Patrick Trudgeon, AICPMy earlier mention of the meeting notice and my questions that Pat refers to were posted here, and the only two developments I know of that took advantage of the 2-1/2 acre option are Tiger Meadows, an actually built situation on Hwy 83 north of the Armstrong Kennels turnoff, east side of the road; and Greg Bauer's Trapper's Ridge in the gun club neighborhood which was platted and involved a right-of-way and tree cutting situation, if I recall correctly, but I do not know if any actual development changes on ground were made or whether it was a ghost plat to lock in favorable 2-1/2 acre rights.
Community Development Director
City of Ramsey
7550 Sunwood Dr. NW. (Note new address as of 10/30/06)
Ramsey, MN 55303
(763) 427-1410 [City Hall]
(763) 433-9843 [Direct]
(763) 427-5543 [Fax]
Thanks for copying me on your email to Amy Geisler regarding the proposed ordinance changes to the R-1 Rural Developing District. As Amy will be out of the office until the 27th, I wanted to acknowledge the receipt of your email. I will have Amy respond to your direct questions, but would like to give some background for you to have and share as you like.
As you may be aware, the development standards for the R-1 Rural Developing District have been a point of discussion since 2005. The Rural Developing District encompasses a large portion of the City and is located south and north of Trott Brook. (A graphic showing the boundaries of the Rural Developing District is located on our City website, here).
In February 2005 the City adopted a modified "cluster" subdivision ordinance. The reason I term it a modified cluster ordinance is that it is unlike other more traditional cluster ordinances found across the nation. Specifically, the Ramsey cluster ordinance did not require permanent preservation of open space and required development planning for the undeveloped areas of the development parcel. The Ramsey ordinance required new lots in the Rural Developing District in be clustered in smaller-sized lots (< 1 acre) and served by common septic systems. The remaining portions of the development land would remain undeveloped until such time municipal utilities, if ever, reached the development parcel.
When the City processed a couple of cluster subdivisions, it was clear that there was not agreement on whether the change was the best for the community. Concerns were raised by the general public, City Councilors, and Planning Commissioners regarding the ordinance. These concerns included lack of permanent open space, lot size and density and the functioning of the common septic systems.
On May 15, 2006, a moratorium on all new development in the Rural Developing District went into effect so that the City could look how development should occur in the Rural Developing District. The City Council has met several times since then to discuss what options were possible. The City Council could not come to a definite conclusion on what standards should govern the Rural Developing District. In the end, the Council decided that with the pending 2008 Comp Plan Update beginning later in 2007, that it would be best to receive large-scale community input on how the Rural Developing District should be regulated as well as looking at the broader context of the Rural Developing District as it related to the whole City. Given the fact that moratorium is set to expire on Feb. 15, 2007 and would allow for cluster subdivision in the Rural Development District, the City Council is thinking that the logical solution was to return to the 4-in-40, 10 acre minimum until such time the 2008 Comp Plan takes effect. You may recall that the Rural Developing District was governed by 4-in-40 from the early 90s to the beginning of 2002.
I know that you are a strong advocate for 2.5 acre lot sizes for portions of Ramsey. As you know, every development standard has pros and cons. Staff believes, and I am positive that the City Council would concur, that a full discussion of all possibilities (including 2.5 acre lot sizes) should be had as part of the 2008 Comprehensive Plan discussion. To make immediate changes to go to 2.5 acre lot sizes without knowing the community vision for Ramsey would be short-sighted and open for criticism. (We have been criticized in the past for making these types of decisions, so I would assume the same people who criticized us in the past would do the same if we rushed into 2.5 acres without knowledge of the 2008 Comp Plan).
Simply stated, 4-in-40 will provide development rights for those landowners who would like to exercise them until the 2008 Comp Plan is completed and the future of the Rural Developing District can be discussed as part of the overall community vision. There is nothing more to it than that.
As I know you plan on being in involved in 2008 Comp Plan, I don't need to stress to you the importance of that process and the significance of the document.
I would like to comment on your criticism on our notice given out to landowners in the Rural Developing District. I am sorry that you believe that we are trying to hide what we are doing. We are, in fact, using several avenues of communications to the public. We have met the statutory requirement of publishing the notice of public hearing at least 10 days prior to the hearing in our official newspaper, the Anoka Union. That is all we are required to do with this particular ordinance. But we did not stop there with the notice. We have sent notices to all property owners within the Rural Development District (several thousand) regarding the proposed changes. (This is what you apparently are referring to as the "notice"). We have put information on the City website's home page. We will put information in the upcoming Ramsey Resident received by every household. Although it will arrive at people's residences about the same time as the public hearing held by the Planning Commission, it will inform people of the changes being proposed and will allow them to contact the City Councilors if they so choose. The timing of the mailing is coincidental with the holidays and not purposeful. Since you have taken the time to read the notice and contact us, I am confident that others will.
Eric, thanks for your questions and Amy will respond to your questions once she is back in the office.
My recollection is that variance from a strict 2-1/2 acre requirement being applied might have been given in approving the Trapper's Ridge plat, but a check of the plat itself would be needed to postively confirm or disprove that impression. I recall attending one untelevised summer council work session where Pat Trudgeon accompanied Greg Bauer for discussions with counsel re Trapper's Ridge prior to the proposal going to the Planning Commission and before the cluster-and-ghost-plat requirements were imposed. For time frame, it was while Pattiann Kurak was on council, but I do not recall the exact date.
I have been told a few houses were done 2-1/2 acre on the west side of Ramsey Blvd, north of Alpine and south of the drainage ditch easement (i.e., south of the sewer trunk line serving the gun club), but that's hearsay. There may be others, which Pat Trudgeon and/or Amy Geisler can discuss at the Jan. 4 meeting as part of background briefing.
I do not know what path and greenway buffer rights were reserved by the city in the course of permitting the cornfield to be developed to urban density on the west side of Nowthen kitty-corner across from the Peterson home.
If 4-in-40 is instituted, vs. reverting to the 2-1/2 acre standard that applied before the cluster - ghost platting effort came about (i.e., the 2-1/2 acre situation that Tiger Meadows and Trapper's Ridge took advantage of while in effect), that might have an indirect effect on property owners when greenway easements and other positive preservation efforts are instituted.
Due process of law requires a fair price in negotiation or condemnation, whether for a right-of-way, a parcel, or some greenway easement; and if the reversion to a prior status quo is to 4-in-40 rather than to 2-1/2 acre lots, litigation could result if a landowner feels a less than optimal price is offered and that the situation was manipulated to cheapen easement rights prior to taking them. Pat Trudgeon is correct in saying people differ on what's best, but with the public data act going to all City documents even City email trails should be publicly reviewable (even without discovery applying in a litigation situation, where disclosure is quasi-public, depending upon what from discovery ends up offered as evidence in court files).