Roseville should reject Twin Lakes proposal

In deciding whether to move forward on the proposed Twin Lakes redevelopment recently endorsed by the Pioneer Press, the Roseville City Council’s primary responsibility is to protect the public interest.  Roseville residents and business owners need to be aware that developers Rottlund Homes, Roseville Properties, and Welsh Companies are requesting more than $47 million in public subsidies, including tax increment financing. 


Contrary to what the July 26 Pioneer Press editorial suggests, the costs of environmental clean-up are only a small fraction of what taxpayers are being asked to pay – just under $8 million of the proposed $47 million subsidy. Approximately $18 million would subsidize the costs of land acquisition, allowing the developers to buy the property at less than market value, with taxpayers paying the difference.  The developers also want the city to raise taxes for other Roseville residents and businesses to reduce the tax burden on the retail portion of the project. 


To put the $47 million subsidy request in some perspective, Roseville ’s annual property tax revenues are only about $10 million a year. The City Council is still struggling to adjust Roseville ’s budget to absorb recent losses of state funding.  A $47 million subsidy for a private, for-profit development is simply not appropriate.  The Council should just say “no” to this fiscally irresponsible proposal, and get back to other city priorities.


As a matter of economic and public policy, the Council should not subsidize any more large scale retail development in Roseville .  The current Twin Lakes proposal includes a Costco store and shopping center at the corner of Cleveland Avenue and County Road C.   This violates Roseville ’s Master Plan for the Twin Lakes area, which specifically recommends against big box retail and mall development at that location.  A Costco and retail center would significantly increase traffic congestion and decrease the quality of life in the surrounding residential neighborhoods.  It would create air, noise, and light pollution, require large parking lots, and increase demands for police and fire protection.  These substantial costs to the community go well beyond the costs of building the new development itself. 


The use of public money to support more retail in Roseville cannot be justified on economic grounds.  Retail development does not produce the high quality, living wage jobs Roseville should be trying to attract.  It is questionable whether more retail development would create any meaningful economic growth at all.  With the volume of retail already in Roseville , large new developments would simply draw shoppers and tenants away from other malls.   Roseville should work to maintain its current retail base, instead of unfairly subsidizing competitors.  How do Roseville residents benefit if taxes are used to subsidize a giant retailer at the expense of our local small retailers? 


Public subsidies should be used only for identified public needs that the free market will not support.  Roseville has no public need for more large scale retail development.  Rottlund Homes claims that a big retail engine is necessary to successful housing development in the Twin Lakes area.  But since there has not been any open bidding or requests for proposals from other developers, the City Council has not explored other alternatives that might better fit the community’s needs.


Tax increment is not “free” money – it is tax revenue that would otherwise be available for the city to use for the benefit of the whole community, used only to support the costs of private development.  Nor is tax increment financing risk-free.  Using tax increment financing for retail development is a bad idea, because the profitable life of retail developments is often less than the 20-30 year period it takes to generate the additional taxes needed to finance the development costs.  If so, the city and its taxpayers are left responsible for paying back debts secured by the future taxes that never materialized.  


The Roseville City Council should reject this costly proposal, and reconsider the city’s willingness to entertain subsidy requests for big retail projects.  Providing cheap and convenient shopping is not a good reason for putting our city’s finances, retail community, and residents’ quality of life at risk. 


Amy Ihlan

Roseville City Council