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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:

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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