City Officials ‘Offended’ By Ron Clark Presentation
Ron Clark reps asks the city for continued support of the project, while offending officials during a joint Richfield City Council, Planning Commission and HRA meeting.
Ron Clark Construction & Design seemed to go on the defensive Tuesday night as they made yet another presentation to city officials on the controversial Pillsbury Commons affordable housing development.
As soon as lead speaker Kendra Lindahl, land reform principal on the project, launched her presentation it was clear that the developer was adamant about securing continued support from the city. From claiming the design fits perfectly with the city’s comprehensive plan to stating the firm would not have proceeded in 2009 if it lacked total city support, Lindahl was careful to remind officials of the developer’s consistent attempts to design the best project possible.
“We’re very proud of this project,” she said in closing. “We’ve worked very hard to develop a plan that everyone can get excited about.”
Unfortunately, the developer’s attempt to rally support from council and commission members seemed to backfire. Some officials said they were offended by the presentation itself and went on to vehemently express their concerns about the project.
“I don’t need to be reminded of what I already know,” Council Member Elliott said, referring to the failure of the presentation to outline new changes. “I want to know what you’re presenting [as a design plan].”
The majority of concerns centered on the ever-evolving design plans, which is causing confusion among the different commissions.
“We went from market rate—which you deny every doing—to 100-percent affordable and somewhere in there you called in workforce housing,” Richfield City Council Member Fred Wroge said. “I don’t know why you would start off a meeting like this unless you [were preparing to go] to court.”
Wroge also accused the developer of being the only party able to reconsider and make changes, and flat out asked Lindahl whether she believed that was the case—to which she gave a simple no. He was also visibly upset about Lindahl’s claim that the city has been on board from the beginning.
“We didn’t vote on anything other than to let you move your project down the road until we have decide what to do,” Wroge said. “I’ve always believed we need to do affordable housing. … This is not about excluding affordable housing, it’s about not ruining this land.”
While many officials expressed their confusion and disappointment, Council Member Sue Sandahl did compliment the Ron Clark team, saying the company has been listening to concerns and actively trying to mitigate them.
Ron Clark Construction & Design submitted a new land use application on April 4. The company is hoping the Richfield Housing and Redevelopment Authority (HRA) will agree to sell an additional plot of land next to the proposed development site. The additional land will allow the developer to conform to density standards, without asking the council to make a change to the city’s comprehensive plan.
Most likely, the HRA will have to make its decision on whether to sell the other plot before the Richfield Planning Commission votes to approve the new land use request.
Richfield Patch will continue to follow this project and will update readers as new developments happen.