TWIN LAKES DEAL FACES INITIAL COUNCIL TEST - MANY SEE THE NEED TO REDEVELOP THE AREA BUT QUESTION THE FINANCIAL STRATEGY.
STEVE SCOTT Pioneer Press
Date: September 25, 2004

A team of developers and the city of Roseville have courted one another for months, with their eyes mutually gazing on the future of the city's long-deliberated Twin Lakes area.

According to a self-imposed deadline, the City Council must decide next week whether to keep going steady -- or break off an exclusive negotiating agreement -- with a group that would bring a $220 million retail, office and housing redevelopment to northwest Roseville.

Few residents seem wedded to the current Twin Lakes, where semi-trailers are strewn about old truck terminals surrounding Langton Lake like rusty station wagons on a neglected used-car lot.

Furthermore, pollutants are believed to have contaminated soil and groundwater at the site.

But opponents are skittish about the proposed financial plan, and others resist bringing in a major retailer such as Costco to anchor a possible redevelopment.

"It's clearly an area in need of some work," Mayor Craig Klausing said of the site north and east of County Road C and Cleveland Avenue, near an interchange with Interstate 35W.

"The part up by Langton Lake is beautiful. But as you move south and west -- abandoned truck terminals, large parking lots, some abandoned businesses -- it's in need of serious help."

The current proposal was brought forward by a team that includes Roseville Properties, Welsh Properties and Rottlund Homes. Developers already own some of the land in Twin Lakes; the city does not.

No specific plan is in place, although the proposal suggests 730 housing units, 221,000 square feet of office development and 331,000 square feet of commercial and retail.

"I'm not at all opposed to redevelopment in the area," Council Member Amy Ihlan said. "What's troubling to me is that the city has not opened up a process for competitive bidding. We've been dealing exclusively with this development team."

Council Member Greg Schroeder said the city didn't have much choice.

"We don't own the land, so we're kind of reacting to what a developer has in mind," he said. "I say let's look at it and see if it works."

The proposal hinges on tax increment financing, in which the anticipated higher tax revenues from the redeveloped property would be used to pay for the improvements -- for a period up to 25 years. Cities often use TIF districts to spur new development.

City estimates show it would take $65 million to retool the land, resulting in $26 million in resale value.

Proponents say TIF is a way to make up that difference and clean up the environment at the same time.

"From my perspective, that's $39 million that would be used to eliminate a parasite and put Roseville on par with other suburbs," Klausing said.

For those who bristle at more shopping in retail-rich Roseville, TIF is a lightning rod.

They call it a subsidy for private development. Some say the companies that polluted the land should be responsible for cleaning it up.

"I'm very skeptical of government subsidizing private businesses," said Sen. John Marty, DFL-Roseville. "And it's a phenomenal amount of money here. As one who frequently speaks out against public subsidies, I don't want to have to use my city as one of the worst examples."

Monday's City Council vote will determine whether to continue negotiating on the current plan, only the latest in a redevelopment process that began 16 years ago.

It appears a 3-2 majority of the council supports moving forward. If that happens, a land-use plan would come before Roseville's Planning Commission next month.

Steve Scott covers first-ring suburbs in Ramsey County. He may be reached at 651-228-5526 or sscott@pioneerpress.com.

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