The city of Anoka was the recipient of a pretty special gift this Christmas.
At its last meeting in December, the Anoka City Council agreed to accept the donation of a piece of property near the Northstar Commuter Rail Station.
The Buchanan Street property, owned by Cy and Thelma Dehn, is just over two acres and is valued at $410,000.
The Dehns, who celebrated 60 years of marriage this year, are lifelong Anokans and part of the four generations that have owned and operated Dehn Oil, a petroleum delivery business started by Cy’s father Pat in 1941.
While at one time it had been part of a plan to expand the business, the property was never developed and had only been used for parking trucks since Cy had purchased the site in the 1990s. The property had once been part of a failed plan to build a new VFW in Anoka.
While the Dehns had never listed it for sale, the real estate market for vacant land isn’t very good. The couple decided the time was right to donate the property.
The Dehns said they were nervous about what their family would think of their idea of donating the land to the city, but they have had nothing but support from their five children, said Thelma.
“Four generations of our family have made a living in Anoka – the town has been good to us,” said Cy. “It has been the type of community you would like your family to live in.”
When Cy bought the business in 1967 it was one of 11 petroleum delivery businesses based in Anoka. The only one left, it is now owned and operated by their son Ron and his sons.
Thelma said it feels good to donate the land to the city for future development.
According to the city’s master plan for the area around the rail station, the property donated by the Dehns has been identified as a spot for office and commercial development. A small sliver of land owned by Anoka County separates the Buchanan Street property from Seventh Avenue to the east.
“This is an incredible gift that helps us, in essence, finish out the rail station area the way it should be,” said Planning Director Carolyn Braun. “It’s something we can’t afford to do now and maybe never would be able to.”
Braun said she had been talking to Cy Dehn for years about the property and he knew the city had been eyeing it, but couldn’t afford it.
City Manager Tim Cruikshank said the generous gift is part of a grander plan the city has for redevelopment the area around the Northstar Station.
The only drawback to the donation is that the city won’t collect property taxes on the land until it is redeveloped.
The land has also received a clean bill of health through a phase one environmental assessment. Braun said if the property were to be redeveloped, a phase two assessment would likely be conducted by the city.
“If in fact there is contamination the city is eligible for DEED funding to do any clean up, so at this point it’s not really an issue for us, it’s likely a future issue,” Braun told the city council last month.
Mandy Moran Froemming is at firstname.lastname@example.org