It was an exercise in polite, suburban democracy, with an occasional display of citizen seething underneath.
In the end, a Vikings stadium effort took a modest, peaceful step toward some sort of resolution in Arden Hills Monday night.
The northern Ramsey County city of 10,000 contains the massive, environmentally troublesome and development challenged land known as “TCAAP” — pronounced “Tee-Cap” — or the Twin Cities Army Ammunition Plant.
It’s become the focus of Ramsey County Commissioner Tony Bennett’s plan to lure the Vikings by building a new stadium, with, perhaps, a countywide sales tax.
Last night, with about 40 city and area residents closely watching at Arden Hills City Hall, the council voted 4-0 (PDF), with one abstention, to declare “its intention to work with” the county, the state, Gov. Mark Dayton, the Legislature and the Vikings to address environmental and transit issues that would be attached to any stadium plan.
It also authorized the city administrator to “cooperate with Ramsey County on due diligence analysis.”
Citizen split between speakers and emails
The vote came after a series of, mostly, civil and brief presentations by 12 citizens; nine expressed opposition to the city participating in any stadium effort, while three supported it. The opposing citizens mostly spoke of increased traffic, a poor use of the giant piece of land, a concern that bars and drunk drivers would proliferate, the impact on the city’s “quality of life,” and, said resident Cliff Bujold, “The stadium to me just doesn’t seem to fit with this community.”
But City Council Member Brenda Holden said her emails were running 4-1 in favor of pursuing the stadium project on more than 200 acres of the 2,370-acre plot of land, just east of I-35W and north of Hwy. 96.
Soft-spoken Mayor David Grant cautioned citizens that “Arden Hills is merely a site,” that the city isn’t being asked to fund anything.
Council Member Fran Holmes said the “city needs to be at the table” to make sure its needs are met if and when Ramsey County and the Vikings strike a deal because sewer costs, the addition of a needed water tower, public safety costs could face the community. “This is a vote do our due diligence,” said Holmes.
Holmes and Holden suggested the stadium opportunity might be the city’s best hope for development on the troubled land owned by the U.S. Army.
Phil Fabel has lived in Arden Hills for 40 years and told the council, “I think for 40 years we’ve been talking about this property … I’m standing here because I think the probability of a stadium in Arden Hills is as close to zero as it can be. I think we’re being used for leverage against the city of Minneapolis.”
Mayor Grant declared, “We’re not Blaine,” meaning the city that dilly-dallied with Vikings ownership five years ago about a suburban stadium in Anoka County, a potential marriage that fell apart before it was consummated.
With the Metrodome site the other prime candidate for a potential Vikings stadium, it was Grant who seemed to give support to Fabel’s concern that bringing a stadium to Arden Hills was going to require substantial maneuvering.
“There are a lot of things that have to come together,” the mayor said. “All you have to do is look at the players and you understand the enormity of the effort. You’ve got the state. You’ve got the governor. You’ve got the county. You’ve got the Vikings. You’ve got the U.S. Army, who owns the property. You’ve got the MPCA [Minnesota Pollution Control Agency]. You’ve got the EPA [federal Environmental Protection Agency]. You’ve got the U.S. Army’s Realtor, the GSA [General Services Administration]. That’s a bunch of players, and it all has to come together.”
Pressure on to move fast
That coming together must occur soon: according to a report in the Star Tribune, Minnesota House Taxes Committee Chairman Greg Davids is growing impatient with the absence of a Vikings bill. And Davids said he prefers a site-specific stadium bill. As Mayor Grant pointed out, resolving the TPAAC land’s status before the Legislature adjourns on May 23 will be a major challenge.
But on a chilly night in a quiet city council chamber, the Vikings stadium campaign received a smidgeon of support.