Mike Erdmann thinks the school district’s plan to build a 65,000-square-foot transportation hub to store and dispatch 85 buses is a good idea.
He just doesn’t want it located a few feet from his Apple Valley backyard.
Erdmann and a group of neighbors are protesting the Rosemount-Apple Valley-Eagan district’s proposal to create a second transportation hub, which district officials say could save more than $500,000 a year in transportation costs.
Residents near the intersection of Johnny Cake Ridge Road and Upper 147th Street are worried about traffic, noise and aesthetics, which could lead to their property values decreasing, Erdmann said. He presented a petition with 108 signatures at a July school board meeting.
“There’s a lot of us who support the district taking these financial saving measures,” Erdmann said. “We just question the wisdom of placing it next to a quiet residential zone.”
But the district is moving forward with the project, pending approval by the city in August, said Jeff Solomon, the district’s finance and operations director.
Rob Duchscher, school board member, said the board was caught a bit off guard by the opposition.
“We thought that we had really done a nice job as far as communicating with the neighborhood, giving them the opportunity to express their concern,” he said.
Both district and city officials have been trying to listen to residents, Erdmann said.
Plans call for a fence 12 feet high with sound-reduction properties to separate the homeowners’ property from the 10½-acre site, zoned for industrial development.
“We’re kind of wondering why they picked this [lot],” said George Geiger, who lives in nearby townhouses.
Erdmann believes the fence won’t be enough.
“I think the goal should be to move this to another site,” he said. “I worry that those operational things are too much inherent to the facility — too much noise, too much busyness.”
Plans for the hub have been discussed for several years. The district looked at 14 sites, but decided on this one because of land cost and zoning, Solomon said.
The hub, slated to open in the fall of 2016, will provide more bus storage, allowing the district to buy enough buses to cover all its routes. The district currently relies on contracted buses to cover about 30 of its 240 routes. Those contracts would end, saving the district money, Solomon said.
The new $10 million hub, which will also include office space, a maintenance facility, stalls for washing buses and a fueling station, would be closer to many bus routes than the existing Rosemount bus garage. That means less gas, mileage and time, which saves money, said Solomon.
The district sent letters in March to 200 neighbors, informing them of the plan and several community meetings, Solomon said.
“This is late in the process for us,” he added. “But you know, the reality is, input is input, whether it is early or late.”
Duchscher said he was concerned upon hearing that residents consulted several Realtors who said nearby homes could lose property value. He said he is willing to consider all options, including trying to make the current site work or building somewhere else.
But if another spot were considered, the district would have to find a way to recoup the $120,000 in taxpayer money already invested in this site, he said.
The next steps are in the city’s hands, Duchscher and Solomon said.
“We’ll try to work something to make sure the neighborhood’s happy and the city’s happy,” Duchscher said.