A proposal to construct a roundabout at the entrance to Riverdale Crossing Shopping Center in Coon Rapids as part of the reconstruction of Riverdale Drive has hit a snag.

As a result, the project scheduled for construction in 2019 won’t likely happen until 2020 if the roundabout is included, Public Works Director Tim Himmer told the Coon Rapids City Council at a work session Nov. 13.

The problem is that the owner of the shopping center, HJ Development, while supporting the roundabout concept, is requiring the city to use eminent domain to acquire 0.4 acres of shopping center property – two parcels used for parking lot space on the west side of the center – because of issues with lease holders, according to Himmer.

Himmer is ready to move forward with final design on the project, but eminent domain negotiations tend to take a long time, especially if the issue goes to court, which is why he is now looking at 2020 construction.

Council direction was to hold off on moving ahead on final design until the city gets an appraisal on the site to get an idea of the cost to acquire the property, which might determine whether the roundabout is built or the existing stop sign configuration remains.

The hybrid roundabout at the shopping center entrance has been proposed to avoid the current stop sign confusion and increase safety. It was originally planned as part of the Riverdale Drive reconstruction this year, but the project was postponed to 2019 because of negotiations with the shopping center owner over property purchase.

Indeed, the Riverdale Drive reconstruction is planned as a joint project with the city of Anoka to upgrade former Anoka County Road 79 from Seventh Avenue in Anoka to Round Lake Boulevard in Coon Rapids. It was turned back by the county to the two cities in 2017, the county giving Anoka and Coon Rapids money for reconstruction projects on what is now North Street in Anoka and Riverdale Drive when the road enters Coon Rapids.

Back in April, the council accepted a feasibility report from Assistant City Engineer Mark Hansen to reconstruct Riverdale Drive from the west city limits with Anoka to Northdale Boulevard and Northdale west of Round Lake Boulevard to Riverdale Drive.

Besides the roundabout, the project will include replacement of damaged curbs, sidewalks and pedestrian curb ramps as needed, while new sidewalk segments are proposed on the north side of Northdale and on the west side of Riverdale Drive, according to Hansen’s feasibility report.

Hansen estimated the project then to cost $1.83 million with about $160,000 to be assessed to seven benefiting commercial properties at a rate of $47.73 a front foot with the balance of the project cost coming from state aid dollars, county turnback funds and the city’s storm water utility, water system maintenance and sanitary sewer maintenance accounts.

With the project pushed back, the cost estimate will have to be updated, and the council has to schedule a public hearing because assessments will be levied before it can move ahead, Hansen said.

According to Mayor Jerry Koch, the project will benefit the shopping center and mean the city can recover part or all part of the cost of acquiring the property through special assessments.

“That will be part of the discussions,” said City Attorney David Brodie.

HJ Development owns 80 percent of the properties that would be assessed for the Riverdale Drive project, Himmer said.

If the council condemns the property, then it has to pay fair market value, said Council Member Brad Johnson. “The roundabout improvement really needs to be made,” he said. “I see a lot of people confused at the intersection right now.”

Council Member Wade Demmer said his support for the roundabout will depend on the cost of acquiring the property.

In Council Member Steve Wells’ view, the roundabout is a worthwhile project, but the city can’t expect to get back the entire cost of the purchasing the property from assessments.

According to Council Member Brad Greskowiak, the entrance to the shopping center is a clumsy intersection, but he was opposed to the city using eminent domain to acquire the property to make it happen.

HJ Development likes the project, but its hands are tied because of the leases, Himmer said.

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