COUNCIL OKS CONCEPT PLAN FOR TWIN LAKES 21 RESIDENTS CHIME IN, TWO-THIRDS AGAINST
STEVE SCOTT, Pioneer Press
January 12, 2005

Roseville residents remained vocal and resolute Monday night as the City Council gave its first official approval to a concept plan for the Twin Lakes redevelopment, one of the largest and thorniest land-use proposals in the Twin Cities.

"This is a blighted area, and this is one of the best proposals you've had before you in 15 years," resident Bob Willmus said.

The site now includes several abandoned truck terminals and warehouses and is considered an environmentally contaminated "brownfield."

"Everyone says this is a blighted area," Terry Moses told the council. "That's a matter of opinion. I'd rather it stay the way it is. That doesn't affect my life. Traffic from this project would."

The five-member council, with Amy Ihlan and Tom Kough dissenting, approved a General Concept Planned Unit Development for the first phase of the project on a 280-acre site northeast of County Road C and Cleveland Avenue.

The developers, headed by the Rottlund Cos., consider Twin Lakes among the big three of current Twin Cities development proposals, including the Twin Cities Army Ammunition Plant in Arden Hills and The Lakes in Blaine.

"This is just the first step," said J. Michael Noonan, a Rottlund vice president. "We knew there was a chore in front of us. We knew it was a very divisive issue in the community."

The first 80-acre phase calls for 730 housing units, 221,000 square feet of office space, and 30 acres of retail and restaurants. The project includes a so-called "big-box" retailer, probably Costco.

"Who wants it? We don't want it. We don't need it. We have enough retail around here," Kristin Sandau said.

Twenty-one people addressed the council Monday, one-third of them in support of the Twin Lakes project, which wraps around Langton Lake and a surrounding park.

"No trees will be cut down within the boundary of that park," said Gale Pederson. "I think we have to trust city staff on that."

Carole Erickson, who has lived on the lake for 31 years, favors the Twin Lakes project.

"The land will not remain unchanged," she said. "Something will be built there, and the city of Roseville does not own that land."

Much of the land is owned by the developers: Rottlund, Dan Commers of Roseville Properties, John Johannson of Welsh Cos., and the Ryan Cos.

In a series of votes Monday -- all 3-2 -- the council also approved a preliminary plat, initiated rezoning and amended the Twin Lakes Master Site Plan to accommodate the Rottlund proposal.

Ihlan and Kough argued that big-box retail requires a change to the city's Comprehensive Plan, for which the state requires a "supermajority" vote, in this case 4-1.

"This project does not have four votes," Ihlan said. "If we do this, it seems to me we are violating state law."

City attorneys advised the council that a Comprehensive Plan amendment was not required.

Dan Roe urged the council to approve the concept plan and not give into fears about "what if" scenarios. "There are a lot of fears about what could happen," he said. "This is basically preliminary ... all contingent upon final decisions."

Yul Yost pleaded for the council foremost to protect Langton Lake Park. "It is a pristine area and a wildlife habitat," he said. "Developments have finite life spans. But if you protect something of value, you will certainly be remembered, particularly at election time."

Timothy Callaghan argued that the Twin Lakes plan shouldn't proceed because it violates the city's Shoreland Ordinance, which would stipulate certain protections for the land around Langton Lake, in the heart of the redevelopment area.

Council members debated whether the ordinance applies within 300 or 1,000 feet of the lake, depending on how portions of the ordinance are interpreted.

A citizens' group, Friends of Twin Lakes, filed suit last week in Ramsey County District Court to compel the city to conduct a new environmental review of the Twin Lakes project, saying a review done four years ago is no longer valid.

FYI
Extensive background materials on the Twin Lakes redevelopment are located on Roseville's city Web site at www.ci.roseville.mn.us.

Author: STEVE SCOTT, Pioneer Press

2005 St. Paul Pioneer Press and wire service sources. All Rights Reserved.
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