Rather than hold onto 4.38 acres that was only being used for stormwater drainage, the city of Ramsey will sell the land to a housing developer for $5,000.
This land on the northwest corner of Bunker Lake Boulevard and Zeolite Street was part of the 119.26 acres the city of Ramsey bought for $6.8 million in 2009 when the Ramsey City Council decided to take charge of the stalled Ramsey Town Center development that was eventually re-branded as The COR.
In 2012, Trilogy Homes offered to buy the property one lot at a time for what would have eventually amounted to $455,000. However, the city would have needed to spend about $330,000 for soil replacement, site grading, installing sewer and water lines, completing sidewalks and putting in stormwater ponding.
The city decided it was not worth investing in this small triangular-shape property and canceled the purchase agreement, according to Patrick Brama, assistant to the city administrator.
Purmort Homes is now proposing a project similar to what was proposed in 2012, which is to build 13 single family homes.
Brama said there are already parks near this property, so that would not have been a feasible alternative. Although this property could have remained as a stormwater drainage area for new homes that sprouted up to the north and east, selling the property means additional property taxes will be collected and there will be more “butts in seats” to shop and dine at existing and future businesses, Brama said.
Council Member Chris Riley said the city is “essentially giving the land away” because $5,000 is such a low amount for 4.38 acres and the city through its real estate broker, CBRE, had listed the property for approximately $35,000.
But now Purmort Homes will face all the costs of developing the property rather than the city. City Administrator Kurt Ulrich told the council that Purmort Homes estimated it will need to spend $37,000 on each building pad, which would amount to $481,000.
“This exemplifies the fact that the city should not be a developer,” Riley said. “When I joined the council (in 2013) we had inherited this project. A decision I was faced with was do we want to lose a little bit of money or a lot of money on this project.”
Riley piggybacked on Brama’s “butts in seat” comment that he would rather see more residential development than vacant land.
The only thing the city has to pay is $150,000 to create a new regional stormwater treatment pond on the opposite side of Bunker Lake Boulevard now that this 4.38 acres can no longer hold the stormwater. Brama said Purmort Homes will be paying a higher stormwater fee because of the necessity of moving the stormwater elsewhere.
The Ramsey Economic Development Authority is supportive of this move, former EDA member and current Council Member Kristine Williams pointed out.
“They’re eager to see more houses in The COR. The EDA is aware of the history of this parcel and the challenges of marketing this parcel,” Williams said. “From my perspective, it’s a reasonable offer.”
The only dissenting vote at the April 12 meeting came from Council Member Mark Kuzma.
“I’m not in favor of selling it at this price,” Kuzma said. “It sets a bad example. I think if we have to sit on 4 four acres we sit on 4 acres.”
Mayor Sarah Strommen said given the challenges of marketing this site because of its odd triangle shape and that a lot of soils need to be replaced, she does not think this case sets any precedence for the city.