City planning board OKs 252-unit apartment complex on east side

The city planning board voted unanimously during their Jan. 24 meeting to recommend approval, zoning and the preliminary plat for a 252-unit apartment complex planned for the east side.

The developer, Discovery Meadows Inc., is requesting to annex and zone 6.63 acres at 5123 7th St. N., at the northwest corner of 7th Avenue North and 52nd Street North.

The developer is planning to build six 42-unit buildings for a total of 252 units.

The project next goes to City Commission for consideration with another public hearing.

The project is likely to be built in phases beginning in the southeast corner of the subject property, according to the staff report. The development will also include the leftover lot from the amended plat of Cottage Grove Phase 3 Addition.

The apartments will be market rate, according to Spencer Woith, the developer.

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Woith said the site would be configured so that no through traffic from the apartments will route through the adjacent single-family neighborhood in the Cottage Grove area.

The site includes a fenced dog park area and a clubhouse for residents, Woith told the board.

City Commissioners approved the third phase of the Cottage Grove Addition in March 2008. So far, only eight of the 27 lots have been developed.

cottage meadow vicinity mapThe owner of the lots is proposing to rezone and aggregate the vacant lots in the subdivision about 2.2 acres, with the annexed property, in order to allow the property to be used as part of a 252-unit apartment complex.

The total land area to be considered is about 8.88 acres but because a portion will be dedicated to the public right-of-way, the total acreage to be developed will be about 8.32 acres, according to staff.

Woith said they’re proposing one unit per 1,440 square feet, a lower density than allowed under the R-6 multi-family high density zoning they’re requesting.

He said the landscaping required under the city code is about 54,000 square feet and they’re proposing about 108,000 square feet for the site.

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Brett Doney of the Great Falls Development Authority spoke in favor of the project that is “very much needed.”

Doney said there’s an “extremely low vacancy rate” for rentals and older rental stock.

He said that one way to stop the rapid increase in housing prices over the last year or two is to add more housing stock.

discovery apartments rendering

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The applicant is requesting a right-of-way vacation for 50th Street North. If approved, the lots that abut the vacated right-of-way will be aggregated with the former 50th Street North to form one lot, according to staff.

The applicant will be required to provide an amended plat for those portions of Cottage Grove Phase 3 Addition.

That request won’t go before the planning board, but said it’s important for the board to understand as part of the larger proposed project.

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The City Commission will consider the right-of-way vacation and amended plat requests.

The property is bordered by the city on three sides, with only the north side bordered by property outside the city limits. Single-family homes in Cottage Grove border on the west, single-family homes in Portage Meadows to the south, Siebel soccer fields to the east and to the north is Heritage Baptist Church.

City staff supports the annexation and assigning R-6 multi-family high density zoning.

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The zoning request “meets specific goals and objectives within the City of Great Falls growth policy, including encouraging a diverse, safe, and affordable supply of housing in the city. This project will substantially expand the supply of apartment residential opportunities and encourages a variety of housing types and densities so that residents can choose by price or rent, location and place of work,” according to the staff report.

If approved, the applicant will be required to extend a looped 8-inch main through the development and connect to the existing water mains. The developer will also be required to construct new sanitary sewer and any portion of the main outside the public right-of-way will include a 20-foot wide public utility easement.

The developer will also have to construct curbing sidewalk and boulevard landscaping along the west side of 52nd Street North and curbing along the east side of 52nd Street North. The applicant will provide a geotechnical report to support the design of the 52nd Street North roadway pavement section, and agrees to convert the existing gravel road to a paved facility meeting city standards, according to staff.

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The developer will also construct and/or reconstruct curbing, sidewalk and boulevard landscaping along the north side of 7th Avenue North as well as a crosswalk on the north end of the intersection of 52nd Street North and 7th Avenue North to create a pedestrian connection to the city’s soccer park.

Neighborhood Council 4 reviewed the proposal on Dec. 15 and voted 3-0 in favor of the project.

Since the city owns the property east of 52nd Street North, the city will pay half of the roadway improvements on the street.

Costs for improvements to the west portion of 52nd Street North, the subbase course of the north 8-12 feet of 7th Avenue North, the crosswalk across the intersection of 7th Avenue North and 52nd Street North to the soccer fields, and the improvements to the water and sanitary sewer mains will be incurred by the developer.