U of M Women Soccer Scores! (U of M—1, Land Use Rights—0)

Land use is an almost totally forgotten concept when it comes to the University Regents vs the surrounding communities—Falcon Heights and St. Anthony Park. This became apparent at the July Regents meeting where the Facilities Committee of the Board of Regents approved a plan to build a women’s soccer stadium on an 11—acre site southwest of Cleveland and Larpenteur according to the St. Paul Pioneer Press July 10. University officials made it sound like there would be minimal problems in building the stadium. It would be merely expanding the existing fields and building a 1,500 to 2,000 seat stadium—with facilities. The Regents resolution also called for Thomas Fisher, Dean of the College of Architecture & Landscape Architecture, to work with University officials and community representatives on a design for the approved site that satisfies the needs of the soccer program and addresses as many of the neighborhood concerns as possible. (underlining added).

"It’s a great day for the women’s soccer program and women’s athletic department," said women’s soccer head coach Sue Montagne. "Obviously we still have a lot of work to do so everyone will be—not necessarily happy, but it’ll be fair."

Falcon Heights residents see it quite differently. There is little fairness to the residents that are within 25 to 50 feet of where the stadium will be. Parking and traffic? Increased use and night games? Is the University ignoring their own Master Plan? These are questions that would have to be answered.

At the County Board meeting of August 18, Commissioner Janice Rettman and Commissioner Susan Haigh introduced a resolution which Janice created and is designed to 1) request the Board of Regents to postpone its decision on site location for 6 months; 2) allow during the 6 months the Cities, County, U of M and State Fair Board to look at a) alternative sites which would accommodate the intercollegiate field & stadium, b) site for at least 6-8 soccer practice fields of which 6 could be accessed for youth soccer programming, c) to plan financial participation, d) to address parking accommodations, and e) to obtain public support.

Sue Gehrz, Mayor of the City of Falcon Heights, said that the challenge is to find land on which the County and City can build soccer fields for youth and where the U of M can build women’s collegiate soccer fields. Mayor Gehrz stated that the U of M is not subject to City or County zoning laws. If that were the case, the U of M could not build the stadium at this proposed site because the stadium would be constructed within 25-50 feet of residential property. Janice said, "there must be a way for a win, win situation for the Falcon Heights and St. Anthony area residents. Land use is key. Even though the University is exempt from local zoning codes, we hope that they will honor existing code and work with the community to review other site alternatives."

On Friday, August 28, the Pioneer Press reported that the University is willing to move sheep to reach a solution to the "knotty problem." The University "floated" a plan to move the women’s soccer stadium to an area north of the Gibbs Farm Museum and which the University owns and uses as recreational fields. The sheep pasture would be the new site for the recreational fields and would provide several youth soccer fields provided the cities and county financially participate.

Although relieved, "Neighbors’ initial reaction to the plan was cautiously optimistic." The final approval was scheduled at the Board of Regents meeting September 10 in Marshall Minnesota.

Janice rarely leaves the County; but, she left to go to Marshall MN to personally see some of the Board of Regents at their meeting. NEWS FLASH: THE FINAL DECISION WILL BE MADE AT THE OCTOBER BOARD OF REGENTS MEETING.

Janice is convinced that President Yudof, Donna Peterson, McKinley Boston and the Board of Regents individually have heard the roar of the community. This issue of site has never been anything but location, location, location. The cities, county and residents working with the legislators are committed to a first class women’s soccer facility and addressing the new sport of the millennium—soccer for youth.

Janice remains hopeful. "The community worked together. I think that they were able to create support from every government entity and more significantly, convince the University administration to look, listen, and to work with them. All should be commended for commencing a win, win situation."

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