Andover looking at new open space purchases

Six years ago, Andover voters approved a $2 million referendum so the city could protect tracts of land from future development.

Andover has purchased two properties to date. The city now has its eyes set on two additional purchases, which would result in the preservation of 50 acres east of Hanson Boulevard and about half-a-mile north of 161st Avenue.

This is far from a done deal, however. Community Development Director David Carlberg said if wetland mitigation is required to build a road to these landlocked properties, these agreements will likely fall apart.

The Lower Rum River Watershed Management Organization is considering the city’s plan for the road.

Gretchen Sabel, chairperson of the Andover Open Space Advisory Commission, said the 40-acre property owned by James Selmer and Hazel Blanchette is “the heart of that area.”

Some of the pine trees on the site were previously logged, but a thick forest of oak trees remains and there is a beautiful wetland area, she said.

Purchasing another 10 acres to the south owned by Dennis Kuiken allows the city to have even more of the wooded area, Sabel said.

“It’s a stunning property,” she said.

Open space advisory commission member Suzanne Van Hecke said a solid acreage of oak forest is rare for Andover. There are some hunting trails through the woods, but the property is very pristine.

The purchases are tentative because the city needs to do site surveys and evaluate the costs of building a road to access the 50 acres, according to City Administrator Jim Dickinson.

Having the preliminary purchase agreement protects both sides rather than having a verbal agreement that the city can go on the site to evaluate conditions for a road, Dickinson said.

Under the terms of the agreements, they would be voided if the closings don’t take place by Dec. 31.

Andover is looking to purchase an easement from Douglas and Joanne Anderson for $25,000 that would allow a road to be built east of Hanson Boulevard and to the properties. Without this easement, the 50 acres would be landlocked.

At this point, the city is offering to purchase the 40-acre parcel from Blanchette and Selmer for $342,000. The 10-acre piece of property that Kuiken now owns drew a $94,000 offer from the city.

This would put the per-acre cost for all 50 acres at $8,720 per acre, which is much less expensive than the per-acre cost the city paid for the previous two properties it purchased under the open space program.

Dickinson said not having access to the property without the easement and the road is why the city offered less.

By comparison, the city paid Hope and Jeff Luedtke $930,000 for 38 acres along the Rum River. This comes in at about $24,474 an acre. Andover bought 20.6 acres east of Hanson Boulevard and north of 161st Avenue for $320,000 from Karen and Lawrence Emmerich, which equates to approximately $15,554 an acre.

Eric Hagen is at [email protected]