Arden Hills: Mediation with county premature'.

 
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Byline: Brian Johnson

Less than a month after Ramsey County requested mediation with the city of Arden Hills to jump-start the Rice Creek Commons development, city officials are saying such a move would be "premature."

Arden Hills Mayor David Grant said in a statement this week that the county should resume negotiations with the city and offer more "specifics" about its desire for more density on the former Superfund site.

At issue is a master redevelopment plan that calls for nearly 1,500 housing units, 1 million square feet of commercial space and other uses on the 427-acre site in the northeast quadrant of Interstate 35W and Highway 96 in Arden Hills.

The county has spent $41 million to date cleaning up the site for redevelopment. In 2016, a joint city-county development authority selected Minneapolis-based Alatus LLC as master developer.

Dave Perrault, Arden Hills' city administrator, said Wednesday that the city agreed to $8.3 million worth of infrastructure improvements to serve the site and that it remains committed to that investment.

But negotiations over the redevelopment broke down last fall, when County Administrator Ryan O'Connor said in a letter to the city that the county wasn't satisfied with Arden Hills'proposed investment.

In addition, the county called for more housing density, including more affordable housing, and said the two sides differed on how "build an inclusive community in which all types of people are able to live, work and recreate."

Kari Collins, Ramsey County's community and economic director, said this week that a provision in the joint powers agreement between the city and the county allows for mediation if negotiations are at an impasse.

"We have tried working through the Joint Development Authority for nearly a year without real progress or results. The first step in solving a problem is to recognize it," Collins said in a statement.

Tensions between the city and county have been simmering since at least last spring, when the county unveiled what it called a "framework" for developing the...

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