UMore Park: A progress reportThere are several projects either under way or in the planning stages on the University of Minnesota's UMore park property in Empire Township. From gravel mining to a planned wind turbine to the construction of ballfields, we provide an update on where things stand at the site of a development that could eventually be home to more than 20,000 people.
By: Emily Zimmer, The Farmington Independent
As the UMore Park project gets up and going there’s a lot going on. In coming months residents may notice some activity on the property. Here’s a little information on what’s happening out there.
The University of Minnesota Outreach, Research and Education (UMore) Park is the University’s 5,000-acre property that straddles border of Rosemount and Empire Township. The university’s vision is to build a sustainable community of 20,000 to 30,000 people over 25 to 30 years.
According to the UMore website, umorepark.umn.edu, the plan for this new, sustainable community integrates environmental, socio-cultural and economic opportunities with a specific focus on innovations in renewable energy, education and lifelong learning, health and wellness, the natural environment and regional economic development.
Soon there will be a new sight on the city’s eastern horizon. The foundation for the Eolos Wind Research station, including an 80-foot turbine, has been laid, said project manager Jeff Marr. More than 460 cubic yards of concrete were poured for the foundation of the turbine and a meteorological station.
Later this month 17 semi-trucks will start delivering the various components of the turbine and construction will start soon after. Vic’s Crane will put a crane on the site next week to assemble the turbine.
The turbine should be put together by mid-September, Marr said, but then crews will have to do the interior work. The interior work should finish up in mid-October.
“We’re extremely excited,” said Marr. “We’ve been working hard for two years.”
While it will be highly visible Marr said access to the turbine is restricted because of safety hazards.
When completed the site will house will a 2.5MW Clipper Liberty turbine and a 130m (426 ft) tall meteorological tower. This site will host active consortium research as well as education and training of next-generation wind industry personnel.
“This is big deal for Minnesota,” said Marr.
The city is currently undergoing an Alternative Urban Areawide Review to review the potential impacts of development on the property and the surrounding area.
The AUAR is an extensive process and by the time it is complete it will have been reviewed by the planning commission, the parks and recreation commission and the city council. Empire Township, which has agreed to let Rosemount be the regulating government agency, will also review the document.
Community development director Kim Lindquist said while only 3,000 acres are in Rosemount the AUAR will include the entire 5,000 acre property.
At a recent city council work session the council reviewed land use three scenarios. The scenarios are based on a concept plan the board of regents approved which plans for 30,000 people.
Lindquist said the purpose of the AUAR is to come up with possible impacts on the land and ways to mediate those when you don’t have project specifics.
Last week the city of Rosemount closed on a 27- acre parcel of land donated by the University of Minnesota. The land will house athletic fields maintained by the city. Later this fall, SKB Environmental, which made an in-kind donation, will begin grading the property.
When completed the complex will include four fields that can be used for youth baseball or fastpitch softball and one larger baseball field that would serve older players. Parks director Dan Schultz said while the parks commission is still working on the plan the work will be done in phases. Schultz said they hope to start some construction in the spring or summer of 2012.
In the meanwhile the university has partnered with Dakota Aggregates to mine 170 million tons of sand and gravel that lies beneath the property. The mining will offer a steady stream of income for the university.
Dakota Aggregates will conduct the phased mining over a 40-year period. The terms of the agreement limit mining to 160 acres at a time. The university will receive royalties from the sale of materials. Proceeds will be placed in the university’s Legacy Fund and will support special academic pursuits.
Dakota Aggregates hopes to begin mining late in 2011. But before mining can begin the city of Rosemount has some work to do. While there are several gravel mines within Rosemount’s city limits none compare to the size of what the university has proposed.
The city plans to write an ordinance that would regulate larger mining operations. However, the city is waiting for information from Dakota Aggregates to start the process of writing the ordinance.
“We thought we would be further along by now,” said Lindquist.
She said more information is needed to write the ordinance and that the planning commission is waiting until it has everything to begin writing.
After the ordinance is written Dakota Aggregates will have to apply for a permit. That process will include public hearings at the planning commission.
Earlier this summer the University of Minnesota kicked off a physical study to look for pollution on 3,500 acres of its UMore Park property. Barr Engineering used historical information collected earlier in the year to help it conduct samplings. Overall more than 700 soil and ground water samplings were collected for analysis. The first stage of fieldwork was completed in July. A second stage of testing will be completed after the results of the first stage are discovered. Stage two should be completed sometime in September.
Former completed studies have shown the presence of hazardous substances on areas of the property. Substances include metals, polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons, volatile organic compounds, polychlorinated biphenyls and petroleum.
The findings of the investigation will be documented in a report due out in January 2012. The results will be used to determine whether further investigation is needed or what action is required.