More than 100 acres of untouched land in Inver Grove Heights is likely to stay that way after a nearly decadelong effort by the landowner to protect it.
The Dakota County Board voted Tuesday — after more than two hours of closed deliberation — to direct staff members to complete a negotiation with members of the Grannis family, who own the property.
If an agreement is finalized, a conservation easement will protect the 134-acre property — home to the beloved Marcott Lakes chain — from development. There also will be potential for the county to buy additional acreage nearby, as well as the Grannis family homestead.
“We continue to have interest in protecting the Marcott chain of lakes and associated upland on the Grannis family property,” board Chairwoman Nancy Schouweiler said in a statement. “We continue to make progress, and negotiations are ongoing.”
Talks hinge on whether the county is able to get $1.3 million from the state’s Outdoor Heritage Fund by the end of the month. That award would add to a $1.6 million allocation that the county already has received for this project and that’s set to expire June 30.
The property’s future has been in limbo for years. Landowners Vance and Darlene Grannis have pursued a conservation easement since 2008, with the goal of turning the area into a nature preserve and education space.
The property has belonged to the Grannis family since the 1920s. Since then, it has become a haven for wildlife enthusiasts — a destination for everything from hiking and birding to beekeeping classes.
More than a dozen people came before the board at its May 17 meeting to support protecting the land, from neighbors who’ve lived nearby for decades to residents of other cities and counties who’ve sought out the resources the property offers.
“You’re looking at a guy who drives to your county because what you have is pretty cool and pretty precious,” Minnetonka resident Mike Goetsch told the board.
The board is set to act on the final agreement at its June 21 meeting.
Details of the negotiations are confidential, but Vance Grannis said Tuesday that the most important factor is the ability to create a nature preserve.
“That’s still got to be able to happen, whether they own it or we own it,” he said. “I need to see the whole package of what they’re doing, and hopefully it isn’t going to be something that’s going to make us not want to go forward.”