|Published December 22, 2004|
I do not agree with Roseville Council Member Amy Ihlan's conclusion in her Dec. 8 commentary that "if the [Twin Lakes] developers' plans become reality, Langton Lake Park will never be the same again."
The developers' plans do not, in fact, make any change to the park boundaries or the park's contents, the habitat for the wildlife that Ihlan refers to. The park property is owned and controlled by the city of Roseville, not the developers. The developers are only proposing plans for land that is outside the park.
Ihlan is correct that the park has a narrow wooded buffer at its south end. That remains the case under the developers' scenario. What changes is that the land on the other side of the buffer that is now a parking lot full of empty truck trailers will become a two-lane parkway and green space surrounding new, high-end residential buildings.
I, too, have walked through Langton Lake Park, and I would much prefer to have views of maintained green space and buildings -- even three- or four-story ones -- than a view of dilapidated truck trailers.
The parkway will allow for control of the runoff into the lake that is not currently available. The parkway will be curbed and guttered per city standards, and runoff will have to be treated with ponding and other means before entering the lake.
Further, while having traffic on the parkway adjacent to the park is a change from the current state, what threats to the park wildlife would such traffic bring? We have numerous park lands in the Twin Cities that are adjacent to roadways, including roadways with much higher traffic levels than are anticipated for Twin Lakes Parkway. An example is the Reservoir Woods Park in Roseville, along a busy stretch of Dale Street. Wildlife has been thriving and increasing in metro park lands despite the proximity of human development.
Certainly, pollutants associated with vehicular traffic can harm wildlife (and humans, for that matter), but whether a road is 95 feet from a lake or 300 feet from a lake (as some have urged) seems to be of minimal significance in terms of pollutant effects. Additionally, the overall traffic volumes generated by the developers' proposal as a whole are less than those anticipated in earlier environmental reviews.
The developers' proposed "big box" retail and "shopping center" is to be more than one-sixth of a mile away from the edge of the lake, not right next to it, as Ihlan implies. Even so, the city already has code requirements for lighting, noise and visual impacts of developments to minimize those impacts to adjacent areas. The developers are proposing means to break up the "giant asphalt parking lots" referred to by Ihlan with green strips and pedestrian walkways.
The 82 square feet of retail per resident that Ihlan refers to is true of Roseville. However, that is applying the arbitrary boundary of Roseville's city limits. In fact, Roseville's retail services a much larger regional market, including communities where the ratio of retail square feet per resident is below the metro averages. It is not a question of whether Roseville has too much retail but rather whether our regional market supports additional retail. Rosedale wants to expand. Target wants to expand. That tends to tell me that the answer to that question is yes.
I believe it is possible to build a well-planned, mixed-use development adjacent to Langton Lake that passes the intentionally stringent standards that Roseville has in place for projects of this type. We have the opportunity to acknowledge that "big box" retail does not have to be done poorly and that a well-thought-out development can be sustainable. Indeed, one argument for "big box" being a part of this development is that it will provide the flow of customers from outside the area that will sustain the smaller retail that serves the residents of the new development.
That is what we ultimately need in Roseville, a development that: meets the community's long-expressed desire for a change from the current industrial use in the Twin Lakes area; allows a developer to be reasonably profitable (which simply cannot happen on this site without some form of city assistance); addresses existing environmental contamination; and survives and thrives for years to come.
We have the opportunity to be an example of how to make sure that a development of this type works rather than just assuming that it can't.
Dan Roe is a member at large of the Roseville Twin Lakes Stakeholder Advisory Panel and a past candidate for Roseville City Council and mayor.© Copyright 2004 Star Tribune. All rights reserved.