Building Good Neighbors

Lake Cornelia homeowners work on their landscape and good will.
A tiered retaining wall created a landscape that Edina homeowners and their neighbors could love.

When Bruce and Tracy Mooty bought their home on Lake Cornelia, they were perfectly aware that the 1950s rambler needed to be razed. “The house was actually in pretty bad disrepair,” Bruce Mooty says. No one had lived in it for nearly a year, and some woodpeckers had decided to call it home. “So we kept the foundation and we built up,” he says.

The Mootys decided to start from scratch in the backyard as well, partly because of some damage from the construction process. But their property had some challenges to overcome. “There was about an 8-foot grade difference between the back door and the lawn,” says Colleen Moran, landscape designer formerly with Southview Design.

“We love the views we have, we love the lake, so we wanted to have an area where we could be outside and enjoy the lake,” Bruce says. A few people suggested a deck, with stairs leading down to the lawn, but the Mootys weren’t interested, and there were some building restrictions. “We couldn’t go any closer to the lake, and a deck would have counted as an encroachment,” Bruce says. But Moran had another plan. “I’ve been doing this for 27 years and know how to solve problems,” she says. She told the Mootys they could get that outdoor space using a retaining wall and patio.” The patio would be unusual in that the tiers were much larger than normal, due to the steep grade.

With the rebuilding of the house and landscape, and the fact that the Edina lake homes are fairly close together, the Mootys wanted to be good neighbors and inform nearby property owners that they weren’t about to build a mansion in their ’50s rambler neighborhood. They delivered letters to a few neighbors introducing themselves, saying they were coming from another part of Edina and that they hoped everything would go smoothly—and if they had any questions to please call.

As it turned out, the neighbor south of the Mootys’ property knew Tracy from a Bible study class years before. She was also the property owner most likely to be affected by the redesign. So someone from Southview Design went over and walked the neighbor through the Mootys’ plan to see if she had any concerns. She did.

With the tiered retaining wall, the structure that helped the Mootys get down to their yard, “If I brought the whole structure out too far, the neighbor would be looking out on a retaining wall,” Moran says. So Southview explained that the wall would turn, so as not to obstruct the neighbor’s view. Moran also walked through the neighbor’s landscape and drew a small perennial plan for her side garden.

It was part of ensuring the neighbors weren’t being disturbed by the work going on. “I made sure that not only did I meet [the neighbors], but my project manager and foreman” did too, Moran says.

That’s what made working with Southview Design such a pleasure, the Mootys say. They not only made sure the neighbors were OK with the plans going on, but also ended up working with them. “Southview was so great at making sure that as they got around the house they weren’t damaging anybody’s property,” Bruce says. “So they really went the extra mile to make sure that they were good neighbors, too [for us].” The construction team even allowed neighbors to watch the project as it unfolded.

Now, the Mootys have a beautiful backyard patio and yard space for summer grilling, yard games with the grandkids, and night-time campfires. They’ve already created some new memories. Their daughter was proposed to on their dock, her favorite spot, in the middle of a glittering winter, and the view of the 4th of July fireworks from their backyard is perfect, they say. “I’ll tell you,” Tracy says, “when the weather’s nice, we are out there all the time.”