ST. PAUL, Minnesota -- For years and years, Ramsey County Commissioners have been talking about what to do with the old Ammunition Plan in Arden Hills. At one time it was the proposed new home of the Minnesota Vikings, but until Tuesday, it was just 427 vacant acres in the middle of the north metro.
"It's an ideal site," is how Tony Bennett still describes it. Bennett was one of five commissioners who voted to approve a plan pumping $30 million into taking the site over and cleaning it up. "If it produces tax money, every citizen in Ramsey County benefits because the more money that's coming in, the less that each person has to put in," the outgoing commissioner said.
$21.5 million of the money will come from bonding. The hope is to make the site attractive for residential, retail, and manufacturing developers. "Our intention is to find a developer or builder to buy the site and then recoup the money," Bennett explained.
"We don't have any guarantees," County Commissioner Victoria Reinhardt warned. She was one of two commissioners who voted against the measure, saying in part, they should wait to see if the state will contribute to some of the costs. She's also worried the site will be clean and remain empty.
"That's the risk is that we're going to get it cleaned-up, which will be great, but that we won't be able to turn it around or we won't be able to get the state investment in the infrastructure to allow us to turn it around," Reinhardt told KARE 11. She says Ramsey County taxpayers shouldn't shoulder the load.
Almost everyone does agree that something needs to happen with the massive site and that it needs to be cleaned and developed. The disagreement is getting there. Bennett says the county won't have a hard time finding people to develop the land because it sits between three of the metro's busiest interstates. "Name me another site that's got that much access. That's the gateway to the north," he concluded.
Bennett and other commissioners will join some state lawmakers at the plant on Wednesday to tour the area. Both Bennett and Reinhardt hope state lawmakers will approve millions of dollars to help with both the clean-up and infrastructure costs in and around the site.
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