CLEANUP ISSUE SLOWS PROJECT - TWIN LAKES DEVELOPMENT NEEDED; 'BROWNFIELD' POLLUTION A WORRY
LENORA CHU, Pioneer Press
Date: July 16, 2004

Remi Stone made what she calls the heartbreaking decision recently to move out of Roseville because she couldn't find a condo for herself and her small children.

Development of a 280-acre area known as Twin Lakes would bring her back in a heartbeat, said Stone, who gave up her seat on the Roseville Planning Commission when she moved to a St. Paul condominium.

Much is riding on the city's attempts to redevelop the Twin Lakes industrial area east of Interstate 35W at County Road C. City officials hope to create a community with retail and office space and hundreds of multi-family housing units.

For nearly three decades, officials in Roseville -- replete with single-family ramblers but short on apartments and condominiums -- have harbored high hopes for Twin Lakes. The area, which gets its name because it's anchored by Langton Lake and Oasis Pond, is one of the few places in the city open to housing developments.

But the project faces a number of obstacles, not the least of which is determining who will pay to clean up the roughly 100 acres of brownfields contaminated by industrial use.

Much of the site is being used as a trucking terminal. Solvents, creosote, petroleum products, landfill and other organic materials have seeped into the ground.

"That's the $64,000 question," Roseville Mayor Craig Klausing said of paying for a cleanup. Tax-increment financing -- using increased property tax revenue to pay the costs -- is one option, he said, especially for an area "that's underused and in need of help."

Also uncertain is how much the cleanup effort will cost.

"Doubting Thomases in the community would like to put that figure at 'way too high,' " said Roseville community development director Dennis Welsch. "But it's unclear yet what that is."

City officials are debating what should be built at Twin Lakes, and everyone seems to have an opinion.

A planning consultant and a panel of selected residents and business people began studying the issue earlier this year and presented a report for one part -- a 60-acre parcel at County Road C and Cleveland Avenue -- to the City Council on Monday.

The group recommended a $220 million development of multi-family housing units with retail and office space of more than 600,000 square feet that includes a big-box anchor such as Costco.

"It's an urban-style walkable neighborhood with retail areas at the edge," Welsch said of the proposal.

Yet Council Member Amy Ihlan opposes larger retailers and prefers to see smaller shops as well as corporate offices, which she said would bring in "higher-paying, better-quality jobs."

"I also don't think the neighborhood could support or sustain the level of traffic (a large retailer) would produce," said Ihlan, who lives near the site.

But Todd Stutz, president of Rottlund Homes of Minnesota, the project's master developer, said Twin Lakes would need a retail engine such as Costco to support a successful development.

The city has long recognized the need to provide low-maintenance housing options for single professionals, young families and seniors alike in a city replete with ramblers.

Stone, who moved recently to Crocus Hill, said Roseville provided all the wrong types of housing for a single mother and her young children.

"I didn't want to rent, and I certainly could have chosen to buy a rambler in Roseville, but I already (did that once)," she said. "Plus, Roseville's parks system is incredible so I didn't need to have a large yard to put my kids in."

Roseville's most recent stab at the Twin Lakes issue began four years ago with on-and-off discussion of potential uses. The project finally gained momentum last year with formation of the panel.

Other issues must be resolved, such as whether the power of eminent domain might be needed to address the fragmented ownership of the area.

Although negotiations are under way to acquire the first piece of the land, Twin Lakes is owned in part by more than 20 trucking companies, contractors and other businesses.

"It's a very complicated project without any doubt, but it's worth doing," Stutz said. "It's a piece of property situated well within the metro area."

The City Council plans to discuss financing options for the project on Monday, and Rottlund Homes will present a final concept plan later in the summer. The council is expected to make a final decision by Sep. 30.

Meanwhile, Stone is missing life in Roseville and closely watching the Twin Lakes discussions.

"If I could move back into Roseville and be put back onto the Planning Commission I'd go back in a heartbeat," Stone said.

Lenora Chu can be reached at lchu@pioneerpress.com or 651-228-2109.

2004 St. Paul Pioneer Press and wire service sources. All Rights Reserved.
http://www.twincities.com