Developer looks to purchase property for housing units
Those who frequently pass the corner property at 311 County Road B West in Roseville have likely watched the vintage red brick house crumble, the iconic metal windmill rust and the well-hidden outbuildings succumb to overgrowth over the years.
The aging of the property’s historic features is no surprise—the materials used to build the foundation were shipped over by steamboat about 150 years ago. However, what might come as a surprise is that it could all be gone in the near future, if the Roseville City Council grants approval of a developer’s plan to build several new homes on the property.
The 3 1/3-acre property is part of the Roseville Historical Society Heritage Trail (although it is not marked as such on-site) and is mentioned in the “Historical Atlas of Early Rose Township” as a site of interest.
The classic 1 1/2-story brick house was built in approximately 1860 with typical French Canadian architecture, featuring a 30-inch thick concrete and fieldstone foundation, a rough-sawn lumber frame and walls made of lath, covered with a thick sand substance and a burnt lime mixture.
According to notes on file at the Roseville Historical Society, the six-room house was originally heated by a wood stove, and water was brought to the home via a well and windmill, both of which still exist on the property. An outhouse, the “original means of sewage disposal, is long gone,” the notes say.
The wood stove eventually gave way to modern conventions over the years, including a coal furnace, which later became fueled by oil, and finally, natural gas. Indoor plumbing and running water were installed “many years ago,” according to the notes.
Several outbuildings also still exist on the property, including a smokehouse, chicken coop and garage.
Although the original owner’s name is unknown, records show the property was purchased by Bernard Beck and his wife in 1948, the same year Roseville decided to incorporate as a village.
Ramsey County property tax records estimate the land is now worth about $160,900, while the buildings on the lot are worth about $22,800. The outbuildings on the property, which have not been maintained, are in very poor condition.
Plans to develop
The Becks owned in the home until about 2008 when Bernard died. He deeded the property to his next-door neighbor, Michael Boudin, according to tax records.
Roseville resident, realtor and self-proclaimed “part-time historian” Sam Fudenberg says around 1997 he had approached Beck about purchasing the land in order to restore the home.
“It was Bernie’s intention to have the property owned by the Roseville Historical Society, whether as a gift or having them purchase it at a reasonable price,” Fudenberg said. “He wanted the property preserved.”
Although the sale never happened, Fudenberg, whose interest in the property was piqued while compiling a historical atlas of Rose Township, says the home is the oldest in the city.
“In 1860, there was very, very little in Roseville. There weren’t really even many old farm houses,” he said. “The only one in the area that would be considered older is the Gibbs house in Falcon Heights.”
Recently, 311 County Road B West has come up on several Roseville City Council meeting agendas, as a developer has been trying to win the council’s approval of a zoning change in order to construct a number of single-family housing units on the lot.
The developer’s plans would have the buildings on the lot demolished, which has caused a stir in the community’s contingent of preservation-minded residents.
Council denies zoning change
Roseville senior planner Brian Lloyd said the development is dependent upon the council’s approval of the preliminary plat, which it has not yet granted, despite the fact that the plans have appeared in front of council members twice since April.
At an April 21 meeting, the council voted to table discussion of the proposal to rezone the property from Low Density Residential (LDR) 1 to LDR 2. The difference between the two is that LDR 2 would allow for the creation of duplexes, townhomes or other attached single-family dwellings on smaller lots, Lloyd said.
Just three weeks later, at a May 12 meeting, council members voted unanimously to deny the rezoning, thus also denying the preliminary plat which was based on the LDR 2 zoning.
Several council members stated they were not comfortable rezoning the property for the higher intensity LDR 2 use, especially because the majority of the other homes in the area were detached units. Additionally, city manager Patrick Trudgeon added, the city’s zoning map of that area had been updated just four years ago in 2010 following “significant city staff vetting and city council deliberation.”
Council member Tammy McGehee encouraged interested community members to look into ways to preserve the historic home or windmill.
“With this denial, it may provide some opportunity for people in the community who are interested in this house to work with the current owners or with any potential developers to try to achieve some conservation of this historical piece of Roseville,” she said at the meeting.
The developer also submitted an additional plat plan following LDR 1 zoning requirements, but staff viewed the application as incomplete, as it was missing some engineering and drainage details.
“We do not have revised engineering plans, drainage and grading plans as well...I would ask that we receive those fully before we make any determination on a preliminary plat just as a matter of due diligence and due course in following the process that we have set out in the ordinance,” Trudgeon said.
Future of property unclear
Members of the Roseville Historical Society have expressed disappointment that the home has recently fallen into a level of disarray that tarnishes its historical value.
At the June 9 City Council meeting, a public hearing for carrying out an abatement for unresolved city code violations at 311 County Road B was set to be held. The agenda item contended there were several “public nuisance violations” at the property, including the storage of a large recreational trailer in the front yard and unsightly “junk, debris and dead brush,” according to a staff report.
According to community development director Paul Bilotta, staff became aware of the code violations from a citizen complaint.
The abatement, during which city staff would remove the junk, impound the trailer and bill the owner, would have cost the owner, Boudin, about $2,600.
However, the abatement was removed from the agenda because the site was cleaned up before council could take action, which is a frequent occurrence, Bilotta explained.
“As often happens, the minute they were on the agenda, [the property owner] cleaned up the site themselves,” he said.
A phone number listed for Boudin Paint, a company listed at 311 County Road B West, has been disconnected.
Lloyd says the last he heard from the developer was several weeks ago, and at that time they were considering whether it was worth the financial investment to conduct an engineering study for a preliminary plat zoned as LDR 1.