From: Jack G. Conrad [mailto:jackgconrad @ earthlink.net]
Sent: Thursday, March 25, 2004 01:03 AM
Cc: Ward, John
Subject: Summary of Planning Commission Meeting on the Anderson Project
Hello All Friends of the Eagan Core Greenway,
The City of Eagan Advisory Planning Commission met tonight [Tuesday, March 23rd] to evaluate the purchase of the Anderson property which has been in the works for nearly two years. Recently, Bob McGillivray of the Trust for Public Land (TPL) has spent many, many hours making this purchase workable. The Planning Commission---with a city engineer, planners and a lawyer---take a first look at any proposed changes in land use. The Andersons own 11 acres of land on the eastern edge of Patrick Eagan Park abutting Lexington Avenue and immediately south of the Lexington entrance to the park and the Eagan Art House. They live on the property, their driveway (hard to see as it goes down a hill) is the first one south of the Park/Art House entrance. The sale is for 9 acres by the park leaving 2 acres for the Anderson home place.
At a recent workshop the City Council thought about a conservation easement on the 2 acres that the Andersons would own after the sale of 9 acres for the park (their remaining nest egg, if you will). As I understand it, a conservation easement (otherwise known as the relinquishment of development rights on the land) basically means that the land cannot be physically disturbed---it must remain in the same condition as when the easement is started. The Council probably was thinking of preventing a small development on the land, but the easements may be very severe so home improvements, landscape alterations, and even repairs can be problematic. If the land is sold (at a much reduced price with an easement over the land [I have heard of 90% decreases in value] ), the restrictions continue with the new owners who are legally bound to the original requirements. Tonight, Bob McGillivray of TPL spoke to the Planning Commission stating the potential conservation easement is unfair. The Andersons are selling 9 acres to the city, but the easement conditions are on the land not being sold. When the City gets easements from developers, the value of this concession is generally traded for something the developer wants, but there is no upside for the Andersons in this case. Bob noted that this uncompensated requirement could be a deal-breaker for the Andersons. The Planning Commission sought information about the type or extent of the easement from City Planning Dept. head Mike Ridley (he didn't know), legal information (it is legal and binding), and general comments from John Holenstein (?) from Eagan City Staff. After discussion, the Planning Commission seemed to think a free easement was OK, but the City Council will be given the chance to decide and possibly modify.
I talked to Lee Anderson tonight who had watched the evening on TV and was discouraged. He said simply that "he didn't want to be treated any differently" by the City than other people. If the city was going to require easements of all his neighbors near Patrick Eagan Park and not just him, that is fair but not being singled out with a requirement that is separate from the sale of the nine acres. He has no specific plans for the remaining land, but doesn't want to be required to give away any possibilities. As if the recently introduced conservation easement requirement for the Andersons were not enough, City Planning Dept. staff have asked the Trust for Public Land, a non-profit land preservation organization, to pay over $10,500 in "trunk" fees on the property (for things like storm and sanitary sewers). Such fees are normally charged to developers who plan to build houses on the acquired property. It appears as though the City Council and City Dept. Heads have not adequately communicated to lower level Planning Dept. staff that TPL is not a developer, and that all of the time, energy, and costs that TPL has invested in this project (having raised $720,000 in outside funds for it) is for the sole benefit of the citizens of Eagan. The expression, "penny wise, and pound foolish," may have never rung truer. Yet, in this case, that "pound" represents nearly three-quarters of a million dollars.
We need to work with the Council to communicate to them the unreasonable nature of these fees and of the unilateral easement condition, and to advocate its amendment---soon. As you recall, the city is paying only $180,000 for the land, while the remainder of the $900,000 comes from State and County grants, some of which will dry up if it is not used on this project by June. At present, the Eagan City Council is scheduled to vote on the Anderson property sub-division on Thursday (yes, Thursday), April 8th.
If this deal falls through because of this late-in-the-game introduction of the easement on the property not for sale, then the message to the two State and one County funding agencies will be that the City of Eagan has not able to network, partner, leverage resources, and negotiate in order to succeed in such a challenging land preservation deal. And if we cannot succeed with the smaller Anderson property, then the chances of convincing the same agencies that we will be able to succeed with the larger Caponi property will be on life support.
John WardFriends of the Eagan Core Greenway www.EaganCoreGreenway.org