Arden Hills pushes back at Ramsey County over TCAAP


Matt Hudson A major road is planned to cut through the former Twin Cities Army Ammunition site near this southern entrance to the land. Just how development around the road will play out is unclear, as Ramsey County and Arden Hills, partners for the time being in the development, are at loggerheads.

Arden Hills and Ramsey County continue to exchange broadsides over the management of the Twin Cities Army Ammunition Plant development, known as Rice Creek Commons.

The two entities have gone back and forth through letters and media stories but have met face-to-face just once since November.

The latest move came on March 20, when an attorney for Arden Hills released a letter pushing back against Ramsey County’s request to terminate the joint-powers agreement between them.

“In response to the Ramsey County’s communication, the City of Arden Hills urges Ramsey County to stop trying to bully the taxpayers of Arden Hills and Ramsey County and come to the table in the spirit of the agreement that all parties agreed in 2016,” said Arden Hills Mayor David Grant in a written statement.

Discussions between Ramsey County and Arden Hills broke down last fall, and joint development authority board meetings were put on hold. At a renewed meeting on Feb. 4, Ramsey County requested that the city agree to mediation sessions. The city refused, saying the county hadn’t communicated its goals for housing density, cost sharing and other terms.

Ramsey County countered in early March by calling for the end of the joint development relationship, which would remove Arden Hills from the process of a major development within its borders.

 

Expected costs, density

In his statement, Grant criticized the county’s handling of its projected investment in the 427-acre plot.

“The county has skipped public meetings, ignored the City’s attempts to compromise and put at risk $90 million in taxpayer dollars and asked the city to risk its own financial stability, without ever listening to the citizens of our city,” he said.

The county owns the land and has paid to clean up pollution from the old ammunition plant. It could potentially finish the job without Arden Hill, though the city was on the hook for at least $8.2 million.

Arden Hills officials have worried about the future costs of a neighborhood and commercial center that could add as much as 50 percent to the city’s population. City council members brought up utilities, public safety and road work costs as concerns.

In another written statement, Ramsey County Director of Community and Economic Development Kari Collins said that the joint development authority was created to expedite the overall process, but it’s no longer serving that function.

“By first rejecting professional mediation and now effectively refusing to terminate a failed joint powers agreement voluntarily, Arden Hills is unnecessarily stalling this transformative development,” Collins said. “The county is disappointed in the unwillingness of the Arden Hills City Council to find a positive resolution to areas of conflict, including increased density, financial contributions and a functional path forward for affordable housing despite the stated goals and objectives in the Arden Hills draft comprehensive plan.”

Grant and his Arden Hills colleagues contend that the city has terms on the table, including a density of 1,460 residential units and an $8.2 million contribution. They say the county hasn’t come back with its preferred terms.

In its letter, Arden Hills suggests moving forward with more development board meetings to hash out development terms. 

Collins, in her statement, said that the county took the letter as a refusal to dissolve the joint powers agreement, and that the county is exploring its legal options.

“The county has a responsibility to taxpayers and the region to bring this project to life and is disappointed in the lengths that it has to pursue to see it through,” she said.

 

–Matt Hudson can be reached at mhudson@lillienews.com or 651-748-7825.

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