Last updated 02/13/2022, 4:21:06 PM
On February 7, 2022, St. Louis Park’s City Council voted to approve the meeting agenda, which included
- 4k. Direct staff to submit a letter of interest to acquire land that Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) has deemed to be excess right-of-way.
Sadly, that does NOT mean Lilac Way’s historic Rock Island Park has been saved from housing development.
In January 2022, MnDOT unexpectedly indicated the city could submit a letter of interest to acquire Rock Island Park‘s two land parcels near Toledo Avenue and 28th Street WITHOUT defining the proposed use of the land as public use OR private development.
The city staff’s February 7, 2022 Executive summary report says:
“Financial or budget considerations: In this latest meeting, MnDOT indicated if the south conveyance parcel is obtained for a public purpose, MnDOT would convey the land to the city for no cost.
If the city obtains the south parcel for a private purpose or acquires the north parcel for either public or private purpose, MnDOT indicated the city could purchase the land for fair market value. This was a change in their position that was not explained.”
City staff presented four options in their November 22, 2021 report to city council.
These options are still on the table as of February 2022. SLP staff have confirmed that the city could still decline to acquire the property and leave MnDOT to go out for bid to private parties, despite sending the letter of intent. Rock Island Park is currently zoned for single-family housing.
City uses the land for a public purpose.
- The land would be city-owned and not transferrable.
- Potential public purpose could be (but may not be limited to): streets, sidewalks, trails, utility, park, etc.
City uses the land for a private purpose.
- The city would be given an opportunity to purchase the land for Fair Market Value without it going to a public land sale.
The land would go to a public land sale. If this occurs:
- The city could bid on the land.
- If the city were the successful bidder, there would be no reference to public purpose on the title.
The city could choose not to pursue ownership of the land, it would be sold through MnDOT’s public land sale.
- The city could still influence the land use through the city’s normal comprehensive plan and zoning controls.
- Comprehensive plan and zoning controls could be placed on the site either before or after MNDOT releases/ sells the land.
Click just one button to write and send your own email to the Mayor, seven Council Members and Restore Lilac Way.
It’s easy. Here’s a sample email to get you started: “I live in (please insert your city and state). I urge the City of St. Louis Park, Minnesota to acquire both parcels of Lilac Way’s historic Rock Island Park and its surrounding green space for public use only. I do not support any kind of housing or private development that could damage or destroy this rare 1939 park, one of only two rock gardens left in Minnesota. Please keep this park only for public enjoyment. It is an important historic park and treasured open space. I would like my comment to be part of the City staff’s report to Council.” It is important to include this last line so your comment will be in the report and on the record. Please include ‘Rock Island’ in the subject line.
Restore Lilac Way is very concerned that most of the options include housing development.
Rock Island Park is currently zoned for single-family housing. We understand the need for housing, but the community is against destroying one of only two remaining rock gardens in Minnesota, for any purpose.
As a sister park to restored Lilac Park and its rare beehive fireplace, this historic 1939, Depression-era park built by Roosevelt’s Works Progress Administration deserves to be saved.
See the gallery of Rock Island Park’s virtual rally, supporters asking the city to Say YES! to Rock Island Park.
Potential uses outlined by staff in the Nov. 22, 2021 report
Staff from operations and recreation, building and energy, community development, and engineering reviewed this opportunity and identified the following potential uses for the land.
- Regional stormwater treatment
- Renewable energy generation
- Open space
- Affordable housing
Reference: St. Louis Park City Council 11.22.21 study session, written report: 4
- Description: Develop affordable housing on the land.
- Analysis: This area has been zoned for single-family for many years. Before that, it was zoned for one or two-family uses. That is the use north and east of the site. This may be another opportunity area where the city could pursue a land trust to provide lasting, affordable homeownership opportunities. The city could also explore more dense attached housing products to maximize the number of affordable units that could be provided or to cluster the development to one part of the site in order to preserve other portions in either public or privately controlled open space.
- If the city wanted to allow residential development on the land, the comprehensive plan would need to be amended to change from right of way to residential. The zoning district would work for single-family housing but would need to be amended to allow for higher-density housing options.
- If the city wanted to acquire the land to develop affordable housing specifically, MNDOT may agree that affordable housing is considered a public use of the land and be willing to transfer the land to the city at no cost. However, this being defined as a public use is less clear than park, stormwater or transportation purposes and could result in MNDOT requiring the city to bid on the land in an open market bidding process. The outcome of those discussions would also influence if and how the city pursues acquisition and may entail additional effort to clear the title if the city were to acquire it with a public use restriction.”
Reference: St. Louis Park City Council 11.22.21 study session, written report: 4. Prepared by: Debra Heiser, engineering director; Reviewed by: Karen Barton, community development director; Brian Hoffman, building & energy director; Sean Walther, planning manager; Approved by: Cindy Walsh, interim deputy city manager/operations and recreation director
City staff or council: If any information in this article needs to be corrected, please email Karen Laukkonen or call 952.929.1242. I will edit where needed.