consultants are sandburs

Saturday, March 21, 2009

The Ramsey Town Center settlement is widely reported. We await analysis of what Met Council should do, given "livable community" myth-failure.

The hub of plannerspeak, the Met Council, has so far not had mainstream media connecting its name and myth-system with the tanked-out failure the City of Ramsey is presently mopping up. Too bad. Those folks surely took their bows up front and repeatedly, but less and less so, as the play played out.

That should change, if folks sincerely and wisely examine that governing body's past core premises, and the live-as-built-on-the-ground result(s), metro-wide, then project corpses will be seen to litter the landscape, each fathered by the young Mondale-et al. pack and their view of what we should want, vs. what we actually might prefer (as if actual citizenry preferences are something that is somehow irrelevant or immaterial to what they as planners think and do and want to see happen).

Reality meets Godzilla, is my term for what's now happening.

Can Godzilla prevail? Duck responsibility for its havoc? Time will tell.

At any rate, the Sakry report in the Anoka County Union is also here, at another ABC newspaper outlet.

PiPress weighs in online, here, as source for this excerpt:

Ramsey buys half of 322 acres for stalled development Town Center
Officials still want mix of housing, retail, parks
By Brady Gervais -
Posted: 03/19/2009 12:01:00 AM CDT

The city council agreed Tuesday to purchase nearly 150 acres and settle its lawsuit with Minnwest Corp., of Minnetonka, which has held the $35 million mortgage on a large chunk of the project. Acquiring the vacant land allows the city to work with private developers to move the project forward, said Ramsey Administrator Kurt Ulrich.

Minnwest had been scheduling and postponing foreclosure sales for a year and a half.

Town Center — with its plan for 2,800 homes, shops, civic buildings and parks — was supposed to be a model of suburban downtown planning. But the project has suffered delays, debt, the death of a developer and questionable financing.

"Regardless of the past history of this project, our citizens expect us to change its course and position this important section of our city for a successful future," said Mayor Bob Ramsey, who was elected in November.

Bob can say that; but I don't expect that at all.

I expect city government having to wait, for quite some time and to be testing the waters repeatedly to see if any interest exists in taking a chance and buying from Ramsey with profit-making intent.

I expect that course, patient and prudent waiting, to continue - without any change in course unless the city wastes more cash trying to induce something the market will not yield - trying to push on a string with a mountain of taxpayer cash doing the pushing.

I don't expect that, or at least I hope against it. The Gervis-PiPress report continues:

Closing on the deal is scheduled for June 26, [City Administrator Kurt Ulrich] said.

"We're making the best of a bad situation," said Russ Bushman, Minnwest's chief credit officer.

The city plans to pay for the land by using back taxes owed by the lenders, proceeds from a letter of credit and internal funds.

What, no smoke and mirrors? How quaint, for that locale and project history. PiPress concludes:

"There's obviously risk here — there's no doubt. But the reality is it was a good purchase price," [Mayor] Ramsey said. "This will at least allow development to happen."

Various parties have shown interest in some of the parcels, he said. The city is looking for a firm to lead development.

Officials still want Town Center to be a mix of housing, retail, office and park space.

Taking things out of total limbo will "at least allow development to happen," as the new mayor observes. Expecting anything quick and decisive is a separate thing than allowing an improbable chance of it.

The updated Strib report by Jim Adams, here, mentions:

The city will pay $6.75 million for the remaining 148 acres of undeveloped land to a bank group that had foreclosed on a $35 million loan.

"At this price it was a good deal for the city," Mayor Bob Ramsey said. "With the city's action, we ensure there is opportunity for private entities to develop our Town Center and protect the city's previous investments.''

The City Council approved the deal Tuesday night by a 6-0 vote, with one member absent, the mayor said. The council also sits as the Housing and Redevelopment Authority that will own and help develop the land.

The agreement settles disputes with MinnWest Bank Central and about 20 banks it represents. The banks had sued to loosen city development restrictions on the land.

"I am pleased,'' said Russ Bushman, MinnWest's chief credit officer. "It's something that we have worked on with the city for the past five months. We are glad to see it come to a conclusion."

The banks will buy the property at a sheriff's foreclosure sale Friday and then sell it to the city, probably at a June closing, Bushman said. He said the banks will have to write off the balance of the foreclosed loan or seek recovery, possibly from the estate of developer Bruce Nedegaard.

The banks foreclosed after Nedegaard filed for bankruptcy in 2006 and died shortly afterward. A few developers have talked to the city since the project stalled, City Administrator Kurt Ulrich said. Once the city has clear title to the land, developers will be sought to buy part or all of the site and get it back on tax rolls, he said.

"It's an investment in the community," Ulrich said. "The city believes the project can be successful and establish an identity for Ramsey for many years to come."

There's more in the Strib item, so read it, again, this link.

That's all reporting I have seen, aside from the City's website. Any reader knowing of other links is asked to leave a comment giving link info.

Intelligent Design?

Yes, that term has usage in another context. However, we live in interesting times, and it appears that Anoka County civic architecture looks to be child's play.

The previously posted update has been removed.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Compliments to Ramsey government for its promptly making public data easily accessible.

First City Administrator Kurt Ulrich had posted on the city website a concise update memo about the Town Center litigation resolution process, available as a pdf document, here.

Secondly, and I hope the link works, the full agenda items for the 17 March 2009 special meeting on the situation can be accessed via the City's Laserfiche document access, from here.

I have not looked over the full agenda items. I shall. In advance of doing so, I have to compliment the effort the City has made to appear fully open in reporting what's happening. It is a positive thing, and regardless of any criticisms I have in other ways, or questions I might raise, I am happy with how the post-settlement disclosure has been promptly handled. And I am happy with how the Ulrich memo gives contact info for him, available other places on the website, but as part of the message he releases the info again as an encouragement to anyone wanting to know more to be able to easily reach him. Doing that is a good step.

NOTE: The Laserfiche link opens to the browsing homepage for the service. The navigation from there is via "City Council" then "Full Agendas" then "2000's" and finally for the most recent full agenda listing [p.2] for 2009. Because of the scripting, etc., that the site uses, I cannot post any more direct address-link, so I have laid out the browsing path in case any reader is unfamiliar with document searching on the site. It's hard to find exact things there, but once found, and a proper page range is identified, the image sequence of interest can be converted online to a downloadable Adobe pdf format document, for easier study. Also, for searching keywords, a text version can be generated and saved. I may post more later about full agenda detail, once I have accessed and read it.

This is not a bailout with people’s taxes, Look said. According to Look, the city plans to sell the property at the purchase price or better.

Or that headline language is at least Tammy Sakry reporting what Council member Matt Look allegedly said.

Good luck on selling the approx. 150 acres, and getting seven million. Hell's still warm with no signs of freezing over.

Here is a clip of the Sakry - Anoka County Union report, giving the headline language in context:

Buying the land was the last option for the city, said Councilmember Matt Look.

The purchase will protect the community’s vision for the project, safeguard the parks in RTC and allow the city to recover back taxes and prevent the property from going into tax forfeiture, he said.

According to Look, the city plans to sell the property at the purchase price or better.

This is not a bailout with people’s taxes, Look said.

So, if not a "bailout," what is it? I would say a mop-up. Of a mess this council inherits from earlier flawed municipal decision making involving some flawed people.

I wonder still what the City's position would have been foreclosing the tax liens and assessment rights it held against the property. I would hope the Council and administration publicly explains in sensible words and sufficient detail why that option was considered less promising than buying the dead horse.


See the following Crabgrass post for a more detailed excerpt of the Sakry item, or read even more about things in the original article the AC Union has posted online [the link being here].

If they will sit on it as public land unless and until a developer-architect team steps forward with the loot, then it probably is not too bad a move - in a situation where past greed and stupidity dating at least to when Pattiann Kurak was on council and running on her forecast of "nice shops and restaurants" (here, also, and note the distinctly negative response to a "community center"). Sinking more good money into a rathole would not be as wise as sitting, watching, waiting and seeking RFPs [requests for proposals] where the gamblers can look, line up, and offer to play the game. Subsidizing anyone of them, or subsidizing the Deal holdings, or further yielding to PACT school while they disdain favoring Ramsey's children for admission, would be unwise steps a council could take, an administrator could consider, and a planner could love. Let us expect the best, and watch for what ensues.


I cannot say why this closing image comes to mind, but in proceeding, all in Ramsey City Government are encouraged to perhaps guess about it and be wary that it never becomes applicable. And, was it ever applicable in the past, under the old mayor and a prior city administrator, or with the Town Center Task Force doing its thing, or with landed interests owning a cornfield and running for and sitting on council?

Thursday, March 19, 2009

The start of salvage operations for the Ramsey Town Center.

Tammy Sakry, in an online Anoka County Union report, describes the RTC work-out settlement with the mortgage holders left "holding the bag" after both the Nedegaard bankruptcy and the housing market adjustment:

At a special meeting March 17, the Ramsey City Council unanimously approved a settlement with Minnwest Bank Central that will end the protracted litigation over RTC.

Councilmember David Jeffrey was absent.

The council authorized entering into a $6.75 million purchase agreement for the 150 acres on which the bank holds a $35 million mortgage, which now exceeds $36 million with penalties and interest.

The 150 acres is the remaining land in the 322-acre RTC project that remains to be sold or developed.

The $6.75 million will come from an internal fund transfer from the city’s water utility fund, a $1.5 million letter of credit put on the project by deceased RTC developer Bruce Nedegaard and $559,352 in city back taxes for the property Minnwest must pay as part of the settlement.

The purchase will free the property from foreclosure, protect the city’s infrastructure investments and position the project for additional private development, said City Administrator Kurt Ulrich.

The city will be able to re-shape the future development of the town center in a manner that is market driven and meets community needs, said Ulrich.

“In its current situation, this property doesn’t benefit the city or its residents and in fact, it puts our community at risk,” he said.

“Buying this property will allow us to put our community’s vision back on the map, move forward in a way that best meets our needs and build a better future for the entire region.”

The city will be buying 61.3 acres zoned for commercial development, 51.8 acres of residential, 30.9 acres of park land and 4.2 acres of drainage easement and roads.

Although some of the land will need improvements before it’s sold, a lot of the property is ready for the project to move forward, Ulrich said.

As part of the purchase agreement, Minnwest Central Bank will be required to pay the $1.35 million owed in back taxes, interest and penalties to the city, county and school district and provide the city with signed sale consent forms from the 25 banks that have purchased interest in the mortgage.

The sheriff’s sale on the property is scheduled for March 20 and the closing on June 26.

The closing needs to be done by June 30 to allow the city to file for tax exempt status on the property. If is not closed before then, the purchase price will be reduced to reflect the taxes the city will have to pay for 2009.

Buying the land was the last option for the city, said Councilmember Matt Look.

The purchase will protect the community’s vision for the project, safeguard the parks in RTC and allow the city to recover back taxes and prevent the property from going into tax forfeiture, he said.

According to Look, the city plans to sell the property at the purchase price or better.

This is not a bailout with people’s taxes, Look said.

That is merely the start of the report, it is well detailed, so again, here is the link.

In a perverse way, I kind of favored perpetually leaving it exactly "as is" as an ongoing monument to the stupidity and hubris and BS of the Met Council, planners, and others involved in the ill fated project's inception - those having active roles in both planning and implementation, but especially those doing the propagandizing, the Town Center Task Force folks, Met Council muck-a-mucks, and the John Feges/Bruce Nedegaard selectees; awards and almost never ending egregious self-congratulatory back patting (tent show speeches and all), that Ben Dover and all of the rest of us had to endure, ad neasueum, earlier in time.

Carping over that now is simply recognizing pay-back time, when it so clearly presents itself and those vocal earlier are now strangely silent.

However: Practically, this work-out step removes a gridlock situation and allows flexibility in the city's mop-up operation. Spending concerns were not overlooked or waved away dismissively, although the banks might have been pushed into something even less costly if more time had passed in stalemate.

That's a speculation over a policy decision and unproductive. We go with what the new council thought best and see what happens in the next few years.

Removing the stalemate and then waiting is not a bad result.

I have yet to review the special meeting full agenda online to see all detail of the settlement, but full detail and disclosure should be there on the City website - even if without a special City website homepage heads-up link to it.

Bob Ramsey's comment to an earlier Crabgrass post indicated that there was no shell-game being played, and with the special meeting approval now in place it is all public data, in all that means regarding citizen access rights.

It no longer is a matter of relative positioning over pending litigation, which is one of the public data access exclusionary provisions.

We can all have a look.

With current nationwide "stimulus" planning and budgeting not likely to yield a short-term housing and economic recovery, (absent more pump-priming than presently being allocated), more stimulus spending will have to follow. This sets the failed thing up for some federal subsidy money - federal money "socialism" and all that --- the thing that "property rights" folks and "tax league" people will endlessly rail about with much rhetoric, but with both hands extended to assure getting a share.

It is similar to Michele Bachmann and her apparent disingenuity over "pork spending."

In theory she's staked a position, in actuality she is wanting stuff for her district.

Go figure.

In a Bill Clintonesque way, I suppose it simply depends on how you define "honest" in a public spending context.

Practical adjustment to realities should usually trump inflexibility over ideological stances, with the latter being the parade-item around election time regardless of what follows when true decision-making compromise becomes necessary.

We wait. We see.

Looking at raw numbers, $6.75 million for a total 148.2 acres works out to $45,547 per acre; and that stuff is probably not really worth that. So if it is later sold by the city for less, subject to some kind of development plan and committment, letters of credit and all, it would not be a bad deal. On the other hand, this kind of accounting sets a benchmark - and a sale for substantially less would require much scrutiny to assure no sweetheart deal was being played. Owning it, as tax free municipal holding generates zero tax income for Ramsey but does allow imposing requirements in any sale to others wanting to risk development. And with the relative areas zoned/designated/planned as the Sakry report describes, any sale to a developer with different acreage allotments again would have to be scrutinized and sanitized. There are constraints, not hard bounds, but constraints.

When I get to studying the detailed settlement papers, the question is how differently would the City have come out, if buying it at their own tax foreclosure sale, for lack of any other willing and able buyer. My guess is the same dollars and cents situation would have applied, while this settlement might allow the banks to show less of a capital loss taken on their books, presuming thin bank capitalization is a concern on that side of the litigation. But that's only an ill-informed guess.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The City of Ramsey boasts the best of a mix between urban and rural character, ...

This link.

The compact urban form, and green armature seems the heart of our authentic Town Center. No wonder there's been somebody's giving an award of merit.

As always, click an image to read the print.

Image source, here.

There's been somebody who gave an award of merit, indeed.

So --- Love that Ramsey Station?

Two questions, first, is there any doubt why planners are deficient, second, what "green armature" can you identify besides the fourteen million green dollars the Kuraks took out up front while Pattiann Kurak sat on Council? It seems the axis on which all the rest of it turned. The actual armature within the motor.

It goes to show.

Bless our civic leaders past and present. Give them the Green Armature Award for starting the 21st century, this way.

Actually, I am willing to cut some slack to most on the present council. They are faced with mop up. The earlier ones earned the Green Armature Award.

green image, from here.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Ben Dover awaits RTC news. The special meeting is TODAY????

[click the image to enlarge it, as with the screenshot below]

As Crabgrass noted, Strib reporeted:

Ramsey officials are close to a settlement that could reopen the bankrupt Ramsey Town Center to development.

The City Council discussed the matter in closed session last week and had hoped to announce an agreement with Minnwest Bank Central, holder of the property mortgage. But some last-minute issues came up, said City Administrator Kurt Ulrich.

"We hope to clear up the issues by Tuesday," when a special council meeting has been scheduled, Ulrich said. "We are trying to resolve the matter and reach a global settlement to address the pending lawsuits."

Let's see. That would be a special meeting, today, by normal reckoning, from the Sat. 14 Mar. Strib item.

It's our RAMSEY, right. Here's a city website screenshot, where we can see the featured attention it gives, as a matter of citizen notice, to such a pending thing as public announcement of the as-yet secret RTC settlement possibility/actuality.

No chance for Ben to have a real prior say, only to pay; and then only after it's reported to Ben as a done deal.

Interesting. Strib gets notice. Citizens accessing the Ramsey website get --- what? To join Ben?

I post about it twice. And, it's not my job giving civic notice---

Oh, well.

More of the same?

I guess that in the grand scheme of things, in Ramsey, these are more important "In the News":

04/24/09 & 04/25/09 American Girl Spring Tea at History Center

04/19/09 & 05/17/09 City of Ramsey Offers Pet Clinics

03/21/09 11th Annual North Suburban Home Improvement Show

In fairness, check the new mayor's comment, it deserves attention.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Jesse brought home as an assignment from school "write an essay on What it Means to be an American."

The essay is short, and I will not say which page or pages present it. Read the entire thing. Pynchon is fun to read, if you approach him with the proper frame of mind.

When you break the law - be careful how carefully and craftily you use a dummy.

Strib online features an AP feed from Bellevue, Washington, a suburban part of the the greater Seattle metro area:

A commuter who put a homemade dummy in the passenger seat to sneak into the car pool lane was caught Wednesday near Seattle. But it wasn't because a cop realized the passenger was fake. Instead, the State Patrol trooper noticed the dangling belt buckle on the passenger side and suspected a seat belt violation.

Patrol spokeswoman Christina Martin told The Herald of Everett that the driver acknowledged trying to beat traffic by using the HOV lane.

He created his passenger by draping a rain jacket over plastic piping, topping it off with a Halloween mask of Gandalf, the "Lord of the Rings" wizard, a beard and a baseball cap.

As a totally unrelated thing, there are these images from here and here:

The bankrupt project may be back on a development track ...

Not to mention moral bankruptcy --

Strib, online, Sat. 14 Mar, Jim Adams reports:

Ramsey officials are close to a settlement that could reopen the bankrupt Ramsey Town Center to development.

The City Council discussed the matter in closed session last week and had hoped to announce an agreement with Minnwest Bank Central, holder of the property mortgage. But some last-minute issues came up, said City Administrator Kurt Ulrich.

"We hope to clear up the issues by Tuesday," when a special council meeting has been scheduled, Ulrich said. "We are trying to resolve the matter and reach a global settlement to address the pending lawsuits."

Asked if the settlement meant the city would buy the undeveloped part of Town Center, Ulrich said he couldn't comment. He said remaining issues dealt with finances and the legal process of executing the settlement.

"There are complicated issues," he said. "We are approaching it cautiously to make sure all details in the agreement are worked out before the council considers taking action. ... It is a high priority for the city to get this wrapped up."

Russ Bushman, Minnwest's chief credit officer, said he had no comment. But Minnwest postponed for a week a sheriff's foreclosure sale of the site; the sale is now set for Friday.

Met Council "favors" done for Ramsey: All details "worked out." Who do you expect will be presumed wanting to pay how much, for "worked out" details? The Metropolitan Council has been manipulating this entire livable transit-oriented exercise into deep and pungent failure, and guinea pigs should be fed if used for experiments; unless you're a Mengele, experimenting.

The Met Council has had its share of experimenting in Ramsey, as well as more than a share of facilitation from the judgment and greed dimensions of city politics.

Now this.

We - Ramsey, Met Council's guinea pig - await with anticipation. Not hope, perhaps (but unlikely) there will be cause for hope, but anticipation, there's plenty of that, the screenshots are from here and here (click an image to enlarge and read - on the one with pictures, the text changes, the images endure):

You run the experiments, Peter Bell, et al., hyphenated names, et al., then that means you feed the poor critter - so please don't ask the people of Ramsey to pay the feed bill. You falsify up front about shops and restaurants and do nothing really beyond a Coborn's store and a dense housing cramdown, you "help" the "city" attain a parking ramp in the middle of nowhere, that stuff, bless you all.