County approves DNR purchase of protected property in East Bethel

The Anoka County Board has given its blessing to the acquisition by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) of some 44.97 acres in East Bethel.

The property owned by William Gombold will become part of the Beaverbrook State Wildlife Management Area. File photo
The property owned by William Gombold will become part of the Beaverbrook State Wildlife Management Area. File photo

The property owned by William Gombold, which is about 1.5 miles northeast of the intersection of Highway 65 and CSAH 22, will become part of the Beaverbrook State Wildlife Management Area, which borders the 530-acre Sand Hill Crane Natural Area.

The East Bethel City Council in August passed a resolution supporting the land purchase by the DNR and the sale was also recommended for approval by the county board’s Wetlands Review Committee.

According to the East Bethel council resolution, the property owner is willing to sell the land to the DNR.

The Anoka Conservation District provided the county board with an evaluation of the land for the proposed sale to the DNR by Gombold.

While the property has soils that would allow development to take place and wetlands that would not prevent that, what makes the site undevelopable, except for 2.5 acres that contain an existing building, is the permanent conservation easement that has been placed on the property by the owner, according to Dennis Rodacker, ACD conservation specialist.

“This easement does not allow for a traditional multi-unit residential or commercial development,” Rodacker wrote in his report.

The only allowable development is restricted to the 2.5 acres for a single residence or small commercial building that could not exceed a 3,000-foot footprint, he wrote.

The land has been used by the Gombold family since the 1920s and in 2007, Gombold started the process of platting a four-lot residential development on the southern portion of the property that was formerly cultivated, while placing a conservation easement on the remaining 31 acres, according to Rodacker.

But the cost of paving Klondike Drive, which would have provided access to the residential development, was prohibitive, so the project did not continue and the easement was not placed, Rodacker wrote.

In 2009, the Minnesota Land Trust began discussions with Gombold and the DNR on options to protect the parcel and in 2010, Gombold, with coordination from the Minnesota Land Trust, finalized the terms of the conservation easement, which was put in place, he said in the report.

Under the conservation easement, the current use of the property for recreational purposes, such as hunting, wildlife habitat and observation, continued, while other recreational activities, such as hiking and camping, were also allowed.

According to Rodacker, the conservation district believes the site lends itself more favorably to long-term conservation than development.

That’s not only because of the conservation easement, but also because the natural resources are of exceptionally high ecological quality, the property is located within an identified wildlife corridor and the cost of long-term maintenance and restoration is anticipated to be low.

According to Anoka County Board Chairperson Rhonda Sivarajah, who serves on the board’s Wetlands Review Committee, the committee’s recommendation for approval was made because a conservation easement is in place and the property owner is willing to sell to the DNR

Peter Bodley is at [email protected]