The issue — whether Arden Hills would reverse itself and allow food scraps to be dropped off within the boundaries of a regional park — started out on the City Council’s consent agenda. That’s the place for routine approval of bills and the like.
It ended with a divided vote in favor of the drop-off site. Implementation will happen soon.
“It really does pain me to vote ‘yes’ when I get that many residents coming to me saying, ‘Don’t do it,’ ” Council Member Dave McClung said. “But I need a fact basis when I vote.”
The item landed on the consent agenda because it had been aired in an informal workshop and had strong support, Mayor David Grant said. There’s always the option to remove it.
Arden Hills was the only city to refuse when, in 2014, Ramsey County first asked communities with yard waste drop-off sites to permit organics as well: greasy pizza boxes, scrapings from dinner plates.
“It was new then, and unknown and untested,” said Grant, who gave it a thumbs-down at the time. “But it’s been around for years since then, and not only successful in other places but people here have been requesting it.”
Opponents each time complained of the potential for smells, the added traffic, the potential to attract wildlife. The site is within the bounds of Tony Schmidt Regional Park, and some regret that land supposed to be set aside as protected open space was ever allowed to become a yard-waste collection site in the first place, much less a compost site.
For instance, resident Shirley Englund e-mailed to say she uses a nearby trail “for walks from my neighborhood to Lake Johanna. I would hate to have this collection of waste cause smells that would make it unpleasant to walk this trail.
“Also we would have to worry about more wild animals such as coyotes on these trails. I know coyotes have already been seen on this trail, and I would hate to have to worry about the safety of people using these trails.”
The Planning Commission heard the same complaints but voted unanimously to approve the use despite them. Ramsey County’s parks department endorsed the idea as “in line with the mission and values” of that agency, being environmentally responsible.
Grant stressed that he doesn’t view the drop-off site as truly part of the park, having a separate entrance.