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A new neighborhood of single-family homes with an emphasis on first-time homebuyers could replace the Ponds, the nine-hole golf course in Maplewood that Ramsey County leaders closed in September 2021.

The county has asked developers to submit proposals to purchase and build single-family homes on the 88-acre property.

"We're seeking proposals dedicating a minimum of 10 units for first-time homebuyers," Jean Krueger, Ramsey County's director of property management, said in an email. "Proposals are due January 17, 2023, for this prime development opportunity."

The county could select a developer by March, according to county documents.

The county announced plans to close the course in 2019 citing operating losses and the county's four other golf courses. It quickly become a battleground with several factions weighing in.

Golfers, with support from Maplewood leaders, sought to keep it a course. Parks advocates clamored to preserve green space, pointing to a sighting of the endangered rusty patched bumblebee on the property, while county leaders have it earmarked for redevelopment with an eye toward affordable housing.

Maplewood Mayor Marylee Abrams said the city's first choice is for it to remain a golf course, but she said low-density housing is their second choice. The property has ample wetlands, which means only about 40 acres of the 88-acre site are developable.

"It's a beautiful piece of property," Abrams said. "Obviously we are going to preserve the wetlands. We'd like to have some trails, so they can be enjoyed."

City leaders have substantial control over what happens on the site because they control zoning on the property. It's currently zoned for farming.

This is the second time the county has issued a request for developer interest (RDI) for the site at at 601 Century Av. S. Last January, county leaders solicited ideas for the parcel but rejected all three development proposals they received, saying they didn't align with commissioners' priorities. Those three proposals were for a private golf course, a single-family home development and a senior and multifamily home development.

The county then offered to sell the course to the city of Maplewood, but city leaders declined, saying they didn't budget for the purchase.

The County Board voted to establish the golf course in 2001 on county corrections property as an innovative work program for inmates serving time at the nearby county workhouse. It's now one of several properties the county is seeking to develop.

The county also owns a 77-acre undeveloped parcel just north of the county correctional facility, bordering Battle Creek Regional Park. The county issue an RDI for that site last year but received no response. The future of that property has also sparked debate.

Environmental and nature groups has lobbied for it to be added to Battle Creek Regional Park. The property is a nesting ground for endangered grassland birds. So far, the county has not announced any additional plans for that site.