Rift deepens over TCAAP development

Ramsey County gives Arden Hills deadline on mediation 

 

Ramsey County won’t attend the next meeting of the Joint Development Authority board tasked with redeveloping the former Twin Cities Army Ammunition Plant site, and will try to force mediation sessions with Arden Hills.

A statement from the county’s spokeswoman for the development, dubbed the Rice Creek Commons, also said that the county’s funding of the JDA depends on the success of those sessions.

“Ramsey County desires to negotiate the [master development agreement] per the dispute resolution clause in the Joint Powers Agreement,” spokeswoman Sara Thatcher said in a statement. “Ramsey County believes the best path forward is through a professional impartial mediator. Once we conclude mediation successfully, we can return to using the JDA structure and funding its work.”

Ramsey County owns the land for the 427-acre residential and commercial development. It also funded the work of the JDA board until last fall.

Housing density, particularly for affordable housing, and financial contributions are the main points of dispute between Arden Hills and the county.

The county delegates to the JDA are county commissioners Blake Huffman and Rafael Ortega. During a Feb. 4 JDA board meeting, the two announced that the county would seek mediation to iron out the disputed development terms with Arden Hills.

The JDA board members from the city, council member Brenda Holden and Mayor Dave Grant, pushed back on the idea of mediation. They suggested on Feb. 4 that another meeting be set within a couple weeks, and directed city and county staffers to prepare lists of outstanding disagreements.

On Feb. 8, Ramsey County Board of Commissioners Chair Jim McDonough sent a letter to Arden Hills saying that “additional JDA meetings cannot be productive due to the impasse” on the disputed terms.

His letter said that Ramsey County commissioners met back in January and decided that “voluntary dispute resolution via mediation is the only way to a development agreement.”

That January meeting was closed to the public. County spokesman John Siqveland said that was because the board was also considering the sale price of the land, a discussion that would permit a closed meeting under state law. 

The JDA board had already passed a summary master development agreement that included land sale prices during a meeting in September. A final agreement has yet to pass the board.

 

At any rate, Arden Hills City Administrator Dave Perrault said that the city’s understanding was that the county was going to be present on Feb. 20.

“We were looking forward to getting together with the county to look at what still separates the two parties,” he said.

Perrault said he and the city JDA delegates hadn’t yet met to decide how they would respond.

McDonough said in his letter that Arden Hills has until Feb. 26 to accept or reject mediation. If that doesn’t work, he wrote that the county would begin to explore other options to move forward.

 

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

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