Eagles’ Rest crosses hurdle

Published 12:00 am Friday, July 14, 2006

By Kari Lucin, staff writer

Scott LaFavre’s controversial Eagles’ Rest development got a cautious go-ahead from the Albert Lea planning commission Thursday.

The Planning Commission voted 7-1 to recommend approval of the preliminary plat to the Albert Lea City Council, but added a rider that the final plat will be subject to the commission’s review, including ongoing documentation, grading approval, wetland approval, and details of performance bond requirements.

The performance bond requirements would mean that if for some reason the development was not completed, the bank would step in and complete the project. Performance bonds are typical in developments, said John Schulte, president of local engineering firm Jones, Haugh & Smith. Schulte’s firm has created the preliminary plans for Eagles’ Rest.

LaFavre was not dismayed by the riders on the Planning Commission’s approval.

&8220;It’s what we needed,&8221; LaFavre said. &8220;We got the approval to go ahead.&8221;

Twenty people attended the meeting, and many whispered conversations could be heard throughout the time the commission was discussing LaFavre’s development.

LaFavre drew criticism from Paul Overgaard of the Planning Commission, the lone dissenting voter.

&8220;I have concerns about the viability of the project,&8221; Overgaard said. &8220;The developer has no experience in residential development, and to have him take the most pristine piece of property in the city is very worrying to me. He has done very little to instill confidence in his ability to promote growth in Albert Lea.&8221;

LaFavre, who lives in Webster, tried to emphasize his family’s connections with Albert Lea before the discussion about the development began, stating &8220;We truly believe we are not outsiders in this community.&8221;

One of the changes in LaFavre’s plans includes leaving the Country Club Road’s name unchanged, though the road will be shifted 13 feet to the west at LaFavre’s cost.

The Shell Rock River Watershed District Board approved LaFavre’s plans for wetland mitigation and restoration, after the Planning Commission’s initial review. Wetland-related plans for the area include the restoration of a former wetland behind some of the lots in the 120-home area, through scraping out material until the natural seedbed is reached. Then the wetland will be re-seeded with plants, while the scrapings will be used to improve yards in the development. Stormwater ponds behind some lots will treat and filter water before it goes into Goose Lake.

All the wetlands will be developed at the same time, but the possibility of connecting them to the lake will wait until the vegetation is more established. The development’s homeowners’ association will own and manage the wetlands.

Some of the commission’s requests stayed unfulfilled.

&8220;We really can’t do an overall grading plan until we have directions from the Planning Commission and the lot sizes and roads are fixed,&8221; said Schulte.

If residents of Eagles’ Rest want a park playground in the development, they will be responsible for it through their homeowners’ association. The city will not pay for it or maintain it.

Schulte said the development couldn’t go ahead without the commission’s approval.

&8220;Once that’s done, we’re going to spend a lot of time and money preparing these documents for your review, we’ll have the whole package. Then I think we’ll really have something to look at and make sure we held up our end of the bargain,&8221; Schulte said.

LaFavre did not read the countywide housing study published in March before he signed the purchase agreement for the Albert Lea Golf Course in April. On Thursday, he admitted he still hadn’t viewed the housing study.

According to the study, produced by Maxfield Research, Albert Lea will need 270 single-family households total between 2000 and 2010, and 45 to 60 of the buyers will be from first-time buyers who want modestly priced homes on the opposite end of the scale from the high-end lots in Eagles’ Rest. Albert Lea’s median household income in 2005 was estimated at $37,600.

The study also notes that as of March, &8220;Albert Lea seems to have an adequate supply of lots currently available for upper-end homes.&8221;

&8220;I’d like to suggest to Mr. LaFavre that he probably needs to get a new public relations director. His instruction to us &045; &8216;it seems there’s a lot of them that want to keep Albert Lea in the stone age’ &045; is hardly an indication of an individual who wants to be a working member of the community,&8221; Overgaard said.

The preliminary plat goes before the Albert Lea City Council on July 24.