On Feb. 15, the Cottage Grove City Council heard a proposal for a new childcare facility to be built in the city, which was ultimately approved. The daycare, called 02B Kids!, will be located at 7781 Hardwood Ave. S., south of the new Cottage Grove Apartments (currently under construction) and west of The Shoppes at Gateway North.
O2B Kids! is planned for use by children ages 0-4 and will employ an education-based approach within the daycare programs. Its location and size aim to offset future daycare needs in an area of the city expecting hundreds of new residents due to the higher-density housing developments currently being built nearby.
Cottage Grove’s Senior Planner Emily Schmitz introduced the proposal, pointing out that the O2B Kids! project has been long anticipated and discussed.
“We’re proposing to construct a brand-new building, as indicated, on Hardwood Avenue South, and I think I can say confidently that this is one of our last vacant parcels in that Hardwood corridor,” said Schmitz.
The proposed site, currently vacant, has recently been used as a temporary staging area for the construction of the new Cottage Grove Apartments complex being built to the north under an interim use permit. It is not being utilized for that anymore, so the new project shouldn’t affect the progress of the apartment construction. The property is zoned as mixed-use, allowing for the new development to proceed under a conditional-use permit.
The childcare facility will include a new 11,464 square foot building, fencing, retaining walls, 36 parking stalls, lighting, a trash enclosure, trees/landscaping, and connecting access to existing sidewalks.
Due to the site’s location on the large curve at the south end of the Hardwood corridor, the current access point to the property from the road will need to be relocated 115 feet north to address potential traffic safety concerns. At the current access point, the angle of sight for vehicles entering and exiting the parking lot would require drivers to look back over their shoulder around the curve to look for oncoming traffic. Moving the entrance north is intended to make the viewpoint straighter and safer.
“Looking at shifting that access just a little bit further north, those sight lines drastically improve,” said Schmitz. “They aren’t perfect, I want to be clear, but they drastically improve as you look out your passenger window, because you’re not looking so much on a curve.”
Councilmember Dave Thiede raised a question about the proposed retaining walls. His concern was whether they would be flush with the existing walls of the surrounding developments or if there would be space between them, citing responsibility for maintenance and upkeep between the walls if they were separated. He also asked who would own the land up to the existing adjacent retaining walls.
Schmitz answered, “This applicant will own that land and be responsible for the maintenance.”
Referencing upkeep and aesthetics, Mayor Myron Bailey asked if there will be irrigation built into the facility, noting the dozens of trees and significant proposed landscaping.
Dan Harris, of the developer EIG14T said, “From an engineering perspective, I don’t know if we will have irrigation up there, because watering on top of a retaining wall can cause an issue of stability there. It will be very well drained, though.” Harris added, “I believe that the city does have a landscape warranty that we’ll need to fulfill.”
Bailey said, “I’m assuming you’ll be working on maybe drought-tolerant landscaping and flowers that are up there, so that they’ll look nice even though they’re not going to have constant irrigation.” Harris assured that would be the case.
Councilmember Justin Olsen brought up the issue of increased traffic in the area with all the new development taking place in the Hardwood corridor.
“We all know that Hardwood has really seen a dramatic increase in traffic counts that will only be added to by the apartment complexes that are going to come online, and now we’ve got the new business,” said Olsen.
He asked what the planned capacity for the daycare facility would be, in regard to increased road traffic. Harris stated that at peak capacity the building is expected to accommodate 222 people total; 195 children and 27 staff members.
“How many cars are we talking about day in and day out, moving into the building and out of the building, what does that do to our traffic count on Hardwood Avenue?” asked Olsen.
Public Works Director Ryan Burfeind offered some statistics to clarify the expected impact. He noted that current car counts in the area are between 5,000-12,000 cars per day depending on location, and Hardwood can likely handle closer to 15,000. He said the daycare facility would be expected to bring 273 cars per day to the daycare.
“The roadway capacity is very sufficient,” said Burfeind. “We are in the process of doing a warrant analysis for the intersection of Hardwood Court.” He added, “There is actually more traffic on Hardwood and coming out of Kohl’s. Hardwood is the main road, so the more traffic you add to Hardwood, yes, it’s harder to get out, but you don’t want to make all those folks wait at a red light. You need that additional development and traffic on the side streets and that’s what’s going to trip that signal, not so much adding traffic to Hardwood itself. It’s something we’re watching very closely.”
A vote to approve the proposal was called, passing unanimously.