Rosemount property debated by Regents

Stacy Jo

Preliminary plans for altering the make-up of the University’s Rosemount property met with a wary response from Board of Regents members Thursday.
Members of the Rosemount Task Force met with the Educational Planning & Policy Committee to discuss plans for the school’s 7,500 acres of suburban land located 30 minutes south of St. Paul. Larger than either the Minneapolis or St. Paul downtown area, the property is the largest University land holding in a metropolitan area.
The University uses almost half the land for livestock and crop research, leasing the remainder to parties not affiliated with the school. Officials also recently agreed to allow Dakota County to build a road through the center of the property.
Acquired from the federal government in 1947, the land was intended for agricultural and educational purposes. Task force members propose expanding that agricultural mission by making the land into a research park.
“This is one of the University’s greatest and most under-utilized assets,” said Thomas Fisher, Dean of the College of Architecture & Landscape Architecture.
Although task force members said many research parks focus on technological advancements, planners aim to focus more on the agricultural aspects of research.
A hefty list of proposed programs accompanied the task force’s presentation. These include partnerships with agribusiness industries and the Department of Natural Resources, an immigrant small farming incubator, and a turf and grounds research education center.
While regents were not slated to vote on the Rosemount issue, Regent Michael O’Keefe told task force members he was reluctant to approve plans as they were presented Thursday.
“The words are there, but I don’t quite get the picture,” O’Keefe said.
Regent Patricia Spence agreed.
“It’s hard for me to just put it all together,” she said.
After indicating support for the goals of the task force, O’Keefe expressed concern about the conflict between plans and priorities.
He said the plans suggest a piecemeal approach to divvying up the land by parceling off sections to a list of interested parties. However, the group’s interest in addressing all the environmental, urban and rural issues involved with the property doesn’t seem to comply with that method, he said.
“It’s that chunk of the analysis that I don’t see here,” O’Keefe said.
Fisher responded by saying that plans are only preliminary and that planners cannot produce a specific land-use plan until partnerships and interested participants have been identified.
He added that the land has been divided by the piecemeal process thus far, and that something more is needed in the future.
Tammy Koob, student representative to the regents, also questioned the usefulness of the turf center, which would include an 18-hole golf course. She asked if the course would serve academic or simply commercial purposes.
“An 18-hole golf course might be a little excessive,” she said.
Philip Larsen, associate dean for the College of Agricultural, Food and Environmental Sciences, said the course will serve as a laboratory and demonstration area that is environment-friendly. He added that revenue from the course will go to research.
Task force members will meet with regents for further discussion in June.