Protecting a natural legacy

Eden Prairie / Minnetonka, Minnesota
For the public good
Join in | Events | Issues | News | Tour the Woods | Speak Out | Archive
Riley land for sale

By Lyn Jerde\Sun Newspapers
(Created: Thursday, December 1, 2005 1:09 PM CST)

One of the two privately owned properties in Riley Lake Park is apparently going on the market, prompting the Eden Prairie Parks, Recreation and Natural Resources Commission to wrestle with the question of whether the city should try to buy it.

The commission Nov. 21 voted 4-2 to authorize the City Council to find out the "best price" available for the land. The purchase could be made from some of the money for "park improvements and acquisition," which voters approved in a Nov. 8 referendum, said Parks and Recreation Director Bob Lambert. Of the $4.695 million approved for this purpose, about $860,000 has been set aside for unspecified parkland acquisitions - though there had been talk, during the weeks preceding the election, of using the money primarily for buying all or part of the remaining four acres of Birch Island Woods. Commissioners said they wanted a clearer picture of the city's parkland purchase priorities before deciding whether to recommend that city staff open negotiations for the possible purchase of the Riley Lake Park property.

Also, Lambert noted, it's difficult to know whether to recommend acquisition of the land unless a purchase price is known.

There are two parcels of private land within the boundaries of Riley Lake Park - the site of attractions such as the only remaining city-owned swimming beach and the refurbished Riley-Jacques Barn. One of the parcels, a nearly half-acre plot with a stucco house at 9291 Riley Lake Road, was available for sale in February, when Lambert said he believed the city could acquire the land for about $300,000.

On Feb. 15, the Eden Prairie City Council took no action on the purchase. Council members said acquiring the land didn't seem immediately urgent, and that they wanted more information about the city's capital improvement and land acquisition priorities.

About a month later, Lambert said, a private citizen bought the land, intending to use it as a summer home. But the new owner has talked about putting the land back on the market because the area where the land is located was too busy and noisy during the summer, Lambert said.

The new owner paid about $300,000 for the land, and Lambert said he wouldn't recommend the city paying much more than that for it.

It would be good if the city could buy the land and make it part of Riley Lake Park, Lambert said, because there's about 1,000 feet of lake frontage south of it and another 1,500 feet of frontage north of it. Another piece of private land in the park is not, at the moment, available for purchase.

"These last few parcels to acquire in a park system are very expensive," Lambert said. "It would be a smart thing to negotiate this, and see what we can acquire it for." But Commissioner Geri Napuck said she could not envision recommending negotiations for this piece of land, until she had a clearer idea about where the land fit in the city's overall priorities for parkland acquisition. Inquiring about a possible purchase price might be fine, Napuck said, but giving the city authorization to complete a purchase would not be right at this time.

But even asking for a price now, said Commissioner John Brill, might be " putting the cart before the horse." Commissioner Tom Bierman said the two private parcels within the park "stick out like a sore thumb."

Both parcels have rural zoning, but the lots, and the houses on them, are considered non-conforming uses for rural-zoned land.

Home | Join in | Events | Issues | News | Tour | Speak Out | Archive | Contact us
Sponsored by The Friends of Birch Island Woods. Copyright © 2000. All rights reserved.