is being handled by Greg Jablonske's construction company, Greg J Homes of Hastings. Progress on housing construction in the area has been ongoing since 2001, when Greg J Homes proposed 34 single-family homes and 163 townhomes for the entire South Oaks area, according to a city memo. This specific part of the subdivision was projected to be filled with primarily townhomes.

However, the economic recession in 2008 caused the market to change, Community Development Director John Hinzman explained to the council Feb. 6. The shifting market led the developer to modify his original plans and create smaller single family homes on the site instead of townhomes.

The change in housing type has led to a bit of a squeeze in the subdivision. The smallest lots, while still meeting city standards, approach the minimum 5,000 square feet required for the district, and the two proposed street rights-of-way are narrow. The city generally requires street rights-of-way to be 60 to 66 feet wide; these, however, will be just 50 feet wide. The result of that will be a road that's slightly narrower than usual, with less space for public utilities outside the roadway. There will also be no sidewalks along the streets.

"It'll be a tighter scenario," Hastings Public Works Director Nick Egger told the council.

But Egger assured them that Public Works has worked with the developer and is comfortable with the dimensions.

The road width was a concern for councilmember Tina Folch, who said she was concerned that there might not be enough space for emergency vehicles or for children walking or biking through the neighborhood.

"Whenever I get into (similar) neighborhoods I cringe," she said.

Mayor Paul Hicks suggested that narrower streets may work for the benefit of residents.

"When you're in an area like this, you do slow down," he said.

A concern raised by residents late last year, earlier in the process, was one of drainage. At a public hearing Nov. 14, two homeowners neighboring the development site noted that drainage on their properties was already a problem. To mitigate that, Greg J Homes added a stormwater ponding basin. Hastings Public Works has reviewed the pond plans and has determined it will meet the area's on-site drainage needs. Some existing trees will also be relocated onto neighboring property.

Councilmember Mark Vaughan's primary concern regarding the subdivision had nothing to do with the actual plans. Rather, he took issue with a lengthy delay between the November public hearing and the council's review this month. Greg J Homes earned unanimous recommendation for approval (4-0, three commissioners absent) from the Hastings Planning Commission Nov. 14.

Normally, the matter would advance to council review at the next available council meeting, which would have been Nov. 21. However, Jablonske requested that the issue not be brought forward to council at that time, saying he preferred to wait until 2017 before going for final approval. No explanation for the delay was offered at the Feb. 6 meeting.

"I think there's too big of a gap," Vaughan said of the delay.

Hicks and councilmember Joe Balsanek both praised the project. Hicks said that Hastings doesn't have much construction happening currently, and this project brings more family friendly housing to the city. Balsanek agreed, saying that this sort of housing will help bring families with children who would in turn help support the school district and local business.

"We need this kind of housing in Hastings," Balsanek said. "... This is, I think, going to be a nice development."

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