Goodhue County will buy land near Lake Byllesby ParkAfter weeks of tabling the matter, the Goodhue County Board voted Tuesday to spend $254,000 and purchase a 26-acre plot of land adjacent to Lake Byllesby Park.
By: Regan Carstensen, The Republican Eagle
After weeks of tabling the matter, the Goodhue County Board voted Tuesday to spend $254,000 and purchase a 26-acre plot of land adjacent to Lake Byllesby Park.
The purchase will allow the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources to extend Mill Towns Trail all the way to Highway 52. Although the trail won’t cross into the county’s plot of land, the purchase was necessary because the landowner didn’t want to sell only a portion of his property.
Since DNR officials couldn’t justify buying the entire property — they have a limited amount of money they can use and the southern portion of land really has nothing to do with the trail — they approached Goodhue County about a joint venture.
Public Works Director Greg Isakson brought the proposal to the County Board in November, but a few concerns kept commissioners from making a decision before their most recent meeting on Dec. 18.
First, the DNR had not obtained easements from other surrounding property owners that it would need to get Mill Towns Trail out to Highway 52, and the board was not interested in making such a large purchase if the trail extension was not a guarantee.
Second, the cost of the property weighed on commissioners’ minds as well.
More than a dozen Friends of the Mill Towns Trail members turned out to Tuesday’s meeting in favor of the county purchasing the land.
Several letters of support also were written to the board. In one, Cannon Falls City Administrator Aaron Reeves said Cannon Falls is prepared to join Mill Towns Trail with the Cannon Valley Trail if the DNR can extend Mill Towns Trail the way that is planned.
“The city has already set aside funds to help ensure the connection from the edge of Cannon Falls to the existing Cannon Valley Trail System in town,” Reeves wrote.
Isakson was among those recommending the purchase of the land. He suggested the county buy the 26 acres and hold onto them while he works with the DNR and Dakota County to develop a master plan of what to do with the property.
“If at the end of that process we come to the solution there is no good use for it, at that time there’s no reason we couldn’t take this property and put it on the market and sell it,” Isakson explained.
Commissioner Ted Seifert wanted to ensure the county would recoup its investment and proposed that it divest itself of the property after one year by auctioning it to the highest bidder.
“Next year I’m going to wait until 10 seconds before the bids close and if nobody put in a bid I’m going to put a bid in for $1,” Commissioner Dan Rechtzigel said. “You say you want to look out for the taxpayer here, well, that’s one way to really make sure we’re going to get beat up bad.”
Seifert altered his suggestion to eliminate the one-year time frame and say the county should sell the property at a bid no lower than the $254,000 originally invested.
“I don’t know if we just want to say we must sell it off no matter what … but I think that’s the No. 1 goal,” Rechtzigel said.
Although selling the land is their top priority, commissioners also noted they will entertain other ideas if Isakson comes up with better options while developing a master plan.
The County Board’s vote for approval of the property purchase passed 4-1. Commissioner Ron Allen was the only no vote.
“Sometimes if you can’t afford it, you have to pass,” he said.