From: Jack G. Conrad [mailto:jackgconrad @ earthlink.net]
Sent: Monday, November 4, 2002 8:32 AM
To: Conrad, Jack G.
Subject: Candidates' Views on Open Space / the Eagan Core Greenway
Dear Friends of Patrick Eagan Park,
Friend of PEP member David Brunet was able to interview Eagan's two mayoral candidates and two of the four remaining City Council candidates this weekend. I've added some notes on the remaining two. Below is what the candidates had to say. Some of them are still on the fence. Others are generally quite supportive of the initiatives.
David gave the candidates the opportunity to review and revise the notes he assembled. He has yet to hear back from Patrick Geagan and Greg Wilken. If these two candidates choose to amend any of David's remarks, we will pass their revisions on to you. But given the small amount of time that remains before the election, I felt it is important that Friends of Patrick Eagan Park have access to David's summaries in order to study them in advance of voting day.
On behalf of all of us, permit me to thank David for all of the time and energy he's put into this endeavor this weekend!
Patrick Geagan-candidate for mayor of Eagan
Mr. Geagan said, "I'm a firm believer in open spaces." He cited that fact that "more people all the time are using our parks and trailways. That's a real plus for our community, and it attracts many people to Eagan."
He is not committed to the Dakota County Open Space referendum, because he doesn't see "a nexus between Dakota County and the Eagan Core Greenway."
"My first priority is the city of Eagan, and my concern for open space starts with the McCarthy property. I'm in favor of the Greenway concept, but I think it's important to start a dialogue with Patrick McCarthy about preserving his property as open space."
[He told me that he would like to work more closely with the City's Parks Commission and to take a broader look at the way the City Council works with the Parks Commission as a whole. He would consider holding a meeting with the Parks Commission if he is elected, before he takes office, to make himself aware of what some of the issues and to find out what issues are important to them, in order to foster a basic idea of working together as two City bodies. --JC]
Gary Huusko-candidate for mayor of Eagan
Mr. Huusko says he values open space but also values good, responsible development. It's important to maintain the good mix we currently have in Eagan to keep our tax base viable.
He says open space is very important. "We have really nice city, regional and neighborhood parks, and I would not support any attempt to develop or endanger those parks." Patrick Eagan Park is exceptional, and one of the positive things that came out of the golf course controversy is that it increased people's awareness of the park. He'd like to see greater use of Patrick Eagan Park.
He has heard proposals that would make the park and the adjacent Caponi Art Park a nature/art center. If it could be done, it would be great. He's not sure of the logistics, however, of acquiring all the huge amount of land that would be necessary to complete a greenway from Lebanon Hills Regional Park to Patrick Eagan Park.
He is in favor of and will vote for the Dakota County Open Space referendum. There is some question as to whether the affected land should remain open space permanently. Mr. Huusko says "There needs to be some protection built into it for the taxpayer to makes sure the money is being used well. If the easements were not permanent, it would allow landowners to take advantage of taxpayers at a future time." He favors acquiring the open space on a permanent basis.
He grew up on the Iron Range, where almost all recreational activities are outdoors and in natural settings. He feels there is positive value in making it possible for people to get out and enjoy open spaces.
Duey Bendt-candidate for Eagan city council
Mr. Bendt makes open space a priority. "I was born and raised on a farm. I like looking out across open fields." He adds, "I've got 12 grandkids. We can't develop every inch of open space-we have to leave some for them. Richfield is an example of a city that developed every available space-we don't want to come to that."
Open space is to Eagan as the Twins are to Minneapolis. He intends to vote "Yes" on the Dakota County Open Space referendum.
He's a member of the Planning Commission, and has been dedicated to holding the line on 30% green space in developments.
The Eagan Core Greenway would be "a priority-no, more like a crusade." Eagan has spent a lot of money on soccer fields and a community center. We could have used some of that money to preserve open space. "There's a finite amount of open space, so we have to preserve it now or talk about it forever."
Greg Wilken-candidate for Eagan city council
Mr. Wilken says development has been good for Eagan. It has kept a good tax base, provided jobs and opportunities. On the other hand, many people move to Eagan because of the open spaces. Finding the right balance is the trick.
We need to preserve the open space we have, so we don't become overdeveloped. So far, we have a good mix of industrial, commercial, residential, and open space. Having all those types of spaces is good for Eagan.
Mr. Wilken is familiar with the Greenway concept. But since some of the land in question is privately held, he doesn't know how the city can acquire it-there isn't the money in the city budget. It would have to be looked at really carefully, because we're not going to have the same revenue stream in the future as we've had in the last 15 years. Much of the revenue was dependent on development.
Dakota County Open Spaces referendum-"Some parts of it I like, especially in that it's an attempt to look at the needs of future generations and preserve open space for them. Too often, officials don't have a long-term vision." He is concerned about the mechanics of the process: who will decide which land is to be preserved? will the land be off limit to the public? There is a social value in having the land preserved, but if the land is off limits, is the public getting the full benefit of the money they spend on preserving open space? It's a good concept, if they can work out some of the details.
Mike Maguire-candidate for Eagan city council
Based on previous conversations, Mike will:
Regarding (1) : Mike will vote for the referendum but expresses some reservations about "implementation issues." He wonders to what extent such purchases may impact the price of new housing in the county, in particular for those communities that may wish to address additional affordable housing in some form. He's not convinced it will increase housing costs, but expresses a concern. He remains optimistic since there remains much land in Dakota County that is not currently on the residential housing market. He hopes that the county and its cities will be able to work out the details for optimal benefit to all concerned.
Regarding (2) : Mike will support the Eagan Core Greenway provided that property acquired from current owners will depend on their voluntary participation rather than the more heavy-handed use of eminent domain. Re: Patrick McCarthy and his ~145 acre farm, the Andersons and their ~10 acre parcel, and possibly the Caponis and their 60 acre Art Park.
Peggy Carlson-candidate for Eagan city council
(Unable to interview this weekend.)
Since the golf course threat abated, Peggy has been actively involved in supporting our application to the DNR's Metro Greenway's program for the planning grant for the Eagan Core Greenway. (See Saturday's Eagan ThisWeek for more information on the grant Eagan will receive.) She's met with us numerous times along with the Trust for Public Land and the Sierra Club (North Star Chapter) in order to sketch out that application. If re-elected, long term preservation of Patrick Eagan Park and the City's recognition and support of the Eagan Core Greenway will be one of Peggy's goal's for her next term.
Note the assumption in some of these responses that the City will need to "go it alone" if it pursues the greenway (e.g., Greg Wilken).
Given there are other regional organizations willing to partner with the City to secure properties like Patrick McCarthy's land (assuming it's available), organizations like the Trust for Public Land, we will need to perform some education following the election to let our representatives know that by partnering, Eagan may be able to obtain a multiplier effect with its investment in such properties. --JC