Suburb's expansion threatens rural tranquility

  • Article by: ERIN ADLER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 17, 2014 - 5:10 AM

Golf course seeks an RV park. Neighbors seek tranquility.


Tom Furlong Jr. is superintendent and manager of Emerald Greens Golf Course in Dakota County’s Nininger Township.

Photo: COURTNEY PERRY • Special to the Star Tribune,

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Rick and Nancy Klaus moved to the country to raise horses and two kids on 50 acres of land. It felt safe and peaceful.

In a rural township forbidding such things, they never expected to find themselves 200 feet from an RV park.

“You live in the country because you want to live in the country,” said Nancy Klaus.

But a neighbor with hundreds of acres wants to develop them. And nearby Rosemount, which would get a $30,000 annual windfall, is considering what would amount to, for the township, a hostile takeover.

The big landowner, Tom Furlong Jr., wants to expand his golf course with a campground, complete with spaces for RVs and rental cabanas. On another part of his 450-acre property, he wants to build and sell a dozen townhouses.

“We are aggressive in some of the stuff we do, and we see a potential return on our investment here,” said Furlong. “A campground here would make us a destination golf course.”

But agricultural Nininger Township doesn’t allow for that. So Furlong plans to petition suburban Rosemount, just next door, to annex his land. It’s an unusual move that Rosemount will have to approve — and one that Nininger Township will likely oppose.

Questions, questions

At a work session last week, members of Rosemount’s City Council agreed to pursue the annexing of the Furlong land. But the council had questions.

“From a staff perspective, annexation makes sense to the city if there’s a long-term benefit,” said Kim Lindquist, community development director.

That benefit would include part of the taxes the Furlongs pay annually on the $5 million property. It’s home to the 36-hole Emerald Greens Golf Course, the state’s biggest in terms of acreage. Lindquist estimated the city could gain $30,000 or more in taxes.

Even for the city itself, it isn’t a slam dunk. “The huge thing that’s going to hold us up is we have these islands of residents in the center,” said Council Member Mark DeBettignies.

Furlong’s dad, Tom Sr., developed recreational areas long before the family created the golf course 14 years ago. He helped create the Afton Alps ski area in the 1960s. The family has also built and sold houses, including 18 nearby and seven on a street that sits amid their land.

‘No Woodstock’

Furlong Jr. calls the proposed 35-acre RV park “phase two for us,” noting there is no other campground near a golf course in the Twin Cities. “It will not be offensive,” he said. “We’re not going back to Woodstock.”

It could bring a 25 percent revenue increase, he said, and add jobs. The business, with 175 to 200 spaces for recreational vehicles, will be “family-orientated,” with no loud music and lights out by 10:30 p.m.

A second project would construct a dozen townhouses a half-mile away, aimed at seniors.

He believes Rosemount could provide better services in the long term — roads, police, fire — than Nininger can.

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  • The owners of Emerald Greens Golf Course hope to replace a cornfield with a family recreation area and RV park. They’re asking the city of Rosemount to annex the land.

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