Woodbury, Washington County agree to buy land along La Lake

  • Article by: JIM ANDERSON , Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 25, 2013 - 6:14 PM

The 30-acre tract would increase Woodbury's property to about 100 acres around the lake, including half of its shoreline.

For the second time in three years, Woodbury and Washington County are teaming up to buy land to preserve as open space, this time along La Lake in the southwest part of the city.

The County Board last week, after reviewing a plan to equally share the cost to buy a 30-acre tract of foreclosed land along Bailey Road half a mile west of Woodlane Drive, unanimously agreed to enter private negotiations with landowner Venture Bank.

A nearly year-old appraisal of the land, site of the Lone Lake Kennels, set its value at $800,000. The county would fund its share -- as yet undetermined -- of the purchase cost with bond proceeds from its Land and Water Legacy Program approved by voters in 2006. The city's share would come from its Park and Open Space Fund, similarly passed by voters in 2005 to buy land to spare it from development.

Acquiring the parcel has been a priority of the city for several years, said Sharon Doucette, the city's environmental resources coordinator.

About half the land is in the lake, and the purchase would link to a larger tract of open space the city owns directly to the south along Military Road. With the purchase, Doucette said, the city would own about 100 acres around the lake, including half of its shoreline.

It is also adjacent to an open space to the west owned by the city of Newport, which supports Woodbury's plan. The land would provide pedestrian access from the Washington County trail along Bailey Road to both La Lake and Ria Lake in Newport. Woodbury also plans to ask the bank to remove the kennel buildings on the property so that the city can do some forest restoration work, Doucette said.

According to an evaluation of the site by the county, La Lake is expected to be added to the next listing of "impaired waters" by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA). For that reason, the purchase of the land is backed by the South Washington Watershed District, because it will improve the lake's water quality and protect it in the future. The county's Park and Open Space Commission also supports the purchase.

"This is a very interesting project," said County Board Chairwoman Lisa Weik, whose district includes Woodbury. "It would be a spectacular connection, I think, between Bailey Road and Military Road."

If finalized, this would be the second joint purchase of open space between Woodbury and Washington County.

In 2010, a 66-acre tract of land was purchased near the junction of Interstate 94 and Manning Avenue from Dale Properties LLC for about $3.5 million. In that deal, Woodbury paid 62.5 percent of the cost ($2.18 million), and the county chipped in the remaining 37.5 percent ($1.34 million).

The site, near where a massive business/retail park is planned, including a transit station along the Gateway Corridor, was the county's first purchase using the Land and Water Legacy Fund. There have been several since, and more are planned.

Woodbury also has more purchases targeted. The city had hoped to buy another 15 acres across the city adjacent to its Valley Creek Road Open Space, but the landowners sold the property.

Jim Anderson • 651-925-5039 Twitter: @StribJAnderson

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