Bar's plan raises ruckus in 'quiet' Ramsey

  • Article by: LORA PABST , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 24, 2007 - 8:45 PM

Diamond's wants to host motocross and demolition derbies. But residents and officials are worried about noise and the environment.

The neighbors around Diamond's Sports Bar and Grill in Ramsey don't mind the crack of softball bats echoing from the bar's softball fields, but many say they won't tolerate the sound of revving motocross engines and demolition derbies near their houses along the Mississippi River.

A proposal by Diamond's owner Gary Gruber to hold demolition derbies, motocross races, wakeboard competitions, rodeos and concerts on his property has neighbors and Anoka County officials asking the city to examine the environmental impact and noise before they make a decision.

"This is a quiet community," said Karen Brown, a 33-year Ramsey resident who lives next to Diamond's. "These are typically held in rural areas and now everyone's going to show up here so they don't have to drive out to the rural areas."

Positive comments about the proposal from council members at an Oct. 30 session also have residents wondering about the future of the Hwy. 10 corridor. Diamond's is across the highway from the Ramsey Town Center, a 322-acre development that officials want to be filled with small shops, restaurants and homes.

"It doesn't seem like Ramsey can decide if they want to be a part of the country or city," said Kathryn Richter, another Ramsey resident who opposes the bar's plan. "The philosophies they've come up with are contradictory to what they're considering at Diamond's."

Ramsey Mayor Thomas Gamec said the city is no longer a rural community and must carefully consider the types of land uses they want.

"I'd rather have people think of Ramsey as a destination for shopping and eating. I don't think that's what you want to be known for is all these activities," said Gamec, who said at a recent meeting he doesn't see a lot of support for motocross, demolition derbies and snowmobile racing.

Gruber's plan has encountered negative response not just from the neighbors. Even though he has said that he might go out of business without being able to add the events, the Planning Commission voted Nov. 1 to deny a conditional use permit for Diamond's.

The city has also received a letter from Anoka County's Director of Parks and Recreation John VonDeLinde who said the county is concerned the events could negatively affect the atmosphere of a 273-acre park adjacent to Diamond's.

"The county feels that it would be a significant negative impact of the enjoyment of the park," VonDeLinde said. "It's not just the noise of the event, it's also the P.A. system and the dust and dirt."

The county has plans to develop the park with picnic areas, trails and nature observation areas. In VonDeLinde's letter he told the city, "these uses would be inconsistent with the federal, state, and regional designation of the river corridor for passive use nature based recreation" and asked the city to deny the permit.

Council to consider study

The neighbors also have concerns about how motocross races and demolition derbies might affect the environment near the federally and state-protected Mississippi River. Brown said she often sees eagles, deer and swans in the area.

"Why do we have to be deprived of that because somebody can't make enough money in their business?" she said.

A group of residents submitted a petition earlier this month to the state's Environmental Quality Board asking the city to conduct an environmental study before they consider the proposal. This Tuesday, the City Council will decide if it wants to pursue a full environmental assessment worksheet, which the residents want but state law does not require for a project this size.

Gruber said he has taken steps to limit noise, including eliminating tractor pulls and snowmobile racing and only holding 13 events a year. He also wants the events to be more family-friendly to draw a bigger crowd.

"We feel all the events we do bring a lot of people into the city," he said. "And now our revenue isn't coming just from liquor, it's food, tickets and concessions."

While some residents said they don't want to see Gruber's business fail, they don't think his success should be at the detriment of the community. Tim Toso and his wife, Mary, moved to Ramsey this July and said they expect the city to maintain the atmosphere of the quiet neighborhood they decided to move to.

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