Balancing a Historic 120-year Community with Evolving Needs

As a 24-year resident, I have served the City of Deephaven for over 16 years; first as a volunteer helping to fund and build improvements at Children’s Park, then for 12 years as a Planning Commissioner and for the past 4 years as a City Councilmember.

I am a Commercial Real Estate Developer with extensive first-hand knowledge of land use issues having successfully developed large mixed-use projects and challenging redevelopment projects. This experience has helped me understand what makes a community healthy for the current residents and future generations. For more information on my background, please visit inlanddp.com, the website for Inland Development Partners, a company I co-founded.

Our quaint community originated 120 years ago with a few mansions, but mostly cottages. Many changes have been made throughout the years, but through it all the focus has been on maintaining the preservation of green areas, historic street layouts, larger setbacks and more natural groundcover. The City of Deephaven has some of the most restrictive ordinances in the area; our building heights have been reduced depending on lot size and are now measured to the peak, not the midpoint. The hardcover in our shoreland area is limited to 25% while surrounding communities allow up to 42%. The setback ordinance from Lake Minnetonka is a minimum of 100’, while other cities are at 50’. These more restrictive codes drive additional variance requests in the building process.

The city approves approximately 100 building permits per year. The majority of building permits do not require variances. Projects that do require variances are for replacement of existing homes or for remodels or expansions of kitchens or bedrooms in existing homes built before the current ordinances were adopted, many of which were built within the 100’ lake setback. Other times we consider hardcover variances which provide a means to help mitigate stormwater which is especially important because the city does not have a traditional regional stormwater system.

A variance request is typically accompanied by engineering and/or architectural drawings that are first reviewed by our city staff and engineers. Next, they go to the Planning Commission for a Public Hearing which provides the community the opportunity to share their concerns and/or support for the request. The Planning Commission volunteers visit the site and consider all the comments from staff, our engineers and the community before making a recommendation to the City Council. The City Council takes final action on the request after considering comments made at the Public Hearing, in letters, via email, staff input, our engineers’ report and, most importantly, the meetings that take place onsite with residents who have interest in the decision.

Our planning commission plays a very important role in our city’s governmental decision making. The large majority of approved variances are passed in accordance with the planning commission’s recommendations; one or two times per year the City Council may make a differing conclusion based on additional information or their experience within the community.

The process is taken seriously and everyone’s input is considered.

Given the recent active discussions during this election cycle, at our last council meeting I offered information I thought you might find helpful on the balance and complexity of variances. (BTW, you can see the city council comments, here

The long- term health of a mature residential community like Deephaven is dependent on our ability to allow for the replacement and upgrading of existing outdated housing. This City Council is committed to making the city a great place to live and play for this and future generations.