St. Paul Park Braces for Railroad's Proposed 100-Acre Parking Lot

October 02, 2016 06:55 PM

Residents of St. Paul Park are bracing for development that many of them don't want.

BNSF is planning to build a 100-acre parking lot just east of Grey Cloud Island Drive, between 15th Avenue and Grey Cloud Trail South, near its railroad tracks.

The lot could eventually hold up to 6,000 new cars at a time, which would then be trucked to dealerships across the region. The railroad originally purchased about 300 acres of farmland in the area, but the lot would only occupy about one-third of that land.

Some neighbors who live nearby are less than thrilled about the proposed development.

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"I just think it's too close to residential," said Joe Sheeser, who lives just up the road.

"It doesn't make us happy. We have lost 300 acres of developable land," said St. Paul Park Mayor Keith Franke.

BNSF said the land presents an opportunity to get more new vehicles to Minnesota drivers as demand for them grows. But Franke said he worries about increased truck traffic and decreased property values.

"We've got industrial to the left, industrial to the right, and now we're adding more industrial. And in between, we have a great community full of wonderful citizens," Franke said.

But Franke said his hands are tied.

"There's not much the city can do," Franke said.

That's because railroads are granted special powers and don't have to follow certain zoning laws. So local officials are working with BNSF instead of against it.

Franke said so far, the railroad has been gracious in its meetings with local officials.

"We're hoping they're going to be a good steward of the community - that they're going to step up and help us to mitigate those problems," Franke said.

BNSF told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS that the project is still in the initial design stage and that the company can shape the facility around the concerns of the community.

But some aren't in the talking mood.

"It's unnecessary. Find a better place to put it," said Daniel Roeller, who lives across the street from the site on which the lot will be built.

BNSF is hoping to begin construction in the spring, and have the facility up and running in 2018.

BNSF also said that it's committed to getting feedback and addressing neighbors' concerns. Open houses on the project have been scheduled for Oct. 18 and Nov. 15. The company is also expected to update the St. Paul Park city council on Nov. 7.


Stephen Tellier

Updated: October 02, 2016 06:55 PM
Created: September 30, 2016 03:24 PM

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