The St. Paul Planning Commission held a public hearing on January 25, 2019 regarding the developer’s proposed amendments to the Ford Site Masterplan. Our Executive Director attended and gave testimony.
Here is the link to the front-page story in the February 11, 2019 print edition of the Star Tribune: http://www.startribune.com/ryan-cos-wins-over-neighbors-with-scaled-back-plan-for-ford-site/505645172/
Our full comments are as follows:
Friends of the Parks and Trails of St. Paul and Ramsey County was established in 1985 when a development proposal was put forth for Crosby Farm Regional Park. For 34 years, our non-profit organization has been working to advance environmental stewardship while recognizing we live within an urban community.
One of our board members was appointed to the Task Force at the beginning of the Ford Site Masterplan process. Since then, we have participated in public meetings, given oral and written comments, and engaged with neighbors, staff, and elected officials. In short, we have been actively engaged in the process for over a decade.
Similarly, we have been active participants in the Mississippi River Corridor Critical Area (MRCCA) process since it was first designated by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources decades ago. One of our board members, United States Senator David Durenberger, together with Congressman Bruce Vento, introduced the legislation in Congress making the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area a National Park.
For these reasons, our vision, our mission and our history, we applaud the Ryan Companies for their proposal to lower the building height in Lot 11 from an F2 Residential Mixed Low District zoning designation to F1 River Residential District. This would also preserve the deep setbacks along Mississippi River Boulevard (MRB). In our earlier comments, we made mention of this being in the MRCCA and within a National Park and we are grateful they took that into consideration.
As pointed out by staff at the Planning Commission meeting on February 24, 2017, any building not built to MRCCA regulations would be a non-conforming structure. During the MRCCA revision process, non-conforming structures were one of the largest concerns expressed by the city of St. Paul.
As stated in the executive summary of Roadmap to Sustainability, Saint Paul Ford Site, May 2, 2011, “This site offers an unparalleled opportunity in the Twin Cities to redevelop a large piece of land in the heart of a vibrant and successful neighborhood and adjacent to the Mississippi River and to do so in a way that respects the history and context of the neighborhood, while designing a thriving community that significantly lowers its impact on the environment”.
We believe changing the zoning designation to F1 for Lot 11 helps the city better achieve that stated goal. We also agree with Ryan Companies that it, “…meets the vision that the City set forth in keeping the lower height and lower density uses along the western edge of the site, and will improve the continuity along MRB.” Additionally, it is adjacent to Gateway Park.
We also applaud Ryan Companies for finding a way to retain two of the current three recreational fields. While the City of St. Paul stated for ten years that was one of their priorities, somehow in the end, they were not in the Masterplan. We thank Ryan Companies for their tenacity and vision in preserving this very important component of our community.
In order to save the fields, it makes sense that a connection could not be made between Saunders Avenue and Cleveland Avenue and therefore, we support that roadway adjustment. We also appreciate their attention to detail in widening landscaping between curbs and sidewalks, “…in order to provide a healthy space for tree and other plantings in the boulevards.”
We applaud Ryan Companies for writing, “We plan to meet or exceed the amount of open space that was in the original Public Realm plan.” As developers they know, as we do, that green space adds economic value as well as increased environmental and public health benefits.
In conclusion, we speak in support of these proposed changes by Ryan Companies and we hope they will be accepted revisions in the plan.