From: Jack G. Conrad [mailto:jackgconrad @ earthlink.net]
Sent: Tuesday, November 29, 2005 12:49 AM
Subject: Carriage Hills Status -- from John Ward
Dear Friends of Eagan's Open Space,
I've tried cover the issues without making it so long people won't read the whole thing.
Our City of Eagan is in "a legal battle that's attracted statewide and national interest" per last Wednesday's Pioneer Press. The issue is the fate of the 120 acre Carriage Hills golf course in Eagan: either development into 480 "housing units" or to remain as open-space.
The land is in the process of being sold to Wensmann Homes (an Eagan business) for development but the Eagan City Council did not pass the necessary rezoning because our Comprehensive Guide Plan designates this area as closed to this type of development. The Comprehensive Guide Plan is required by statute and must be approved by the Metropolitan Council, it is considered the blueprint for land use for a city's expansion.
In response to the refusal to change zoning, the city was sued by Wensmann Homes and Ray Rahn, owner of the golf course. The initial court case was settled by a judge in favor of development but the city appealed stating the Comprehensive Guide Plan is more important than an individual's desire to build houses. The Comprehensive Guide Plan is widely used in Minnesota and other states and the decision of this case (apparently the first of its kind) will have far reaching effects both locally and nationally. Development has been opposed by a neighborhood group, the Carriage Hill Coalition, long time friends of the Eagan Core Greenway and members of the Open Space Coalition in Eagan.
Now it gets more complex: the discussions between the city, the owner and developer have not been public information probably due to the litigation but the city seemed ready to vote to settle the lawsuit and allow development at their last meeting November 15. Now, backtracking a little, part of the judge's decision against the city was that Mr. Rahn, the land owner, couldn't sell the land because of the zoning issues which was inappropriate. A possible solution to that problem (and the lawsuit) that avoids development, at least on a large scale, had not yet been considered by the Council so discussion was delayed until their next meeting on Nov. 29th.The spokesperson for that investors group is Jim Taylor, a member of the Carriage Hills Coalition, whose investor's group seeks to purchase the land as a golf course or other form of open-space.
At their next meeting on November 29th the Council plans to vote on the fate of Carriage Hills, possibly agreeing to development to settle the litigation or continuing with the lawsuit (I am told the city has a very good chance of winning as they are the good guys with the law on their side). They should carefully consider other options like Jim Taylor's investment group that offer saving open-space, always a documented high priority in studies of citizens of Eagan. This is a critical time for the 120 acres of open-space in Eagan, we need to have the council chambers packed with supporters of open space both to impress the Council and there will be a lot of media. We are asking our City Council to both continue with the lawsuit and to entertain alternatives other than more housing units for this property reflecting the views of Eagan residents--the quote below is from the 2005 survey in Eagan.
"Speaking of nature, Eagan residents want to preserve more of it. 86% say it is somewhat or very important to purchase additional open space areas for preservation even if it involved the use of tax dollars. Nearly 60% say they would be willing to pay something more per month in taxes to fund land acquisition. That amount averages out to $3.54 per month."
Note: The Nov. 29th City Council meeting may start early like 5:30 so we may need to be there early. We will email an update when we know for sure.
Eagan Open Space Coalition