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Maplewood City Council Policy & Politics


Support from the Ad-Hoc Commission

At last week's council meeting, during the discussion of options for the former CoPar property in the Fish Creek area, I made reference to an e-mail sent to the city council by the members of the now-completed Fish Creek Greenway Ad-Hoc Commission. I think it's worth sharing:

March 5, 2010

Dear Mr. Mayor and City Council Members:

On behalf of the members of the former Fish Creek Natural Area Greenway Ad-hoc Commission who are listed at the end of this letter, I am writing in support of the proposal to issue an Economic Development Authority bond to purchase the former CoPar property in south Maplewood. We believe this is a very creative approach for the city to act upon its stated desire to protect some or all of this natural area. Unfortunately, I will be out of town next week when you take up this matter, so I would like to share some thoughts regarding the proposal.

Mr. Konewko contacted me late last week to discuss this idea, shortly after the property was listed. As the chair of the former commission, I contacted all of the voting members of that commission, as well as several ex officio members, to seek their input regarding the proposal. They unanimously supported pursuing this opportunity.

Below are some of the major points that came out of those conversations:

1) The price at which the property is listed is a bargain the city is unlikely to ever see again. It also means the property is likely to sell quickly, and while no-one can predict when such a sale might occur, there is a very real concern that the property will be purchased before a referendum could be brought to the voters this November.

2) Purchase of the property would put the city “in the driver’s seat”, allowing us to ensure protection of the most sensitive areas, development trails, and public access to the creek and bluffs – thereby achieving the majority of recommendations made in the Fish Creek commission’s report to city council. It would also allow the city greater control over the design of any development that does occur, allowing us to minimize its environmental footprint.

3) Development of the northernmost parcel, along Carver Ave., makes sense and is supported by the former commission members. Having residents in this area may even help reduce misuse of the open space areas, by having more “eyes and ears” in the area, especially near the main access point to the property (Henry Lane).

4) The former commission members are still committed to the vision for Fish Creek outlined in the report to city council. They all expressed a desire to avoid development in the parcels south of Fish Creek, if at all possible. They suggested that if development of the property is phased, starting with the Carver Ave. parcel, this could provide the city the time it needs to explore a variety of funding sources to “buy back” some or all of the bond, thus reducing or eliminating the need for development in the parcels south of Fish Creek. The low list price makes it much more likely that the city could secure sufficient funds to do this and all of the partner agencies represented on the former commission (Ramsey County, Watershed District, National Park Service, Friends of the Mississippi River) expressed interest in assisting the city to seek those funds.

5) If the city still decides to pursue a referendum to prevent development of the south parcel(s), purchasing the property now allows the city to bring the referendum at a time when the economic climate might make passage more likely. Additional time would also allow the city time to engage in a better process to craft a referendum that addresses needs beyond the Fish Creek area. Moreover, the current open space referendum sunsets in 2014 and residents may be more likely to support another park/public lands referendum if it is perceived as a extension of the existing levy, rather than one added on top of it.

In summary, given the long-standing desire of the city and residents to protect this area of Maplewood, this appears to be an investment opportunity of a lifetime, and one that comes with little or no risk to the city. It allows us to obtain the property at a price we could only have dreamed of, provides us the time to seek funds to protect all of the land from development (except the Carver Ave parcel), and if we fail in that mission, the city can still recover its investment while ensuring ecologically sound development of some of the area while securing access and recreational opportunities for our residents.

We want to thank the council for the time and attention being paid to the Fish Creek greenway area in general, and this opportunity in particular. If we can provide any information to assist you in your deliberations, please let me know.

Respectfully yours,

Ginny Yingling
Commissioner, Environment & Natural Resources Commission
Members of the Fish Creek Natural Area Greenways Commission (all reviewed and approved this letter):

Cliff Aichinger, Ramsey-Washington Metro Watershed District
Ron Cockriel, Friends of Maplewood Nature
Ginny Gaynor, City of Maplewood
John Moriarty, Ramsey County Parks
Carolyn Peterson, Maplewood Parks Commission

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