Andover closing deal on third open space purchase

Andover will close Jan. 10 on purchasing its third property under the open space preservation program.

The northeast corner of Hanson Boulevard and 161st Avenue will have over 45 acres of open space between two connected properties once the city closes on the purchase of the Aasness property. Homes have already been developed on adjacent property and more development is being planned. This open space property can never be developed.
The northeast corner of Hanson Boulevard and 161st Avenue will have over 45 acres of open space between two connected properties once the city closes on the purchase of the Aasness property. Homes have already been developed on adjacent property and more development is being planned. This open space property can never be developed.Submitted photo

Once the $284,650 deal for 25.73 acres is finalized, Community Development Director David Carlberg said the city would have approximately $495,000 remaining for more land purchases.

What attracted the citizen-led Open Space Advisory Commission to this property was the chance to make the last open space property it purchased even larger on the northeast corner of Hanson Boulevard and 161st Avenue.

The 25.73 acres that the city is buying from Richard and Donna Aasness is connected at its southeast corner to the 20.6-acre North Woods Preserve that the city bought in September 2010 from Karen and Larry Emmerich for $320,000.

“We were always looking for ways to make this site larger,” said Gretchen Sabel, commission chairperson.

While it is possible to walk from one property to the other, there is still nowhere to park besides residential streets. Carlberg said the long-term plan is to have an access road going east from Hanson Boulevard and a gravel parking lot next to the former Aasness property. From there, residents could walk on the natural trails through the woods and next to grasslands and wetlands on both properties.

“It will be a pretty nice place to recreate,” Sabel said.

Suzanne Van Hecke, member of the Open Space Advisory Commission, echoed Sabel’s sentiments in that increasing the size of the North Woods Preserve is what interested her in this site.

“The nearest houses were far in the distance and tucked behind the tree line. It was very peaceful,” Hecke said of the Aasness site.

This area has seen an influx of housing development within the last decade and will be seeing more. Country Oaks West and the first addition of White Pines Wilderness were constructed on the north side of 161st Avenue.

More homes are also being planned for in a second addition of White Pines Wilderness and on two parcels just east of the open space properties that are owned by the Ganter and Putnam families. No plats have been approved for these developments, however.

Neither Richard nor Donna Aasness could not be reached before this edition went to press, but comments they made at the Sept. 11 commission meeting showed that Richard expressed concern about tree preservation and housing density on the Putnam property and a possible need for a water main connection through his property to service this development.

The housing density on the Putnam or Ganter property could vary between 1.75 and 3.6 housing units per acre according to the city requirements for residential low density developments in areas serviced by sewer and water. This is the same density as the Country Oaks West neighborhood.

Donna Aasness told the commission that she was concerned whether the land would remain as open space in the future.

Commissioner Kim Kovich assured the Aasness family that the land cannot be developed in the future once it has been sold to the city for open space preservation.

In fact, the open space program rules forbid playgrounds, paved trails and other amenities found in city parks.

“The goal of the open space bond program is to protect areas from development,” Sabel said. “I’m happy that the Aasness family was willing to protect this property.”

Once the deal is closed with the Aasness family Jan. 10, Sabel said the city will continue to work with other interested property owners.

Carlberg said the city has been talking with others already, but the city may send out another letter in the mail to large property owners seeing if there is interest in selling.

When asked if properties would be more difficult to purchase now that the economy is starting to turn around, Carlberg said that he does not believe this will be an issue.

“I think because we’re willing to work with developers we may find ways to protect resources,” Sabel said, alluding to the possibility that the city could purchase smaller chunks of property within a development.

Restricted use of money

The first transaction came in November 2009 when the city paid Hope and Jeff Luedtke $930,000 for 38 acres along the Rum River. This site was later named Martin’s Meadows.

Access to this site was more difficult until the city public works department was able to construct a trail up a hill by a cul-de-sac on Navajo Street.

The city can only use the remaining $495,000 left in the open space account for purchasing property under the terms of the $2 million bond referendum voters approved in 2006.

That means the city will have to find the funding elsewhere to protect these properties from invasive species or to construct the gravel parking lot by the North Woods Preserve.

Carlberg said the timing on this lot and access has yet to be determined and would likely come as more housing develops north and east of 161st Avenue and Hanson Boulevard.

Andover got an early Christmas present in the form of a $117,000 grant from the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Program, which receives its funding from the Minnesota Legacy program that voters approved as a constitutional amendment to set aside funding for improvements in the area of natural resources and arts programs.

A total of 33 percent of sales tax revenue from the Legacy amendment is set aside for the Clean Water Fund.

City Engineer and Public Works Superintendent David Berkowitz said Martin’s Meadows being located along the Rum River is why the city was able to secure the grant.

A non-profit organization, Great River Greening, will start working on buckthorn removal, native platings and prairie restoration next spring and work until the grant funding runs out in 2016, according to Berkowitz, who credited the city’s Natural Resources Technician Kameron Kytonen for continuing to look for grants.

“It’s very good we were able to receive this money,” Sabel said. “It means we can maintain the site without burdening the taxpayers.”

Eric Hagen is at
[email protected]