by ADAM GRUENEWALD
Cologne City Council members considered whether or not a decade-long development project is in violation of city resolutions on Monday night.
About 40 Winkler’s Crossing residents and neighbors packed the council chambers to voice opposition to the way the project, involving 250 lots, is being handled by Novak-Fleck Custom Home Builder.
Among their concerns was the lack of variation in homes being built, the lack of a promised park and a lack of erosion control systems.
Rick Novak of Brooklyn Park-based Novak-Fleck, who was not present at the meeting, denied comment on the issue on Tuesday.
In their presentation to council, Julie Cink and Kevin Britz referred to a circulated petition of about 95 names and their covenant agreement with the Winkler’s Crossing development, which they had first brought up on April 15.
“Once the buildings started going up in the neighborhood, we noticed they were all the same exact building and home,” said Cink, adding this was in violation of their covenant agreement. “There are also a couple of homes that don’t abide by the 25 percent rule, which means there is not another type of material on the exterior of the home.”
The extent to the city’s involvement remains in question as they are not bound by the covenant agreements, but are connected to the project. The city’s building official is among the members Architectural Review Committee, which may not have met, and council members had passed several resolutions, as far back as 2002, regarding the development.
The city’s attorney, Larry Harris, was not present at the meeting, but City Planner Dean Johnson of Resource Strategies Corporation said the council would have several options in the event Novak-Fleck is in violation of the city’s resolutions.
“We can enforce that, but we can’t enforce anything else that is in the covenant,” said Johnson. “Whether it is duplicative models or any homes that are built within that 25 percent feature, that’s something the city should be doing.”
Moving forward, Johnson encouraged meetings to take place with the developer and city attorney present to both determine potential violations and consider steps moving forward.
“If there already are problems in homes that are built, it really is up to the city council to determine what the remedy is,” he said. “The council may go back and ask them to put stone and wood in place of vinyl.”
Johnson also encouraged the council to take measures and be proactive with future developments considering their new City Administrator John Hendel and the city’s building official.
Cink said she and her neighbors have contacted outside legal counsel regarding the matter, but their intent isn’t a lawsuit.
“That’s not where we want to go,” she said. “What we want is for this to be enforced and some sort of guarantee that it will… We want to be informed and we want to know that. Honestly, we don’t really trust what is happening in town.”
When asked by council, Britz said the neighborhood group is most concerned with the future homes within the development and also the park that has yet to be built.
“Our primary concern is moving forward, we don’t want to see any additional (same-style homes) built,” said Britz. “We’ve been around talking to our neighbors. It’s all our neighbors who are concerned and are upset with what’s going on.”
Johnson advised there would likely have to be some give-and-take with regards to negotiations and discussions with Novak-Fleck.
It was determined that there would be a private meeting or two prior to the next council meeting involving representatives from Novak-Fleck and the neighborhood group as well as City Attorney Larry Harris, Mayor Matt Lein and Council member Scott Williams to determine future action.
In other council news, members OK’d a $1,500 donation the Cologne Fireman’s Relief Association fifth annual Firehouse Drive-In for fireworks and approved the rescheduling of council meetings for the second and fourth Mondays, beginning in June.
The shift in the schedule accommodates Hendel, the city’s new administrator, who attends firefighter training on the first Monday of every month as a member of the Cologne Fire Department. The change will also likely impact meetings of the Planning and Zoning Commission, which usually meets prior to council at 6:30 p.m.
Council members also discussed both purchase and leasing options for a multi-faceted copier to streamline faxes, emails and scans of various sized documents.
Hendel will look into a variety of pricing options and report back at a future meeting.
The Cologne City Council will next meet May 20 at 7 p.m.
Contact Adam Gruenewald at [email protected]