Ramsey County filed a lawsuit on Friday seeking to end its power-sharing agreement with the city of Arden Hills, which has guided the redevelopment of the former Twin Cities Army Ammunition Plant site.
“After years of negotiations, it has become evident that Arden Hills does not share the same vision as the County for the development,” the suit filed in Ramsey County District Court said.
County officials allege that the city has breached the joint powers agreement by failing to engage in good-faith efforts to resolve disputes over financing, density and affordable housing. They are asking a judge to declare the agreement null and void.
“It is regrettable that we find ourselves at this juncture, but we believe this is now the best path forward for the future of our community, our region and the taxpaying residents and businesses of Ramsey County,” said Ramsey County Board Chairman Jim McDonough.
Arden Hills city leaders have said it is the county that has stopped communicating with them.
“They never want to come to the table unless they can shove it down the city’s throat,” Arden Hills City Council Member Brenda Holden said earlier this year.
Arden Hills and Ramsey County entered into a joint powers agreement in 2012 to guide redevelopment of the 427-acre shuttered ammunition site. Ramsey County purchased the land from the federal government in 2013, and the two entities have worked together to develop it, renaming it Rice Creek Commons.
City leaders envisioned a spacious suburban community that mirrored the surrounding area, while county leaders pushed for a higher-density design with more affordable options.
The preliminary plan approved by both city and county in 2016 called for a mix of offices, businesses and 1,460 housing units with 10% of them affordable.
But county officials, confronted with a ballooning regional housing shortage, now want to build more homes, possibly as many as 2,500.
Arden Hills leaders, fearful that the project could swamp the city financially, want to stick with the 2016 plan.
Rice Creek Commons, which covers about the same area as downtown St. Paul, is considered the largest shovel-ready tract of land in Ramsey County.
The county has already spent more than $40 million on the project.