Guest Editorial: IOCP Grand Avenue PUD Project goes against City policy; additional rentals unnecessary

A special guest editorial from Dr. David McGill, who serves on the Housing and Redevelopment Authority and the Charter Commission for the City of Wayzata. 

There has been a flurry of questions from Wayzata residents following the live airing of our Wayzata City Council meeting of August 16th. As a participant of the meeting I will try to field some of these questions.

What is the IOCP and what are they trying to do?OK, I cheated; everyone knows Interfaith Outreach and Community Partners. Their website proclaims “A nonprofit begun in 1979, IOCP brings the 8 west suburban communities of Hamel, Long Lake, Medicine Lake, Medina, Minnetonka Beach, Orono, Plymouth, and Wayzata together to create opportunities for all to thrive.”  Their newest venture is to build a six unit affordable rental housing building on their former headquarters parcel at 110 Grand Avenue in Wayzata.

When does the mission of an eight community service organization take precedence over our local cities needs?This one is difficult. Yes, several studies have indicated that Wayzata has a major overabundance of rental housing, principally in multiple unit buildings. (57% of all Wayzata Housing Units are multifamily). IOCP is aware of this as is the Wayzata City Council. IOCP is only considering rentals because “the rental model” is what they do. By the way, 80% of our present rental units qualify as “affordable”.  It even appears that current Wayzata rental rates may average less than the IOCP projected rental rates for this project. Wayzata also has a constant vacancy rate of rental housing units. In contrast, presently only 15% of our owner occupied housing units are considered affordable.

The need for more rental units is IOCP’s need in their eight community service area, not Wayzata’s need in a 3.2 square mile city. The Council is split but still considering more rentals.

Why did the council narrowly elect to proceed?
Several council members’ comments follow: “Because they own the land” – but doesn’t any developer first secure ownership interest before proposing a project?  Another commented “We seem to have a shortage of three bedroom rentals” – but isn’t this a market issue and not a local government issue? And lastly: “It is generally a good thing to ‘down zone’ when developing land.  Why? If commercial zoning is not desired or valid, why do we have it zoned this way in the first place? Doesn’t “down zoning” also “down tax base”?  I do not understand this one either.

IOCP has regularly stated that this project is “for the benefit of Wayzata” and that “there is no plan B”.  The first part of this is decidedly debatable and the second raises the question.  Is it a council responsibility to act as a planner for developers/landowners?  Why does the absence of a preplanned option B insure acceptance of plan A? Three council members have voted to proceed with the project and two have voted denial.

Why does the council appear to be moving in the direction opposite of its advisory groups?It is true that the council’s own Affordable Housing Policy, passed unchanged by a unanimous vote of 5/0 in February, does not advise additional rental housing.  It does advise “compliance with the city’s Zoning Ordinance and the guidance of the Comprehensive Plan, especially as it relates to mixed use commercial sites”. This IOCP plan does not conform to either of these documents. This site is presently a Mixed Use Commercial zoned site. Moving forward requires:
Requirements for approval: IOCP GRAND AVENUE PUD PROJECT *

  • Disagree with recommendations of:
  • City of Wayzata Affordable Housing Task Force III
  • City of Wayzata Planning Commission
  • Establishment of a Planned Unit Development
  • Rezone from Mixed Use Commercial to Medium Density Multiple Family Residential
  • Rewrite the City of Wayzata Comprehensive Plan
  • Grant Variance to the Shoreland Ordinance (Conditional Use Permit for the % hardcover)

*The Council must reverse all of this existing policy in order to ADD these six rental units to the quantity of rental housing units already in Wayzata.

The Planning Commission denied this IOCP request after getting all of the facts together, even after granting preliminary approval earlier based on only the actual site plan. This resulted in the Planning Commission being accused of opposing affordable housing and other accusations in the process.  At the council meeting Wayzata was accused of “wanting to keep renters out”.  Is this emotional enough for you?

Your Council studied the recommendations and the minutes of The Wayzata Affordable Housing Task Force III and the City of Wayzata Planning Commission before proceeding in the opposite direction. They also seem to be disregarding their own Affordable Housing Policy.

So, to answer the above question – please call your favorite councilpersons for an answer.

What is the IOCP track record regarding their rental facilities being “good neighbors” in Wayzata?There have been numerous police nuisance calls, at The Village Homes and at The Boulevard Apartments. These are the last two IOCP Wayzata projects. This is a new problem for Wayzata. It is probably not a coincidence that the city Police Department is now exploring the addition of “Crime Free Multi Housing” resources for our community of 3.2 square miles.  IOCP finally recognizes this predicament and has promised to “improve” their management in this area. Would promises for the future from any other developer (with this track record) be accepted in order to approve the building of yet another rental housing situation in the same area?

Is there any credence to the alleged misrepresentations, conflicting statements and questionable application certifications involving the city as a partner in the project?In the application for your public funding the developer must certify that there is a need for affordable rental housing in Wayzata and that the project will help meet Wayzata’s goals. We now know that this is certainly not the case in Wayzata.  How do we evaluate these additional allegations?

Additionally, in the applications, IOCP failed to refer to pertinent Wayzata housing studies.

  1. The City Of Wayzata Joint Workshop Housing Affordability Study of July 2009 and
  2. The Wayzata Affordable Housing Task Force III of February 2010 and
  3. the correction of the Metropolitan Council Affordable Housing Goals for Wayzata.

And yet IOCP continues to claim Wayzata’s need for more affordable rental housing.

Can your City Council join as a partner in this and similar certifications without a considerable “bending of the truth”? For that matter should OUR TAX MONEYS continue to be used to build equity positions for our service groups during this economic downturn?

Is it already too late to enjoy Wayzata’s often referred to “small town character”?

Will any continued increase in the number of rental housing units provide a fundamental change in this perceived “small town character”? 

What is the optimal balance of owner occupied versus rental housing units in our city of such small size?

For your answers to these and other questions a concerned voter might wish to attend the next Wayzata Council meeting on September 6th which will again deal with this issue. This meeting will also be streamed live on the Wayzata Community TV channel 8.

You may also review the August 16th Council meeting on video. Just go to Under “News and Events” select WCTV and select Wayzata City Council Meeting: 08/16/2011 (View).

J. David McGill

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