11.20.21 Lilac Way’s Rock Island Park is on the agenda for the St. Louis Park city council study session on Monday, Nov. 22nd. A written report regarding ‘MnDOT excess land update – Toledo Avenue and 28th Street’ will be given to the Council.
This written report is a first step in bringing Rock Island Park ownership to the council. It will provide the city council with background on the MnDOT excess land and potential uses. There will not be a formal discussion and they are not making any decisions. The purpose is to see if the council would like more information prior to having a discussion on the topic.
NOTE: The report incorrectly states “There were two parks in St. Louis Park, the original Lilac Park (Highway 100 and Minnetonka Blvd) and Roadside Park – now called Lilac Park (next to Nordic Ware in the southeast corner of Highway 100 and CSAH 25).” Actually, three of Lilac Way’s seven parks were built in SLP, including Excelsior Boulevard Park, which was lost to demolition in 1969.
Why is the St. Louis Park City Council discussing Rock Island Park?
- MnDOT has confirmed that Rock Island’s two land parcels are ‘surplus property’, wants to relinquish ownership
- MnDOT’s environmental investigations (contaminated, historical, etc.) to determine its liability in conveying this property will be completed in January of 2022
- SLP staff met with MnDOT on Sept. 30th, 2021 to see if the city is interested in having the land released to the City of St. Louis Park for public use
- Staff has completed an initial report on potential uses for the land, and will bring it to council for policy direction
Key sections below have been copied from the staff report.
FROM REPORT: Executive summary, MnDOT excess land update – Toledo Avenue and 28th Street (Rock Island)
In late August, MnDOT Metro District reached out to staff to let us know that they have determined that there is not a transportation purpose to keep the right of way west of Toledo Avenue and south of 28th Street. This is the first step in MnDOT’s decision-making process for land release. Their next steps include environmental and historical review.
On Sept. 30, city staff met with MnDOT to discuss their position, process and timeline. Restore Lilac Way correction: MnDOT has not formally offered the park to the City of St. Louis Park. They have offered the opportunity to send a letter to MnDOT requesting the land. Community efforts to save Rock Island Park encourages the City to do that, and keep this historic rock garden and open space. They have only notified the city that they intend to release the land and asked if the city is interested in having control of the property.
If the city is interested in taking this property, we would need to send a letter to MnDOT requesting the land. Once we do that, MnDOT will send the city an official offer letter. The city would have six months from the date of the offer letter to accept the land.
If the council is interested in asking for this land, staff recommends that we wait until MnDOT has completed their review process. With any land acquisition, it is important that the city does its due diligence. Once MnDOT completes their process and provides the city with their findings, staff will determine if there are additional investigations that need to be done to understand any potential liability if the city should ask for the land.
City staff is meeting again with MnDOT in January 2022. MnDOT has targeted having their review process complete by that time. Staff plans to bring this item to the Council for discussion after MnDOT completes their review process.
FROM REPORT: MnDot’s considerations (as seen by staff):
Staff have identified several potential paths forward.
1. City use 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. Other public purposes could be discussed with MnDOT Metro staff. Ultimately the “public purpose” would have to be agreed upon by both parties.
- There would be no cost to the city if the land were released for a public purpose.
2. City use 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 city could sell the land to a second party, with some risk. The title would still have some reference to public purpose; however, there is a way to remove this from the title.
- They have not established a fair market value for the land.
3. The land would go to a public land sale. If this occurs:
- The city could still bid on the land.
- If the city were the successful bidder, there would be no reference to public purpose on the title, eliminating risk.
- They have not established a fair market value for the land.
4. The city could choose not to pursue ownership of the land and allow it to be sold through a public land sale.
- The city could still influence the land use through the city’s normal comp plan and zoning controls.
- Comprehensive plan and zoning controls could be placed on the site either before or after MNDOT releases/ sells the land.
FROM REPORT: Next steps
If the city is interested in taking this property, we would need to send a letter to MnDOT requesting the land. Staff recommends that we wait until MnDOT has completed their review process. They are targeting to complete this review by our check-in meeting in January 2022.
If the City expresses interested in obtaining the property, MnDOT will send the city an official offer letter. The city would have six months from the date of the offer letter to accept the land.
With any land acquisition, it is important that the city does our due diligence to invesitigate the current state of the land. Once MnDOT completes their process and provides us with their findings, staff will determine if there are additional investigations that we need to do to understand our potential liability if the city should ask for the land. This could include soil borings and a structural review of the rock island.
For these reasons, we believe it is premature to formally ask MnDOT for the land until MnDOT completes their process.
FROM REPORT: Supporting document
City staff included the “St. Louis Park Historical Wayside Park/Beehive Restoration Project Report” and mentioned preservation of restored Lilac Park, done by the City of St Louis Park.