The multi-use project, planned for over 20 years, would bring an estimated $700 million of private investment to Arden Hills. It promises a return on over $4 million of Arden Hills taxes and over $40 million of Ramsey County taxes already spent on the project, as well as much-needed new housing in the north metro.
The challengers include Mayoral candidate Gregg Larson, and Council candidates Emily Rousseau, Tena Monson, and Tom Fabel. Larson is a former Arden Hills Planning Commissioner and Council Member. He's semi-retired from the U of MN's School of Public Health where he oversaw clinical trial research operations following prior work in private and public environmental planning. Rousseau specializes in data privacy compliance at Terminix, and Monson on renewable energy at National Grid Renewables. Fabel is a retired attorney whose public positions included Deputy State Attorney General, assistant Hennepin County Attorney, and Deputy Mayor of St. Paul.
The project site consists of 427 acres of vacant land owned by Ramsey County. A master developer, Alatus, has been chosen. Environmental analyses completed by the City have shown that the large site can accommodate between 1,500 and 2,500 new housing units, a town center and commercial uses, and parks and open space. However, the current City Council won't agree to any more than 1,460 housing units, a number rejected by the County as too low. With the developer funding all of the public infrastructure (e.g., streets, sewer and water mains, parks, and a water tower), the City stands to realize significant property tax revenue from the project that would offset the $4 million already spent and fund other City needs.
The "Advance Arden Hills" slate of candidates is committed to reach a mutually acceptable compromise with the County that moves the project forward, acting in the best financial and public good interests of Arden Hills residents. Larson stated that the Council has squandered a great opportunity that other cities only dream of having. "They're incapable of moving the project forward. They've always seen it as a burden, a glass half-empty, rather than half-full."
Fabel wants a timely solution. He noted that "The recent litigation between Ramsey County and Arden Hills over the stalemate cost the City over $300,000 in legal fees that could have been avoided with a compromise." Rousseau stressed the need for housing. "Rice Creek Commons is essential to meet the existing City goal of new affordable housing for seniors and young and lower-income families." Monson summarized that "Residents want a change, a Council with new energy that's focused on the future, not the past."