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Stillwater City Council Open to Discussing Deal for Aiple Property

“It’s an opportunity for the city to significantly expand its riverfront,” Stillwater Mayor Ken Harycki said. “Even if not for today, for future generations."

The Stillwater City Council on Tuesday night told Washington County Commissioner Gary Kriesel that the city is interested in working through a concept that may eventually turn the Aiple property into a city park.

Elayne Aiple recently informed Washington County that she would like to sell her property on the St. Croix River—north of downtown adjacent to the Brown’s Creek Trail—to the public to preserve the land.

The estimated market value of the 16-acre property, including 4,000 feet of shore land, is $1.056 million, according to city records. The land's estimated value is $725,600, while the building is valued at $331,200.

Four acres of the property are undeveloped and in a natural state, according to city records. Twelve acres include the house, a long driveway turf grass, a pool, a manmade trout pond and large docks.

“It’s an opportunity for the city to significantly expand its riverfront,” Stillwater Mayor Ken Harycki said. “Even if not for today, for future generations. I don’t really think we have a burning need for it today, but to have that available—especially as the (Brown’s Creek) trail evolves—it will be important to do something with that piece of land.”

There is no need to turn the property into pubic-use land immediately, Stillwater Community Development Director Bill Turnblad said. One option is for Mrs. Aiple to remain there as a life estate, but all the details still have to be discussed.

“I see no downside for the city continuing to work with the county in exploring what’s possible in preserving this for future public use,” City Administrator Larry Hansen said.

Depending on the price of the property, the potential use of the county’s Land and Legacy Funds chipping in it would be a great way to leverage city monies to acquire an incredible asset for the city, Harycki said.

The county put out requests for proposals to appraise the land value, Kriesel told the council, but before moving forward wanted to be sure the city of Stillwater was open to possibility of owning, managing and operating the property for public use.

During the Washington County Board’s discussion about the Aiple property last month, Jane Harper—who coordinates the county’s Land and Water Legacy Program—said various governmental agencies agree the property would be a great asset to the public, but haven’t decided how to manage it.

The National Park Service can’t acquire the property because it is south of the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway boundary, Harper said. The Met Council says the land is too small for a regional park.

The Minnesota DNR supports the public acquisition of the property as an amenity for trail users to find a place to rest in the shade at the end of the trail, but say it is too small to be a state park.

While discussion about the Aiple property is just beginning, a few potential funding sources include:

Matt January 09, 2013 at 09:06 PM
Well it's good to know we have some extra money sitting around for just this type of enhancement.
Randy Marsh January 10, 2013 at 12:59 AM
I actually would support trying to acquire this piece of property. Compared to giving $100,000 to the bridge coalition (including the gifts to the county and school district because of dispensing that money unlawfully) that was run by Harcyki and his poker buddies, not to mention the lobbyists, and spending money for a new fire department that we clearly do not need, I would welcome spending something that actually benefits our wonderful city. By the time the county and the state kicks in all that cash they're sitting on because of their various land preservation amendments I can't imagine Stillwater would need to invest all that much, although I hate to see a million dollar property leave the tax base. I certainly think there's an economic benefit to developing that property for downtown Stillwater.
Susan January 10, 2013 at 01:03 AM
It's scary how much you and I agree on issues. :) I would also like to see the city get this property but I would like to see all the numbers before they make a decision.
yomammy January 10, 2013 at 12:56 PM
aquire property...they aint makin it anymore.
Susan January 10, 2013 at 02:42 PM
Randy, did you see this, where Harycki addressed the issue of older and newer homes in regards to the new fire station?: http://stcroixvalley.kstp.com/news/news/178204-stillwater-one-step-closer-new-firehouse
Randy Marsh January 10, 2013 at 02:46 PM
Wow, that thud you just heard was your credibility going in the tank. Now if only you'd stop being so damn polite.
Susan January 10, 2013 at 02:53 PM
Haha! I was trying to post a link here for you, but it keeps getting rejected. It's in regards to the new fire station and Harycki's latest quote about how quickly homes burn. If you go to KSTP's site, and then search "Stillwater One Step Closer to New Firehouse" you should find it.
Shawn Hogendorf January 10, 2013 at 04:18 PM
I'm sure Randy is capable of googling for that link, but here it is Susan: http://stcroixvalley.kstp.com/news/news/178204-stillwater-one-step-closer-new-firehouse Not sure what happened, we must have beef with KSTP today...
Randy Marsh January 10, 2013 at 08:27 PM
I don't actually expect any in-depth reporting by TV types who have 45 seconds to tell their story, but I wish somebody would ask some other questions about this boondoggle. For one thing, where are most of the calls going to in this city and what are those calls for. New houses might burn faster, but how many old houses have sprinkler systems and how many new houses have ancient electrical that is more likely to start a fire in the first place. Also, I'd prefer to see some unbiased numbers about our city's needs rather than take the word of a fire chief who stands to benefit with a shiny new facility. Better yet, how about a response study that occurred when the bridge was closed so we can actually have an accurate assessment of what those times would be once the new bridge opens in a few years.
Shawn Hogendorf January 10, 2013 at 08:38 PM
Here's a link to the Fire Department's 2011 annual report, on page 11 it includes a map that says the majority of calls are in Wards 2 and 4. http://www.ci.stillwater.mn.us/vertical/sites/%7B5BFEF821-C140-4887-AEB5-99440411EEFD%7D/uploads/2011_Annual_Report.pdf The annual reports going back a few years can also be found here: http://www.ci.stillwater.mn.us/index.asp?Type=B_BASIC&SEC={032D1269-04E0-4B98-90F0-B4947156062D}
jmh January 10, 2013 at 09:43 PM
Could the house be used to generate some revenue to help pay for the land purchase? Food/beverage sales, B&B, retreat center, rental community meeting space, river museum or ???
Randy Marsh January 10, 2013 at 09:48 PM
Wow, this makes a lot of sense. They are planning to put a new $7 million fire station in the quadrant of the city that requires about 1/2 the number of calls as the next lowest ward and about 1/3 the calls from the wards that require the most fire calls. This is absurd.
Randy Marsh January 10, 2013 at 09:52 PM
I was thinking the same thing, jmh, though I'd be curious to see what kind of shape the house in in.
Susan January 11, 2013 at 12:44 AM
Thank you, Shawn, this was very helpful. For last year, Wards 1 and 2 had 57% of the calls, yet we are moving the station away from this area. Going back a few years, Ward 2 (where the fire station is currently located) has consistently had the most calls. This is asinine!! Has anyone checked on Harycki's statement, regarding the time for older/newer homes to be fully engulfed in flames, to see if it is even true? $7 million to move the fire station farther from where it is most needed... <sarcasm font> Yet another brilliant move by our leaders. <end font>
Randy Marsh January 11, 2013 at 05:11 AM
Even if that is true, Susan, which areas will have more sprinkler systems and which are less likely to start on fire in the first place. Like many things, the mayor and the fire chief are only using the data that supports their wishes while ignoring and downplaying relevant information and numbers that don't help their case. I also question the response time study they constantly cite and how much of that is due to the narrow winding streets in those newer housing developments that should not inevitably result in slower response times for the rest of the city.
Markus January 11, 2013 at 02:31 PM
Not that I would recommend the city purchase any more expensive property, but it is a bargain compared to the the million dollar bathroom downtown and the million dollar Shoddy Mill building.
Susan January 11, 2013 at 05:35 PM
I agree, Randy. It would be nice if our leaders would find more time to participate in discussions with the public. I think putting out statements to the media and only allowing the public's participation for five minutes during the meetings is unfair and means that many will be persuaded by only one side of the discussion. I know that there are some in our local government that read and participate here and I would hope that more would see the benefit. Quite honestly, this is exactly why I ended up voting for Ted K. As we discussed, it was a difficult decision prior to Election Day and his participation the day before made me more inclined to vote for him. I wonder if most stay away because they fear being attacked vs having a honest exchange of ideas? I know I would be willing to tone down the criticisms and rhetoric if they would participate. I know you think I am too polite but that letter to the editor did make me think twice about the slash and burn type comments vs a real discussion. I guess I got off topic here but it's something I have been thinking about for a while.
Ted Kozlowski January 11, 2013 at 09:17 PM
Hi Susan, I really enjoyed your last comment. If the conversation were more consistently civil I feel more would be inclined to participate. I'm really concerned about this new fire station and would like to have an open and detailed conversation about it but I don't want to get pulled into a nasty conversation with people that can remain anonymous. If anyone would like to meet face to face, talk over the phone or exchange ideas over email I am more than willing to participate. My email is tkozlowski@ci.stillwater.mn.us and phone is 651.300.4993
Susan January 12, 2013 at 12:08 AM
Hi Ted, Thanks so much for participating again. You have my word that I will keep it civil with no name calling etc. That goes for all our elected officials. Yes, I will probably email over the weekend. One other thing that I think is important - I have said several times on Patch that my opinion and/or position has been changed given a logical and fiscally sound argument. I would welcome those at city hall to tell me why it is that I am wrong -persuade me, convince me, and maybe you will be doing the same for others as well, as many people read these comments. I would certainly welcome the discussion and would be respectful as long as it goes both ways. Thanks again for checking in and I look forward to learning your thoughts, ideas, and position on the new fire station.

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