STEVE SCOTT, Pioneer Press
April 27, 2005

A proposed agreement for the first phase of Roseville's major Twin Lakes redevelopment passed the City Council on Monday night, part of a lengthy approval process praised by the project's supporters for its thoroughness but criticized as a "done deal" by its opponents.

A "term sheet," a nonbinding agreement that sets the terms of a proposed contract between the city and the developers, was approved by a 3-2 vote.

"Once this term sheet is approved, I don't think there's any turning back," said Council Member Tom Kough, who along with Council Member Amy Ihlan has consistently opposed the proposal, as have a number of vocal opponents who regularly appear at council meetings.

The first-phase concept plan for the Twin Lakes area of northwest Roseville calls for a "big-box" anchor retailer, such as a Costco or Wal-Mart; about 30 acres of smaller retailers; 225,000 square feet of office space; and 730 housing units -- lofts, town homes and senior condominiums.

The first phase covers 80 acres of a 280-acre site northeast of County Road C and Cleveland Avenue. The developers own most but not all of the parcels in the area.

"There are several ways to redevelop," said Council Member Greg Schroeder, who supports the project. "You can choose the hodge-podge approach -- you just let it go and it comes out however it comes out. Or the city can go in and buy all the land and then resell it, but that costs an unbelievable amount of money.

"We went with the decision to come up with a master developer to come up with a plan for the site."

The plan is headed by the Rottlund Cos. and 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.

The developers say the TIF -- $40 million, according to earlier estimates -- is necessary because the contaminated land would cost more to develop than its market value. They also say TIF was created for such a project.

Opponents call TIF a public subsidy for wealthy developers. They also oppose more retail development in Roseville and argue that the extent of pollution is yet unclear. An environmental review is the subject of a pending lawsuit filed by a citizens' group against the city and developers.

The term sheet says that if the city or developers determine that environmental or site-purchase problems render the project unfeasible, they agree to discuss changes to the concept plan to maintain "the integrity of the project."

It also stipulates that developers would keep 100 percent of the project's profit margin up to 12.5 percent, and that any higher profit margins would be shared incrementally with the city.

The term sheet will become the basis for a final master development contract to be worked out in coming weeks.

"I'm uncomfortable with some of this, too," said Council Member Dean Maschka, who voted with the majority, "but I want to get to a draft agreement to see what we've got. Feasibility is going to be an issue."

Steve Scott may be reached at 651-228-5526 or sscott@pioneer

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