A fight over nearly $6 million in sewer connection fees may delay or derail plans to redevelop the site of the former Twin Cities Army Ammunition Plant.
Before a standing-room-only crowd Tuesday night, Arden Hills City Council members dug in on their demand that the city get paid $5.8 million in sewer connection fees for the project.
The 427-acre site is owned by Ramsey County, which tore down the plant's abandoned buildings and cleaned soil and groundwater contamination. The county has spent more than $40 million on the site and plans to spend another $50 million or so to prep it for development.
The county plans to sell the land in five phases to developer Alatus LLC, which would build a village from scratch that includes 1,460 homes and apartments, supports at least 4,000 jobs and generates about $8.6 million in property taxes a year.
Several contract issues — including a timeline for development, the amount of affordable housing and the final purchase price for the land — still need to be ironed out among the county, city and developer.
But the main issue holding up a deal is how much the city can get for sewer connections. Because the site has been developed, the Metropolitan Council won't charge the developer $5.8 million in one-time sewer fees, saying the property already had generated enough credits from when it was owned by the U.S. Army. But city officials want to charge the fees anyway, saying it owns the credits on the site.
"These credits are a city asset," Arden Hills Mayor David Grant said. "By removing them, it will reduce the cost to buy the land for the developer, which will allow the county to charge a better price. So the county is essentially taking this asset from the city and using it for the county."
Ramsey County officials argue the credits don't belong to the city but instead are tied directly to the site. Louis Jambois, the county's lead negotiator on the project, said Alatus has made it clear the deal won't go forward if it must pay $5.8 million in fees.
"It's a big deal," he said. "Projects can rise and fall ... on that amount of money."
Officials said the county will continue negotiating with the city and developer before a proposed contract is brought forward in October.