Judge rules with Roseville on Twin Lakes lawsuit

The Twin Lakes redevelopment plan will continue to go forward in Roseville, as a Ramsey County judge refused to halt the project, denying the Friends of Twin Lakes request for more environmental study.

“I thought in reading the judge’s decision, I do believe he was a bit sympathetic to us but felt like his hands were tied,” said Joy Anderson, the president of Friends of Twin Lakes.

The ruling will be appealed, she said.

Mayor Craig Klausing said he was pleased with the outcome.

“To say, as the plaintiffs did, that the council failed to carefully consider the environmental issues or acted inconsistent with the Comprehensive Plan is simply not true,” he said. “The court looked specifically at those two issues and concluded there was a extensive and detailed basis supporting the city’s decision that even more environmental study was not needed.”

The Friends of Twin Lakes, a non-profit group which opposes the plan, filed a lawsuit against the city of Roseville and Rottlund Homes, the master developer, stating that the development plan did not fit the city’s comprehensive plan.

Friends of Twin Lakes also argued that the city’s 2001 alternative urban areawide review, or AUAR, was not valid, and the city should conduct an Environmental Assessment Worksheet, which is a study of environmental impacts of proposed development.

The redevelopment project, the first of a possible three phases for the entire 280-acre area, calls for a mixed use of housing, retail and office. The plans also call for a “big-box” retail store.

Thirty acres will include more than 330,000 square feet of retail, another 30 acres will include 730 housing units, and 10 acres will have 221,000 square feet of office space. The redevelopment has increased its housing units by 136 percent, 38 percent more retail, and 85 percent less office space than it did when the AUAR was completed.

District Judge M. Michael Monahan ruled that while the proposal has changed since 2001, that the AUAR, which was accepted by the Environmental Quality Board, is still valid.

“There is no dispute that the proposed development differs in detail from the redevelopment assumptions of the AUAR,” Monahan wrote. “Nonetheless, the proposed development fits within the general outlines of those assumptions.”

Monahan wrote that the Friends of Twin Lakes’ argument “goes too far” in asking for an Environmental Assessment Worksheet; that even the Environmental Quality Board left that decision to the city of Roseville.

“(The argument) suggests that any change in a development proposal triggers a full blown environmental review,” he wrote. “It seems to me that the EQB staff was correct... when it suggested to the city it could consider the impacts of the changes in deciding whether a revised AUAR or EWS was required.”

The Friends of Twin Lakes also argued that the redevelopment violates Roseville’s Comprehensive Plan, which states that a mixed use development is appropriate for the Twin Lakes area. Friends of Twin Lakes argued that the comprehensive plan did not allow for a “big-box” retail store.

The judge ruled that the development, while details differed from the comprehensive plan, is in fact a mixed use development that does fit into the overall plan.

“More to the point, the city’s decision that the development conforms to the comprehensive plan is not arbitrary and capricious, and the findings are supported by substantial evidence,” Monahan wrote.

The Comprehensive Plan was a big point for the Friends of Twin Lakes. If the judge had ruled that the development proposal did differ from the comprehensive plan, Roseville City Council members would have had to vote to change the plan which would require a four-fifths majority vote. The City Council had continued to pass the Twin Lakes proposal on consistent 3-2 votes.

The people involved react to the ruling

Tam McGeehee, a member of the Friends of Twin Lakes, said that she “didn’t feel terribly disappointed” with the ruling. There were parts of his ruling, she said, where it seemed the judge sided with the Friends of Twin Lakes but would not rule in their favor.

“If he had ruled with us, he felt like he would be making law,” McGeehee said, “and law should be decided by a trail court, not a district court.”

Klausing, however, said that while the city was confident going into the court, that the judge’s ruling was satisfying.

“There is a certain satisfaction in seeing the court recognizing that we (the City Council) looked at this seriously and reached the appropriate conclusion,” Klausing said.

Anderson also said she felt the judge was sympathetic to the group’s efforts.

“There are no laws in existence right now that will help us out,” she said. “The important issue is that, in Roseville, there is still a lot of support behind pursuing this further.”

Monahan’s ruling will be appealed to the Court of Appeals, both Anderson and McGeehee said.