Land deal hits snag for Carver County to expand Lake Waconia park

  • Article by: TOM MEERSMAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 12, 2013 - 4:15 PM

A long-awaited acquisition to expand Lake Waconia Regional Park has hit a snag.

Three months ago, Carver County commissioners approved a $3.25 million purchase of 19 acres of prime undeveloped shoreland to expand Lake Waconia Regional Park.

But like a bride left at the altar, the county is still waiting for the other partner to show up.

“We thought we reached a fair deal verbally, and we’ve been just waiting to finalize the paperwork,” said Carver County Administrator Dave Hemze.

Acquiring the property has been a county goal for many years. It would add 890 feet of shoreline to the park, part of which would be developed into a public boat access. The land also features a hillside above the lake with a picturesque view.

The regional park is along Lake Waconia’s southern edge, and the addition would expand the park to 135 acres, as envisioned in a 1996 master plan.

An attorney representing the Pauls family that owns the 19 acres acknowledged that it has not signed off on the deal.

“There is no deal until there’s a signed agreement,” said Jeffrey Johnson.

Johnson said he was not at liberty to discuss what’s holding up the sale, when a deal might be signed or whether the asking price might increase.

“It’s fair to say the economics changed when the first of the year came,” he said, because capital gains taxes on a sale could increase significantly compared to 2012.

“We still are very hopeful that there’s going to be something worked out,” Johnson said.

Hemze said that if the purchase price changes, the matter would need to return to county commissioners for a second look.

Under the original deal that is still pending, the county expected to be reimbursed for the $3.25 million from two funds channeled through the Metropolitan Council, including some money from the Parks and Trails Legacy Fund approved by Minnesota voters in 2008.

Hemze said that money is still available. “Our outside funding isn’t at risk,” he said, and the purchase price was based on a property appraisal.

Meanwhile, the family is also in the process of a different land transaction with the county. It is seeking a preliminary plat for four homes on 23 acres the family owns on the western shore of the lake in Waconia township. The county’s planning commission is considering that project, but it ran into complications earlier this year because a variance will be needed. The matter is still unresolved.

“The family is focusing attention on that particular project before they move ahead with the Lake Waconia Park property,” Hemze said. It’s certainly the owner’s right to decide how to proceed, he said. “But we’ve told them flat out that we do not want to link the two. They are separate issues.”

Johnson said that the family is not trying to connect the two. “Both parcels stand independent of one another,” he said.

Lake Waconia Regional Park sits along the southern edge of Lake Waconia, the second-largest lake in the metro area after Lake Minnetonka. The city of Waconia hosted the 2012 Governor’s Fishing Opener in May, and the lake is popular for sailing, water skiing and especially fishing.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources operates one public boat access with 40 parking spaces on the east side of the lake, but it’s crowded all summer. If the county can purchase the land, the long-term plan is for DNR to purchase a few of the acres and build a boat access and parking area at the park.

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