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Despite threat of lawsuit, EP golf course zoning finalized

February 28, 2007
Despite threat of lawsuit, EP golf course zoning finalized ©
By Lyn Jerde – Eden Praire Current

Amid the threat of a lawsuit, the Eden Prairie City Council Feb. 20 unanimously approved applying the new "golf course" zoning classification to four courses - including Bent Creek, whose owners have contended that such action is tantamount to taking the land under eminent domain.

A capacity crowd in the council chambers gave the council a standing ovation when the Bent Creek rezoning was finalized. At previous meetings, several people - particularly those who live near the golf course - have asked the City Council to keep the land as open space.

The council's deliberations on the issue took on the flavor of a courtroom, in anticipation of the course's co-owners following through on their vow that they would sue the city if the zoning change were approved for Bent Creek.

The council packet included documentation, one inch thick, of Bent Creek's history, including maps and meeting minutes dating back to the 1970 creation of the Edenvale planned-unit development, of which the course is a component.

And, Councilmember Jon Duckstad (who is a lawyer) questioned City Planner Michael Franzen about the history of the course's land use - with detail and style that was much like a courtroom examination. Mayor Phil Young quipped at the end of it, "The witness may step down."

Councilmember Brad Aho said the evidence presented Feb. 20, and previous detailed reviews by the council, have led him to conclude that approving the rezoning is the right decision.

" While no one on the council has any desire to get the city into a situation that involves litigation of any kind," Aho said, "we feel that we must act responsibly, and we must also act according to the law and the past history."
Young said three conclusions from the documentation compiled by City Attorney Ric Rosow were particularly persuasive to him:

- The change in the zoning for Bent Creek, and the change in the guide plan that the council approved previously, is in keeping with the original intention that existed from the beginning of the Edenvale planned-unit development, and is consistent with the way the present owners have used the land in the 23 years they have owned it.
- The zoning and guide plan for Bent Creek has been consistent since 1968, and remained consistent through the 1970 creation of the Edenvale development and subsequent amendments of the city's guide plan.
- The city's re-guiding and re-zoning is not "an attempt to acquire open space," but is "consistent with the property's long-term historical use as a golf course."
Because the Feb. 20 session did not include a public hearing on the issue, no representatives of the Bent Creek owners spoke.
In previous meetings, however, attorneys for the owners have contended that:
- Nothing in the land's title indicates any long-term covenant requiring that the land must always be used as a golf course.
- The previous "rural" zoning of Bent Creek was intended to be a "holding" classification, pending development of the land around it.
- The "golf course" classification - which basically allows the land to be used for golf and other non-motorized outdoor sports, but not for residential or commercial development - is so restrictive, it prevents the landowners from making as much money as they could make if the land were developed.

The council also approved Feb. 20 assigning the "golf course" zoning classification to the Olympic Hills and Bearpath courses, and to the portion of the Glen Lake Golf Course that lies within the Eden Prairie city limits.
Bent Creek timeline

December 2005- Supporters of keeping Bent Creek Golf Course as an open space begin making their case to the City Council, though they later back off from a proposal that the city should buy the property and operate it as a municipal golf course.

January 2006- Eden Prairie City Attorney Ric Rosow tells the City Council that the course has a history of being a "quasi-public open space."

March 2006- The City Council implements a moratorium of up to one year barring development on any land now used as a golf course, to clarify discrepancies between the city's comprehensive guide plan and its zoning classifications. The guide plan calls the courses "quasi-public," but three of the courses (including Bent Creek) are zoned "rural" and the portion of Glen Lake within Eden Prairie is zoned "public."

October 2006- At a forum for mayoral and council candidates, sponsored by an organization called "Save Bent Creek," candidates unanimously express support for keeping the course as open space.

November 2006- The Eden Prairie Planning Commission unanimously recommends creating a zoning classification called "golf course," and applying it to the Bent Creek, Olympic Hills, Bearpath and Glen Lakecourses. Representatives of current Bent Creek owners say they would fight such a zoning change in court.

December 2006 - The council gives tentative approval to creating a "golf course" zoning classification, but does not apply it to any properties, pending input from the Metropolitan Council.

January 2007 - The council changes the guide plan, but not the zoning, for all four courses. Representatives of Bent Creek owners call the action "illegal."

Feb. 6, 2007 - The council delays the rezoning decision, scheduled for this meeting, to allow Rosow time to collect documentation of the legal rationale for the change, and to allow supporters or opponents three more days to submit written comments.

Feb. 20, 2007 - The council unanimously approves applying the "golf course" zoning classification to Bent Creek and the other three courses.

NOTE: For more coverage on Bent Creek issues search the archive of the Eden Prairie Sun Current at http://www.mnsun.com/ep/

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