Northwest Quadrant Study and Zoning Ordinance

Inver Grove Heights, MN

American Council of Engineering Companies of Minnesota

When HKGi completed an update to the Inver Grove Heights Comprehensive Plan in 1999, the largely undeveloped 2,200-acre Northwest Area faced development pressures typical of those experienced in metropolitan suburbs. The landscape in the Northwest Area, however, presented atypical development challenges. Residents, developers, and City leaders were concerned that the area’s varied topography, extensive tree cover, and numerous wetlands would result in high development costs, particularly for storm sewer infrastructure, and that development would lead to degradation of important natural resources and landscape features.

The City enlisted HKGi to conduct a follow-up Northwest Area Quadrant Study to determine whether or not the area could be developed in a manner that would preserve sensitive natural resources and preclude expensive infrastructure improvements. The study, completed in 2001 and supported by a 2004 Hydrologic and Hydraulic Analysis prepared by Emmons & Olivier Resources (EOR), determined that it would be possible for development to proceed by applying appropriate land use patterns and employing low impact storm water management techniques to minimize storm water runoff and landscape degradation.

Next, the City commissioned the environmental impact, infrastructure feasibility, and planning studies necessary for development to proceed. EOR produced a stormwater manual to illustrate preferred storm water management procedures, and HKGi integrated the Northwest Study’s findings into the City’s comprehensive plan and zoning ordinance.

Translating desired land use patterns and storm water management techniques into a zoning language that provides developers with the design and market flexibility they need to build successful neighborhoods and commercial centers has been key to this multi-year effort's success. HKGi’s planners worked with the City and EOR to create the Northwestern Area Overlay District, which establishes standards related to storm water management design, open space requirements, land use mixture, surface area coverage, bulk and density standards, and street design.

The planning framework built by the City, HKGi, and EOR has allowed several development projects to proceed in the Northwest Area and was recognized in 2015 by the American Council of Engineering Companies of Minnesota for its innovative approach and practice to improve water quality.