Neighbors aim to stop Newburry

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 7, 1999

Neighbors of a planned low- to middle-income housing development in Albert Lea plan to pack City Hall Monday night.

Wednesday, April 07, 1999

Neighbors of a planned low- to middle-income housing development in Albert Lea plan to pack City Hall Monday night.

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By bringing their cousins, friends and anyone with a sympathetic ear to the City Council meeting, they say the council might listen to their pleas and not approve a conditional use permit for the construction of four six-unit townhomes at West Ninth Street and Highway 69. The plans were discussed as Albert Lea resident Mal Prinzing urged them to rally their forces; Prinzing does not live near the proposed development.

If that doesn’t work, the neighbors will attempt to block funding for the Newburry Development Corporation project at its source, the Legislature, even if that means hiring an attorney.

If completed, the development – Pickerel Park Townhomes – will offer two and three bedroom apartments to two- to five-member families. While requirements can change slightly, working families must meet yearly income requirements of $16,200 to $25,000, depending on family size. Rents start at about $350.

But neighbors object to the development because they say it will attract problems – crime, noise and traffic congestion – and decrease surrounding property values.

The Pickerel Lake area is the wrong location for the development, say the neighbors, who believe that after four or five years, the development will become &uot;rundown&uot; and negatively impact its neighbors.

All of the neighbors signed a petition against the development’s location.

Contacted Tuesday evening, Albert Lea Mayor Marv Wangen said the neighbors’ concerns are unwarranted. If the development would attract problems, Wangen said he wouldn’t favor it.

Wangen doesn’t plan to attend Monday’s meeting, but said he expects the council to approve the permit.

As for a legal challenge, he said the neighbors can’t stop the development.

&uot;They have no legal basis that I can see,&uot; Wangen said. &uot;The property is within the city. It’s in Albert Lea. What has it to do with the township people? Anytime something new comes around, they (people in general) don’t want it in their backyard. I don’t think it’s undesirable to the community, so it’s got to go somewhere.&uot;

Not satisfied with the city’s response to their pleas, about 25 people attended the Albert Lea Township meeting Tuesday to talk about their frustrations with the city and possible plans to stop the Newburry development. No city, or council representative attended the township meeting.

&uot;I’m here because I don’t want you to get railroaded,&uot; said Albert Lea resident Mal Prinzing.

Prinzing doesn’t live near the planned development, but said he is irritated with the city because officials aren’t listening to the neighborhood.

Prinzing said he learned of the neighborhood opposition when he attended a recent planning commission meeting. At that meeting, the commissioners recommended that the City Council approve the conditional use permit, even after many spoke against it.

&uot;Three people were for it. Twenty-five were against it,&uot; Prinzing said. &uot;They (the planning commission) didn’t say anything. Is this a democracy, or a dictatorship?

&uot;This thing is simple,&uot; he added. &uot;You guys don’t want it. They should forget it.&uot;

Prinzing said the City Council will only listen to a large group of people. He asked the neighbors to convince everyone they know to attend Monday’s meeting.

Township member Larry Lestrude said many people misunderstand why there’s opposition to the development. He said the area residents understand that there is a need for the development, but the location defies common sense.

Newburry should construct the development in a more income depressed area of Albert Lea, not next to a lake where property values are high, Prinzing said.

A better location is behind the Golden Corral restaurant, he said, adding the development would increase property values in that neighborhood.

&uot;We presented a petition to the City Council,&uot; Lestrude said. &uot;They didn’t even look at it. We should try to get up there (to Monday’s meeting.) At least they will know why we are there.&uot;

But Lestrude said the township has fought the city during the entire process. The city annexed the property, and the only remaining barrier is state funding.

He asked the neighbors to call Rep. Dan Dorman, R-Albert Lea, and ask if he can stop, or delay the funding. If the funding is delayed long enough, the state might send the money to other projects.

Lestrude also asked the neighbors to call Ron Kraus, a former state representative, for possible assistance.

Township officials did contact a Minnesota Township Association attorney, who gave them the name of an Austin attorney who might represent the neighbors.

While Albert Lea Township won’t hire the attorney, Lestrude said the neighbors can hire him. If the city won’t stop the development, the neighbors did discuss a possible legal challenge.