TWIN LAKES ADVANCES - TALKS WITH DEVELOPER TEAM CONTINUE ON 3-2 COUNCIL VOTE
Author: STEVE SCOTT, Pioneer Press
Date: September 29, 2004

Roseville is moving ahead in negotiations to convert 280 acres on the city's northwest side into a retail, office and housing development.

Proponents said a split City Council vote on Monday was a small step forward, allowing exclusive negotiations to continue with a team of developers who have proposed a $220 million project in Twin Lakes -- the focal point of city deliberations for at least 16 years.

Opponents, including two council members and a disenchanted group of Twin Lakes neighbors, fear the city already has made up its mind to commit public money to a private project.

"This doesn't commit the council by any stretch," developer J. Michael Noonan said after the 3-2 council vote, which allowed talks to continue with his firm, Rottlund Co., as well as Dan Commers of Roseville Properties, John Johannson of Welsh Cos. and Ryan Cos.

"This establishes the preliminary basis by which we can move forward."

He said a possible development contract was months away. Public hearings have been set with the city's Planning Commission on Oct. 6 and 14.

The council and developers had set a Thursday deadline by which either party could withdraw from exclusive negotiations. The next such deadline is late December.

The flash point of opposition is proposed tax increment financing, in which anticipated higher tax revenues from the redeveloped property would be used to pay for site improvements -- for a period of up to 25 years.

"Without that public subsidy, this project will not go forward," Noonan said. "This land will cost more to develop than what the market value is."

Developers attribute that to the required cleanup of contaminated brownfields and acquisition of old truck terminals and other businesses scattered about Twin Lakes.

Opponents say Roseville already is saturated with retail development, and they are loath to invite a "big-box" retailer such as Costco into the Twin Lakes site, as developers deem necessary to make the project viable.

Foes also say potential cleanup costs of contaminated soil and groundwater are too great for the city to bear, and that the proposal wouldn't be consistent with Roseville's comprehensive plan for the area.

"It's incredibly risky for the city to go forward with this, especially to agree to commit public money to this development," said Council Member Amy Ihlan, who was joined by Council Member Tom Kough in voting to opt out of the current negotiations.

Ihlan urged the council to explore other development options and bear in mind increased traffic in the existing neighborhood around Langton Lake and Oasis Pond -- from which "Twin Lakes" is named.

"I have heard my neighbors say, 'I will have to move.' Do we want to support that with public money?"

Mayor Craig Klausing said concerns about the project were valid.

"I don't think they're sufficient to cause us to not go forward at this time," he said. "The project at least deserves further study."

Steve Scott covers first-ring suburbs in Ramsey County. He can be reached at sscott@pioneerpress.com.

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