Court orders Arden Hills and Ramsey County into mediation on Rice Creek Commons

Ramsey County and the City of Arden Hills were ordered Aug. 22 into mediation over the Rice Creek Commons development.

The county sued the city in May, saying Arden Hills had violated the terms of a joint development agreement by not making a good faith effort to resolve longstanding differences between the two parties over the fate of the 427-acre site. 

The differences include disputes over proposed density, the amount of affordable housing and the city’s financial contributions to the development. Although the city and county agreed to a master plan back in 2016, last fall the county renewed its push for greater density and affordability at the site, which was formerly the Twin Cities Army Ammunition Plant.

Since then, the two parties have been in somewhat of a stalemate, with the county absent from the majority of joint development authority meetings and the city refusing a previous request for mediation. 

Although the county owns the land, both Ramsey County and the City of Arden Hills have been working together to plan the mixed-use development. Should the county win its suit, the city would become a reviewing authority, without its current active role in the planning process.

In July, the Alliance for Metropolitan Stability, an affordable housing advocacy group, petitioned to join the suit, claiming Arden Hills had violated the Fair Housing Act in not including a broader range of affordable housing options at the site.

The 2016 master plan calls for 1,460 units with 10% affordable to people making 80% of the area median income. An initial study showed the site could support up to 2,500 residential units.

A joint hearing was scheduled for Aug. 7 to address both the county’s suit and the Alliance’s petition to join litigation. Margaret Kaplan, president of the Housing Justice Center — a legal organization that is partnering with the Alliance on its suit — said the hearing was cancelled in late July. 

Now, according to Kaplan, a Ramsey County District Court judge has ordered the city and county to enter mediation with no future hearings scheduled at this time.

According to Kaplan, the Alliance is not aware of any set timeline for the talks and does not know when the next steps might be taken. Arden Hills city staff declined to comment on the issue; at an Aug. 26 city council meeting, City Administrator Dave Perrault said litigation was still pending. 

Representatives from the county did not respond to a request for comment. 

 

–Bridget Kranz can be reached at bkranz@lillienews.com or 651-748-7825.

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