Coon Rapids makes second attempt to secure Met Council grants

The city of Coon Rapids has made a second attempt to secure Metropolitan Council grant funding for projects at the Riverdale Commuter Rail station and the Foley Boulevard Park and Ride.

The Foley project would be planning activities, while the Riverdale station project would involve construction to improve access to the existing Northstar Commuter Rail station from the residential neighborhood across the railroad tracks from the station.

The grant dollars, if approved, would come from the Metropolitan Council’s Livable Communities Act Transit Oriented Development (TOD) program, a new funding source to enhance TOD development in and around light rail, commuter rail and bus transit stations, according to Matt Brown, city community development specialist.

But the Metropolitan Council turned down the city’s first grant applications for the projects earlier this year.

The new applications have been revised based on Metropolitan Council comments on the first requests, Brown wrote in a report to the Coon Rapids City Council, with his recommendation for re-submittal.

The grant applications won’t be in competition with each other because they will be in two of the three categories the Metropolitan Council has set up for its Livable Communities Act Transit Oriented Development (TOD) grant program, according to Community Development Director Marc Nevinski.

“We could get one grant and not the other,” Nevinski said.

The city is seeking a $230,000 development grant for the Riverdale project and a $40,000 grant for the Foley Boulevard Park and Ride project in the pre-development category.

There was little council discussion about the Foley project, but considerable debate on the Riverdale Station access project because as part of the proposal, a single-family home would have to be taken.

That caused concern among councilmembers, notably Councilmember Denise Klint, who voted against the grant applications.

In her view, the city needs to talk to the neighborhood involved to get their comments before moving forward with the grant application.

Councilmember Scott Schulte, too, said it was “putting the cart before the horse” seeking the money before talking with residents affected.

But he did vote for the grant applications after being assured by Nevinski that the council was not under any obligation to spend the money if awarded and could return the funds to the Metropolitan Council if no project is approved.

Indeed, other councilmembers made it clear that if there was no willing seller of a single-family home that would be needed to make the project work, then the council would not go forward with a project.

“We are not going to use eminent domain,” said Councilmember Jerry Koch.

According to Nevinski, the $230,000 estimate to acquire property and construct a trail on the south side of the railroad tracks at Riverdale station was a “rough number.”

Some city dollars would be required to pay for the relocation of the family that would be displaced if the project proceeded, Nevinski said.

That would come from the city’s housing and redevelopment authority (HRA) account, he said.

The trail project from 121st Avenue near Wedgewood Drive to the station platform is needed because the neighborhood immediately south of Riverdale station does not have convenient access and, in fact, is cut off from the station by the railroad tracks and development, he said.

“Residents in the neighborhood must first go south to 119th, proceed east across the railroad tracks and then turn northwest to the station,” Nevinski said.

“In fact, it is one mile from the intersection of Wedgewood Drive and 119th to the Riverdale station.

“Such routing is not convenient for residents and does not promote multi-modal transportation.”

A trail south of the station would provide convenient access for 394 properties north of 119th and east of Round Lake Boulevard, Nevinski said.

“It will promote the use of transit, be supported by existing trails in Vineyard and Pheasant Ridge parks and will be an amenity that will add value to the neighborhood,” he said.

According to Brown, a 10-foot wide trail would be constructed so would a six-foot high chain link fence and a portion of the concrete wall at the station platform would be removed with construction of a culvert under a portion of the trail.

The single-family home that would be required to be removed for the project has not been identified, Brown wrote in his report to the council.

For the Foley Boulevard proposal, the city is seeking funding for land use planning, market analysis, pedestrian/bicycle infrastructure planning, future street planning and creating a land acquisition and development staging plan.

“At present…the area is generally an automobile-oriented environment with poor pedestrian connections, obsolete land uses and low density development,” Brown wrote in his report.

According to Brown, the city’s comprehensive plan identifies the area as a potential TOD site and major employment district and both the city and Anoka County have started land banking in the area.

“It is envisioned that the TOD area will be redeveloped as a transit supportive employment district with multi-modal connections to the neighboring Evergreen industrial area and Northtown Mall employment centers,” Brown said.

“The TOD project will also establish non-motorized connections to residential areas surrounding the TOD area, including major redevelopment sites for high-density residential development.”

If approved, the TOD grant would require a 20 percent city match or $10,000, which Brown again recommended by allocated from HRA funds.

According to Nevinski, the Foley grant application is for planning purposes only; there is no project.

Approval of the pre-development TOD grant would require the Foley TOD area planning to be completed in two years.

The Riverdale Station project would have to be done within three years in the event the grant is approved.

Peter Bodley is at [email protected]