A proposed housing development near one of the southwest metro's most popular springs has people worried about how it could impact the area, and now they're raising money to hire an attorney to fight it.
On any given day — no matter the time of year — there's a line of cars at the Fredrick-Miller Spring in southwestern Eden Prairie. People from around the region go to the continuously running tap, located on the east side of Spring Road and north of Flying Cloud Drive, to fill up jugs of untreated water from the artesian spring.
But now, spring-goers fear a proposal to build 50 single-family homes on nearly 28 acres of land just north of it would have negative environmental impacts on the spring, its water quality, and the surrounding natural area.
Pulte Homes is proposing the development, called Noble Hill, on the Standal property, which has been eyed by developers before, city documents show. Last year, a proposed 59-home development got approval from the Eden Prairie Planning Commission, but it was withdrawn before the City Council reviewed it.
The Noble Hill project also has the Planning Commission's support. After more than two hours of public comment from environmentalists and spring users who oppose rezoning the property to allow for the development, the commission voted 5-3 to recommend its approval to the City Council, the Chanhassen Villager reported.
City staff and Pulte Homes have stressed the development would not impact the Fredrick-Miller Spring, which is a local Heritage Preservation Site and is protected under City Code, city documents show.
While a majority of Planning Commission members agreed with the city's assessment, the three who voted against it cited insufficient environmental analysis and the need for more review on how the development could impact endangered species.
The City Council is set to vote on the project on May 4.
Opposition for the Noble Hill project is growing as community members, called Friends of Fredrick-Miller Spring and Riley Creek, work to raise awareness about the impacts they believe the project could have on the area and the spring's water quality, including the loss of trees.
Justin DeAngelo of Chaska launched a Go Fund Me to raise money to hire an "experienced environmental lawyer" to help them fight the project, hoping it will persuade the City Council to delay or deny the rezoning that's needed to develop the land.
The GoFundMe has raised more than $3,600 in six days, which DeAngelo says is enough to hire legal support, an April 4 update said.
Firends of Fredrick-Miller Spring have also launched a petition that urges the City Council to withhold rezoning the land to allow for the development. The petition notes the development would replace 455 trees and much of the meadows with houses, streets and impervious surfaces, which "could result in a severe decline in the quantity and quality of spring water."
The group also has a dedicated Facebook page where they share updates and information about the effort to stop the development.
In a statement to Bring Me The News, Pulte Homes said:
“While the water source and ground topography make it scientifically impossible for development of the site to impact the Fredrick-Miller Spring, we have taken additional steps to protect the surrounding environment. We have restricted the number of homes in the community, minimized any impact to the local ecosystem, preserved the creek, wetlands, wetland buffers, bluff, and left a significant amount of the southern portion of the land undisturbed. We believe our development will work in harmony with the local environment while providing much-needed housing.”
The Fredrick-Miller Spring, which is along Riley Creek in the Prairie Bluff Conservation Area, has been known to exist since early settlers came to the Minnesota River Valley, and has served as a public water fountain for more than 100 years.
People continue to flock to the spring, some choosing to drink only the untreated water because they feel unsafe drinking municipal water due to additives, while others say they drink the natural spring for health and healing benefits.
Besides some improvements made to the site in 1972 and 2003, "little else disturbs the spring site and today it appears much like it did in the late 1800s," the City of Eden Prairie's website states.
That's when William Fredrick, in 1880, moved access to the spring to its current location at 9995 Spring Road and built a water tank to contain the spring's water flow.
The City of Eden Prairie came to own the spring in 1969, a year after Arthur Miller acquired it and donated it to the city.
A few miles from the Fredrick-Miller Spring is the Richard T. Anderson Conservation Area Spring at 18700 Flying Cloud Drive. The underground spring is piped to the surface to allow people to fill up water jugs.