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Thursday, March 24, 2016

Hampton takes no action on proposed trail

3/17/2016 8:17:00 PM
Hampton takes no action on proposed trail

by Sandy Hadler

Cory Bienfang of Bolton and Menk, Hampton's city engineer, excitedly told Council members at the March 8 meeting that he had just learned MnDOT agreed to pay $75,000 toward the cost of the proposed biking/walking trail that would run for about a quarter of a mile on the west side of Highway 50 from the Heights of Hampton to the downtown area. If Hampton can also acquire a full DNR grant of $150,000, the State would end up paying three-fourths of the the cost of the proposed $300,000 trail project.

Bienfang asked Council members if they wanted to move forward with the project, regardless of whether they get the DNR grant or not. He said the City would have to get a low interest loan, or possibly bond for the project, if the DNR grant is not awarded to Hampton, or is only partially funded.

Councilman Jerry Huddleston, who has been a major proponent in trying to get a safe travel way for residents to walk or ride bikes safely between the Heights of Hampton and the downtown area, was excited about the prospect.

Other Council members were a bit more reluctant, noting that there are capital improvement projects that need to be done, including major work on one block of Main Street and two blocks of Belmont Street. They questioned whether the City's portion of funding for the proposed trail shouldn't go instead for those repairs.

Bienfang admitted that the infrastructure needs in Hampton are real, but the streets do not have to be done at the same time, and the city could use the $175,000 that is built into the 2016 budget toward street repair. He noted that from a surface and underground perspective, Main Street and Belmont Street have the worst three blocks in town, and will cost around a million and a half dollars to repair. He questioned, "Is the trail the greatest need for Hampton at this point? The need is there for both (trail and road repair) projects."

Comments from Sam Radford and his wife, whose property would be negatively impacted by the trail, diminished some of the excitement for Bienfang. The couple had read in the paper, after the February Council meeting, that he had said the City would have to pursue land acquisition, if the trail was to be built. If that was not successful, and the City really was serious about the project, they'd have to consider condemnation of the property.

The Radfords were upset that the City had not notified them that some of their property could be taken for the trail, and if they refused a land acquisition deal, there was the possibility their property could be condemned. 

Bienfang said, "I apologize for how you found out." He said it had not been his intent to cause them concern, and he hoped they would share in the opportunity the city has to work with MnDOT to provide a safe means for children and adults to get between the Heights of Hampton and the downtown area. He said, "I'm certainly not prepared to have negotiations tonight. I don't even know what the value of your land is." He added, "I'm not sure the trail is happening. It is a great opportunity, but there are lots of facets to look at."

Councilman John Knetter explained to the Radfords that the Council had wanted to be sure the City could fund its portion of a trail, before they broached the subject with the affected landowners. He said, "I do apologize that we didn't contact you first." 

The couple had other unrelated complaints about kids breaking windows on their vehicles, that a neighbor had planted a garden on their property, people have built fire pits on their land, and left garbage laying around, as well as a number of other infractions by Hampton residents.

They were told to contact the City if these problems continue, and a Dakota County deputy will check into any ordinance violations that occur.

The couple said they feel abused by the community, and now feel even more abused by the City. They were concerned they would lose some of their land, and then get charged an assessment on top of that. 

Wendy Carpenter, Hampton's City Clerk, said because this would be a new construction project, typically there aren't assessments.

Mrs. Radford said, "We love our place. We bought it as an investment and you are going to get a big piece of it. How would it sit with you? This is not a small thing. It is a big thing."

Huddleston responded, "I wouldn't be happy, but I would consider it because it is good for the community. The intent is to add to the community, not to take it from you."

The Radfords asked for a study to be done to determine how many people would use a trail, and at what times of the year. This request was not acted on.

Council members expressed concern about proceeding with the trail project at this time. Knetter said if the city didn't get a full grant, they would have to pull the project. Huddleston agreed that if they got less than half of the DNR grant, the city would have to relook at the trail project.

Councilor Amanda Jensrud asked what would happen if Hampton is awarded a full DNR grant and doesn't accept it. Bienfang said there would be no penalties.

Knetter stated that once they had put together everything that had been discussed that evening, he realized it was not "do-able" to move forward with the trail project at this time. Jensrud agreed, stating, "Until we know the key components, I don't feel comfortable moving forward."

Bienfang said MnDOT will be looking for an answer soon. 

Jensrud said they'd need as much time as possible to contact the other landowners who will be affected by the project. 

Knetter said, "We need to see if we can agree with the landowners. There is no sense in pursuing it if the west side property owners don't want it."

Bienfang said he will contact MnDOT and let them know that the city will need a week or two to find out more about these other factors. 

Other business

•Council members passed a resolution to participate in Dakota County's All Hazard Mitigation Planning.

•Chris Meyer reported on the City's 2015 financial statements. He said the city currently has $175,000 to spend on improvements in the City.

•A Dakota County deputy reported there have been a number of thefts that involve pick-up trucks and trailers, in particular landscaping trucks. He warned not to leave trucks in a shed or garage with the keys in the ignition, and to lock doors on all vehicles. 

•Council members tabled discussion on two proposed Planning Commission appointments, as there was no agreement on whether to appoint one or two new people to the Commission. Councilor Luhring recommended tabling the issue until there is a formal resignation by one of the current Planning Commission members. Action will be taken after the resignation is made official.

•Marlin Reinardy was granted permission to let the Cardinals use the Community Room free of charge on April 9.

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