The Anoka City Council will vote Monday on a purchase agreement to buy a well-known historic home in the community.
The city will consider buying 1632 S. Ferry St., also known as the Woodbury House.
It is currently owned by Anoka’s Housing and Redevelopment Authority, which bought the foreclosed home last fall for $330,000.
“One of the reasons we bought it is it’s a real diamond in the rough,” said HRA Chairperson Carl Youngquist. “It needs some polish. So many people who visit Anoka refer to that house. I don’t want to change that environment.”
Youngquist said the HRA would like to see the Woodbury House remain a single-family home.
The HRA only narrowly agreed to buy the property last year, with Youngquist casting the deciding vote in a 3-2 split.
“We felt we were doing the community a service becoming the owner of that property and protecting it as best we can,” Youngquist said.
City Manager Tim Cruikshank said there was a difference in approach between the council and the HRA on what should happen to the property. During a work session Monday four members of the council agreed to consider buying the house. Councilmember Jeff Weaver has abstained from the discussion because he owns property in the South Ferry Street corridor.
Much of that disagreement has centered around a public trail that could be located on the property.
“I think that house has a fantastic amount of history and that history belongs to the public,” said Mayor Phil Rice. “We want to evaluate ways to bring that history to the public.”
He said the council feels that could be done with a trail and interpretive kiosks, but they are not sure yet what would work.
“We haven’t had enough time to figure that out yet,” said Rice.
There was agreement among the HRA members that a new public trail should not be located on the Woodbury House grounds, said Youngquist.
“We feel there are adequate trails on the east side of the river,” said Youngquist. Because of the riverbanks, an additional trail would have to be on the grounds of the house, not along the river.
“It is the general consensus of the HRA that we’re opposed to that because it would be changing the environment,” said Youngquist.
Youngquist said the HRA also felt it would devalue the property.
“A couple of private parties have expressed interest in it but they were clear they don’t have an interest if there’s a trail there,” he said.
But Rice said there are examples of other properties, including Rivers Pointe town homes, where a trail just 40 feet from the front door has not detracted residents from buying or been considered intrusive.
Rice also said he respects that it is the HRA’s mission to increase the city’s tax base and its concerns about losing money on the deal. He agrees that single-family ownership by someone invested in keeping up the grounds would be the ideal use for the property.
The HRA had decided to put the house up for sale March 15, but Youngquist said the housing authority would give the city the first opportunity to buy it.
The city is proposing to buy the house for what the HRA paid for it, according to Cruikshank.
Mandy Moran Froemming is at [email protected]