startribune.com
Close window
Last update:  October 26, 2004 at 4:16 PM
Environmental concerns hold up Twin Lakes plan
Sarah Mc Cann
Star Tribune
Published  October 27, 2004

A citizen petition on environmental concerns related to the Twin Lakes redevelopment delayed Roseville's City Council from voting Monday night on whether the plan will move forward.

The petition filed Friday with Minnesota's Environmental Quality Board means by law the city cannot immediately consider the redevelopment plan.

At least twenty-five residents, the required number, signed the petition filed Friday. The request asks the city to perform an Environmental Assessment Worksheet (EAW) or Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). The purpose of the review and study is to determine whether there are significant environmental effects that would result from the proposed project.

The city did complete an Alternative Urban Areawide Review, or AUAR, in 2001 for the Twin Lakes area. Projects that have completed an AUAR can use that in place of the EAW or the EIS if the AUAR is still valid, city attorney Scott Anderson said.

The question now is whether the city's AUAR continues to be acceptable. If it is, the council could continue moving forward.

If it is not valid for any reason, including the possibility that the redevelopment plan for Twin Lakes has changed enough since 2001 to warrant a new study, the council will determine what happens next. But until council members have decided and then completed any required process, decisions on redevelopment are stalled.

In light of the petition and the delay it has caused, the council and Rottlund Homes agreed to extend the deadlines for decisions on the redevelopment.

That might move out the Dec. 31 deadline, the time by which the council and the developer had planned on a final approval or termination of the project.

The city's planning commission recommended the plan for approval in a 5-0 vote Oct. 14.

The redevelopment involves 80 acres in the northwestern part of Roseville that is bordered by County Rd. C to the south, C2 to the north, Cleveland Av. to the west and Fairview Av. to the east.

It's a project that has sparked enough interest in residents that they have packed recent planning commission and council meetings.

During public comment, some residents said they were troubled by the potential effect on traffic, retail, finance and the environment. One resident said she and her husband "are seriously considering getting out now while we can still sell our home for market value."

The planning commission grappled with many possible results of the concept plan, chairman Jim Mulder said. "You have to try to find a way to balance all those pieces," he said. "There are some positives brought forward from this plan, but we also have to recognize there are some negatives and mitigate those."

To help with those issues the commission added three conditions to its recommendation to the city.

The city staff should work with the master developer on traffic reduction and redistribution plans.

The city should make sure the plan complies with shoreline ordinances.

The project should be constructed in a way that is consistent with the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design standard, or LEED, which is a national group of voluntary standards for developing sustainable buildings.

But some people said they still feel residents didn't have enough opportunity to weigh in or that their points were not taken seriously.

"There were a lot of compelling arguments made about why this will not benefit the community and will harm the quality of life and surrounding areas," Council Member Amy Ihlan said of the residents' comments. "But those significant concerns did not appear to make a difference in the commission's decision."

The city has gone to many lengths to hear citizens' concerns, said planning commission member Mary Bakeman. "Roseville tries very, very hard to be open throughout the process, and the city certainly was [open] throughout the stakeholders process that went on for months and has been hearing testimony at meetings," she said.

Another topic that has brought countering opinions is whether the proposal fits into the city's comprehensive plan. The comprehensive plan, updated in 1998, is a document that the council adopted on policies and land designations. A Twin Lakes study from 2001 is a supplement to the comprehensive plan. That study recommends against a big-box retail store. A big box is part of the developer's concept plan. However, the study's recommendation against a big box was made in light of old plans that included a hospital in the area.

The current plan calls for rezoning to a business park designation as the 1998 plan also recommends. Rottlund's proposal is in line with business park zoning criteria, which include office, residential and retail use, said Dennis Welsch, Roseville's community development director. Critics say the concept plan is too heavy on retail while lacking in office space, so it doesn't fit the intentions of the comprehensive plan.

Sarah McCann is at smccann@startribune.com.

Copyright 2004 Star Tribune. All rights reserved.