Ramsey County opts to end development relationship with Arden Hills

Ramsey County called for the dissolution of a joint powers agreement with Arden Hills, which could remove the city from development planning for the former Twin Cities Army Ammunition Plant site.

The Ramsey County Attorney’s Office sent a letter to Arden Hills’ city attorney on March 6. It said the county proposes to end the agreement with Arden Hills, which would also eliminate the joint development authority board, which oversaw the project.

It’s the latest turn in a tit-for-tat between the two jurisdictions over the past six weeks. In February, the county requested mediation sessions to resolve disputes over development terms. The city declined mediation and instead favored action through the JDA board, which prompted the county’s latest move.

“Arden Hills has rejected that mediation, which leaves us no option,” said Ramsey County Board of Commissioners Chair Jim McDonough.

The county’s letter said the city hasn’t shown a willingness “to engage in any meaningful compromise” on disputed terms of housing density, particularly with affordable units. More housing allows for more affordable options.

Arden Hills officials have made similar accusations, saying the county hasn’t negotiated fairly and has left them in the dark. At public meetings, city council members have said that they’ve already made concessions to reach the density figure, which right now stands at 1,460 residential units for the development. As of press time, Arden Hills City Administrator Dave Perrault said city officials were planning to meet to decide what’s next. 

 

A new development

Development of the 427-acre former TCAAP site has the potential to quickly grow Arden Hills’ population. Dubbed the Rice Creek Commons, it’s planned as a mix of neighborhoods, commercial property and — at least at the moment — a civic site for Arden Hills.

Ramsey County owns the land and has invested some $40 million to remediate pollution on the site and prep it for development.

The JDA board began in 2013 as a public body overseeing the development. Members from the city and county made up the board.

Last fall, regular board meetings ceased as city and county members butted heads over housing density and Arden Hills’ financial contribution.

Alatus, LLC, the master developer, was watching from the sideline, according to its president, Bob Lux. He said they agree with the county’s move to dissolve the agreement with Arden Hills.

“The zoning is in place. The city’s role then is really to approve stuff,” Lux said. “The JDA, I think its purpose has been fulfilled.”

A summary development agreement approved last year by the JDA board calls for Alatus to buy the land for $62.7 million in five phases. McDonough said the final figure is still up for negotiation.

Arden Hills still has to sign off on the dissolution of the joint powers agreement, and Ramsey County’s letter said it will negotiate to make that happen. If it does, then the development is the county’s show until completion.

“The relationship between Ramsey County and Alatus is strong, and I believe we can get to an agreement fairly quickly,” McDonough said.

 

–Matt Hudson can be reached at mhudson@lillienews.com or 651-748-7825.

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