The group against St. Paul’s plans for the Ford site redevelopment has launched a petition to put a repeal of the plan on the ballot in 2018.
Neighbors for a Livable Saint Paul, a group opposed to city officials’ preference for a high-density urban village at the site, hopes to repeal the Ford site zoning ordinance passed by the St. Paul City Council last month.
“We’ve said from the beginning that our efforts to stop the Ford Plan did not end because of the City Council’s vote on September 27th,” Charles Hathaway, a member of the group, said. “We intend to take this issue to voters and force City Hall to finally listen to the voices of opposition to this project.”
Hathaway added: “This plan is very far from what the neighbors are willing to accept.”
In a Facebook post seeking volunteers to collect signatures this month, the group wrote: “And, if we are successful in merely getting it on the ballot, it will put implementation of the Ford Plan ordinance on hold until ‘we, the people’ have had an opportunity to vote on it. While this is a big challenge with a tight timeline, we believe we can make it happen!”
In its call for volunteers, the group said it needs to collect 2,500 signatures in order to put the issue on the ballot in 2018. That’s based on a number of signatures equal to 8 percent of those who voted in the most recent mayoral election.
But on Friday, Ramsey County Elections Manager Joe Mansky said that if the group waits until after the Nov. 7 election to turn in their petition, it likely will need many more signatures than that. An estimated 60,000 people are expected to vote for mayor this year, he said. If so, at least 4,800 signatures will be needed for the petition to be accepted.
After a decade of meetings, discussions and proposals for the future of the 122-acre Ford site, the City Council voted Sept. 27 to approve a zoning master plan that lays out a street grid, parks and other infrastructure that will determine where housing, retail and office space will go.
While scores of supporters, including Mayor Chris Coleman and Council Member Chris Tolbert, who represents the area, support it as a tax revenue-boosting, forward-thinking urban village, many longtime neighbors are alarmed and have railed against it. Much of that opposition centers on the plan calling for high density housing they say crams too many people into too small of an area, leading to traffic congestion, parking woes and other problems.
The city estimates that by 2040, 1,500 people could be working at the site and 4,320 to 7,200 residents could be living there. The plan would divide the site into six districts, with the least dense development closest to the Mississippi River. The tallest buildings would be six stories, but developers could build up to 10 stories if they add parkland elsewhere on the property.
Ford plans to start marketing the site next year.