Minneapolis park officials are urging commissioners to approve a riverfront trail easement with Graco Minnesota Inc. that they say is not tied to conditions on granting the firm’s development plan for the adjacent Scherer site.
The proposal comes before the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board at a special Monday meeting at 4 p.m. The board is scheduled to review the long-debated matter with attorneys in a closed session before the meeting.
The staff recommendation would have the board acquire an easement for a thin strip of property along the Mississippi River between the firm’s factory and the shore. The park district long has planned for bike and foot paths through that corridor to extend recreation access upriver from Boom Island Park by the Plymouth Avenue Bridge to NE. Marshall Street near the Burlington Northern bridge, north of the former Grain Belt complex.
The issue turned rancorous earlier this year when the Park Board, which long had assumed that the company had agreed to grant it an easement, was told that the firm wanted to tie executing an easement to the right to build a new corporate facility on part of the former Scherer site, land that is now owned by the Park Board. The board authorized obtaining the easement by condemnation, but the two sides kept talking even as the court action was filed.
Graco has submitted a proposal to lease and develop a portion of the Scherer land, but Michael Schroeder, an assistant park superintendent, said the trail easement isn’t conditional on Park Board approval of that proposal. The firm couldn’t be reached for comment.
The Park Board and the city sought in negotiations to keep the easement and development proposal as separate issues. The Park Board is trying to raise money to develop most of the former Scherer lumberyard as a park that would include a new island, and it sees a lease as one way to help pay for operating the park.
The board also will be asked Monday to approve a resolution that grants Graco two things. One is to guarantee that there won’t be any residential development on the portion of the Scherer site that Graco wants. Another is support for the firm’s desire to have the city vacate a block of 10th Avenue NE. on the upriver side of the Scherer site. The firm has expressed a desire to keep traffic and the public away from its truck docks on that side of its factory.
If the board rejects the proposed easement, an alternate resolution has been prepared for board consideration. It would authorize the deposit of $622,300, the appraised value of the easement, with a court or the company.
The board would then proceed with a quick-take condemnation so that it gains access to the land by July 15, the deadline under a federal grant that partly finances the trail project.
“I think it’s moving forward in a good direction,” said City Council Member Jacob Frey, who represents the area.