Given an option between a residential development with approximately 47 single-family houses or a data center, the neighbors surrounding the old Ramsey City Hall had a clear preference.
During the April 18 open house, about 20 of the residents neighboring the 20.5-acre site, located at 15153 Nowthen Blvd., were very clear about what they wanted: a residential development. Not a data center.
Using the area for a data center “would clearly be inconsistent with the surrounding use,” said neighbor Leah Van Gory.
The former city hall complex is completely surrounded by homes and rezoning the property for a data center would be spot zoning, she said.
“A data center is very inappropriate for a residential neighborhood,” said resident Shelly Murphy, who lives four houses away from the property.
If the city used the property for a data center, property values would go down and there will be a potential for extra noise and traffic, said her husband Lonnie Murphy.
“No one wants to look at an industrial building outside their window,” Shelly Murphy said.
There is also the potential for pollution if the data center uses diesel back-up generators, she said.
The real noise issue will come from the large air conditioning units the data center would need to cool the building and the servers housed in the building, said resident Brady Murray.
Trees would not buffer the neighborhood for a long time as they will take 10 to 15 years to mature, he said.
“A residential development would be the most logical use for the site. It does not taken an expert in city planning to see it makes more sense to put houses there,” Murray said.
The city held the open house to get feedback from the residents surrounding the old city hall complex as a way to gauge interest in possible uses for the property before any development proposals were presented to the city, said Development Services Manager Tim Gladhill.
At this time, there is no proposal for either type of development, he said.
Connexus Energy has suggested the property is the best site in Anoka County for a data center, said Councilmember Chris Riley.
Data centers are sought after by the cities and “we are flattered that (Connexus is) coming to us” with the idea, he said.
When asked if he would want the data center in his back yard, Riley said he would be OK with it given the 150-foot setbacks and required berms.
The site meets a long list of requirements needed for a data center, including close proximity to a power substation and its distance from any rivers, Gladhill said.
The data center would also have a limited number of employees, about 30 to 80, said Patrick Brama, assistant to the city administrator.
There are other locations in the city where a data center could go, said resident Kent Cunningham.
The majority of the people at the open house, calling and sending the city emails are not in favor of the data center concept.
Most of the residents are in support of a residential development, said Brama.
The city collected 20 comment cards from the open house, which had about 35 to 40 people in attendance, including children.
There have been seven emails and five phone calls on the proposed use of the former city hall complex.
While the neighbors would prefer the 47-unit single-family house development, the data center would be more beneficial to the city, according to city officials.
If the city used the property for a data center, there would be a significant funding source for a new fire station to replace Fire Station 2, Brama said.
The plan is to move the station from its current location at the former city hall site to a 2.34-acre site at 5650 Alpine Drive that the city already owns, he said.
A residential development would not provide full funding for the new fire station, Brama said.
The residents also wanted to know what happened to the plans to build a school on the site, which was used to sell them on their homes, according to Jodell Seaman.
The Anoka-Hennepin School District has no plans to building a new school in the Ramsey area in the foreseeable future, Brama said.
The neighbors also suggested making the site into a park.
Crossing Nowthen Boulevard to the park area by Ramsey Elementary School is not something Van Gory considers as an option.
“Crossing Nowthen is a death sentence. Someone is going to get hurt,” she said.
Given the close proximity of the property to several existing parks, the city should be more focused on creating a safe crossing rather than a new park, Gladhill said.
The future use of the former city hall site is expected to be discussed by the full city council in mid-May, Brama said.
Tammy Sakry is at [email protected]