Port Authority holds second hearing to receive public comment about downtown: Minnesota This Week, Burnsville MN, 7/20/07

By Tad Johnson

The direction of redevelopment in Rosemount’s Core Block East will be decided Monday, Aug. 6.

After receiving two nights of testimony about the city’s intent to use eminent domain to acquire the Ratzlaff Service Station property, the Port Authority is expected to vote during a special meeting at 6 p.m. at Rosemount City Hall.

Rosemount residents and concerned business owners spoke out against the proposal during two public hearings, the latest one Monday, July 16 at Dakota County Technical College.

An estimated 100-plus people attended the meeting that lasted two and a half hours. About 30 people spoke against the project that night, including a handful who were repeat speakers from the June 19 hearing. Four spoke in favor of using eminent domain.

The tense hearing included several direct pleas from residents urging the Port Authority not to use eminent domain.

At the end of nearly every speech, the audience met it with applause despite Port Authority Chairman Mike Baxter asking people to refrain from clapping.

At issue now is whether the Port Authority has determined it needs to use eminent domain and has exhausted all other avenues to redevelop one property owned by Dr. Kurt Walter-Hansen.

If it votes to condemn the property, a three-person panel of assessors will determine the property’s fair market value and compensation amount for Hansen. The process could last some time if it is contested.

Those opposed to eminent domain echoed similar reasons for their stance as in previous meetings.

They feel that eminent domain:

  • for economic development purposes is wrong because it gives private property from one landowner to another.
  • will negatively impact further redevelopment downtown as other landowners would have uncertain futures.
  • will negatively impact the future businesses in the development because many oppose the project.

Hansen expressed his opposition to the plan saying that eminent domain shouldn’t be used to take land away from one private owner and hand it over to another private owner.

He said local government has a role in economic development, but eminent domain is not an appropriate use of power.

“I am committed to working with the city so there is no need to use eminent domain,” said Hansen, who has made his own proposal for Core Block East redevelopment.

City officials have met with Hansen several times to discuss acquisition of the property and about the city’s redevelopment plan. The city made an offer on the Ratzlaff property April 13, but Hansen did not accept it.

Hansen has been opposed to the proposal to place a mixed-use retail and 100-unit apartment building on the site as proposed by Stonebridge Companies of Apple Valley.

Hansen has questioned if the city had correctly handled the transition of the development from Contractor Property Developers Company to Stonebridge Companies. Such a transfer of development companies was set forth in the agreement, according to city officials.

Hansen had sought to become the city’s chosen developer during the open request for proposals for Core Block East in 2005.
Other opinions

Don Ratzlaff, who operates the service station and truck rental business at the property under consideration for condemnation, said the city is going to need to redevelop that area of Rosemount, but this is not the right development.

“That’s Shakopee or Hopkins. I don’t see that in Rosemount,” he said pointing at Stonebridge’s concept plan for Core Block East.

He said if you want multiple housing in Rosemount, they have land available for multiples in the former Brockway Golf Course area.

By proposing to use eminent domain, he said the city has lost the trust of the people of Rosemount.

“I believe you need to turn that trust around,” he said. “Say no to a taking of a property.”

Kathy Klonecky, a member of the Save Rosemount Committee that has mailed four newsletters to residents regarding the issue, urged the Port Authority not to make a mockery of one of the primary values in life.

She said she gets physically ill when she sees someone else’s building on Hansen’s property.

Klonecky told Port Authority members that Save Rosemount has collected 4,000 signatures on a petition opposing eminent domain.

Deb Kaczmarek, a member of the Save Rosemount Committee, didn’t think the city should be involved in redevelopment.

“You are not smarter than the free market, and you are not smarter than the private sector,” she said.

Simon Walter Hansen, the son of Kurt Hansen and partner of the Tri-Store in downtown Rosemount, told the Port Authority that it should redevelop the former Genz-Ryan Plumbing & Heating property as the first project in downtown redevelopment.

“You can do it today. You can show what a big improvement it makes,” he said, adding that when it comes time to redevelop Core Block East, “I’m sure you will have everyone behind you once you have showed people it works.”

Ruthe Batulis, president of the Northern Dakota Chamber of Commerce, says revitalization of downtown Rosemount needs to be done.

She said representatives from the chamber served on the Downtown Redevelopment Committee that provided a vision for the guiding elements to make downtown a more attractive and interesting place.

She said redevelopment will help retain and bring additional businesses to downtown and create a solid tax base.

“It is critical that all parties act in a spirit of cooperation,” she said.

Kim Shoe-Corrigan, the only member of the Rosemount City Council who doesn’t sit on the Port Authority, said she supports the use of eminent domain.

“We need to move forward,” she said, citing that the city has tried to work with Hansen.

She said she feels that there has been many opportunities for citizens to participate and for business owners to participate. She said she is not in favor of scraping the work that’s been done by the Downtown Redevelopment Committee.

Minnesota This Week, Burnsville MN: http://www.thisweek-online.com