Saving Parkview requires a community plan
by Mike Maguire
Special to Sun Thisweek
Some in our community implore the Eagan City Council to just “vote no” in hopes that it will “save Parkview” as a golf course. Here is why that approach is both unproductive and misguided.
Whether one believes the course owners’ contention that golf at Parkview is no longer viable, they have a right to seek a change in land use for housing.
Want to save Parkview to preserve the landscape and golfing for youth and seniors? Instead of losing precious time focusing on a “vote no” effort, Parkview advocates should develop a plan for golf that takes the land use change question completely off the table. It must be a viable plan that won’t come at the expense of Eagan taxpayers and won’t be reversed in the courts.
A genuine plan to save Parkview would immediately seek credible buyers with a realistic business plan that could convince the current owners that someone else could make a go of Parkview. The City Council has made clear it does not believe taxpayer dollars can or should be used to buy the golf course or sustain it.
Some ask why the city doesn’t solicit for new owners. Legal counsel advises that because Eagan has an application before it from a developer, the city would be vulnerable to an “interference of contract” claim from the developer and a claim from the owners for interfering with their property rights. However, the developer specifically stated publicly that he would be open to ideas from the public about how to save Parkview. Thus, any realistic plan to save Parkview must be initiated by advocates within the community.
Otherwise the only plan on the council’s table is for a housing development. So, truth be told, “vote no” is no plan for actually saving Parkview.
Why “vote no” is not a plan
Some want to reduce the Parkview issue to a simple proposition: golf or housing? If only it were that simple.
Despite multiple investments, Parkview owners insist they continue to lose money. Can a city force an owner to keep losing money? That question was at the root of the decade-long Carriage Hills saga, when the Eagan City Council did ‘vote no.” Ultimately, the city was able to settle that lawsuit before that issue was decided; and the public voted down buying the course by a 53-47 percent margin.
However, the Minnesota Supreme Court did set standards for determining when a city would exceed its legitimate authority in trying to preserve green space. Effectively the court said it would regard as overreach by government if a city’s land-use and zoning authority were used to force landowners to continue providing a public benefit (i.e. golf).
One reason for council members’ votes, mine in particular, was the belief that a “no” vote was a potentially losing proposition in the courts. That same Supreme Court ruling made it clear that forcing a private owner to retain a non-viable land use could constitute a “regulatory taking.” The taxpayers of Eagan likely would be liable for damages and “just compensation.”
Even assuming the city could prevail in court doesn’t save Parkview for golf. Under the current zoning the owners would have the option of establishing an RV park, a campground, a gun club or a cell tower farm — options less costly to operate than a golf course, but hardly protecting nearby homeowners’ property values.
The City Council’s vote was not about a preference for homes over golf, but instead was the best option among alternatives before us.
Why won’t the city save Parkview?
Most municipal golf courses cannot be sustained on greens and membership fees without consistent and ongoing general fund and property taxpayer subsidies.
Additionally, buying 80 acres in the name of preserving green space is imprudent when the city already owns and maintains 54 city parks and its residents have additional access to nearly 2,000 adjacent acres in Lebanon Hills Regional Park. The fact of the matter is, Eagan is already the envy of most other cities nationwide, and that commitment to green space and preservation will not change.
What plans for moving forward?
The City Council’s June vote was preliminary, not final. Before we make a final decision, the “re-zoning” requires Metropolitan Council approval, a process that is likely to take the remainder of the summer.
The City Council has made it clear to the developers that when this matter comes back, we expect to see an environmentally sensitive plan that is responsive to neighbor concerns and addresses Eagan’s housing needs and priorities. In response to environmental or traffic concerns, the developer has volunteered to pay for these.
So how can the community make good use of its time to save Parkview? Focus your collective wisdom and energies on taking the land use change off the table entirely. Convince the owners and developer that there’s a viable business case for golf. Absent that, we will make the very best decision we can for the residents of Eagan with the facts we have in front of us.
Mike Maguire is the mayor of Eagan. Columns reflect the opinion of the author.