Call it the ghost of golf courses past.
The protracted legal battle around the redevelopment of the old Carriage Hills course has come back to haunt the city of Eagan as officials and residents weigh in on a proposal to build houses on what is now Parkview Golf Club, the last remaining 18-hole course in the southern suburb.
City Council members, wary of setting up another court dispute, cited unanswered questions about private property rights among their reasons for proceeding with a developer's request to change the permitted use of the 80-acre golf course from recreation to low-density development.
In the Carriage Hills case almost a decade ago, the city resisted a developer's efforts and got dragged into a long legal fight.
"We've been here before, we know this terrain, we can do a better job this time around," Mayor Mike Maguire said the day after the council meeting that stretched past midnight last week.
The change still needs approval from the Metropolitan Council before the city can finalize it, making way for a proposed 175-house development on the site along Cliff Road.
The fact that the land-use change will even go before the Met Council, the seven-county metro regional planning agency, rankled opponents of the housing plan, many of them from neighborhoods around the golf course. In protesting the change, they pleaded the value of the youth-friendly course and bucolic open space and warned about increased traffic, reduced property values and damage to the environment.
City Council members ruled out purchasing Parkview to turn it into a public golf course, but said they would consider another idea if something feasible is presented before they consider the land-use change again after the Met Council makes its decision in 60 to 90 days.
Rob Zakheim, one of Parkview's owners, said the course has not been making money for years, a victim of declining participation and over-saturation of golf courses. The land-use change is needed to complete the sale to developer Hunter Emerson.
Despite sometimes emotional opposition from residents, including an anonymous death threat sent to City Hall, the council members argued that advancing the land-use change would actually give them more control in negotiating a housing development that's palatable, if not ideal, for the neighbors.
And, they said, it also heads off, for now, a repeat of Carriage Hills. Residents and the city fought for years to prevent the Carriage Hills Golf Course from being turned into a housing development.
The city's denial of a land-use change for that parcel in 2004 led to a lawsuit that ultimately ended up before the Minnesota Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court, in sending the case back to the lower court, pointed to multiple factors to consider in deciding whether the city had deprived the land owners of a viable use of the property. Among the criteria:
The economic ramifications of the city's action on the owner.
The land use and intent of the owners when they acquired the property.
Whether the city burdened a few people for the benefit of the community.
And what the appropriate balance of those other factors should be.
The city and the owners of Carriage Hills, by then defunct as a golf course, settled before the lower court reconsidered the case. The site, now known as Stonehaven, is being developed by Lennar.
Katie Humphrey 952-746-3286