Stillwater approves joint powers agreement with county for Aiple property

The Stillwater City Council has approved a joint powers agreement with Washington County as the county prepared to make a purchase offer for a piece of riverfront property north of Stillwater.

Known as the Aiple proeprty, the 15-acre piece of land includes around 3,500 feet of shoreline and lies along on the St. Croix River between Minnesota Highway 95 and the old Minnesota Zephyr depot.

The owner of the property, Elayne Aiple, approached Washington County in 2013, asking if the county would be interested in purchasing her property and maintaining it as public open space.

Stillwater Community Development Director Bill Turnblad said the county remains in conversations with the property owner after completing an appraisal and securing more than $3 million in funds toward the purchase. The purchase includes a $1.25 million grant from the state and a grant for as much as $1.925 million from the Washington County land legacy and water program. The city has already committed $500,000 toward the purchase.

Currently the county is preparing to make a purchase offer, and though the county is the lead agency in the purchase agreement, the city would own the land and maintain it under the approved agreement.

Aiple would be allowed to live on the property the rest of her life.

“The city will also be expected to cover the gap in purchase funds if we can’t raise private donation money to close that gap,” Turnblad said.

A final purchase price remains unknown because the county is still in negotiations with the representatives of the Aiple property. Turnblad added that the city could get out of the agreement if the final purchase price presented problems for the city.

“(City Attorney) Magnuson, Bill (Turnblad) and I reviewed the agreement, and it allows for so many ways to get out that we recommend that it’s okay to enter into with the county,” City Administrator Larry Hansen said.

City Attorney Dave Magnuson highlighted some of the “outs” available to the city if the agreement doesn’t seem advisable in the future. For example, the agreement includes a clause that says the purchase can’t be completed if the city and county aren’t able to reach an agreement on the purchase price and if the city is unable to secure the private funds they would need to raise.

“Unless the city and county both sign off on this agreement, it’s not going to happen,” Magnuson said. “And it will absolutely need to be approved by the council.”

The city council also:

• Agreed to pay $17,700 to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency after being served an “order to investigate and take other corrective action at a petroleum release site” that is located where the current ramp stands. The cost is to prove that there is no soil or groundwater contamination. If contamination is discovered, a revised corrective action and cost estimate will be presented to the city.

• Council gave city staff approval to move forward with design planning for the Stillwater Armory and fire station project if Congress gives final approval to the armory funds as expected in January. The council also strategized about when to go out for bids on the project and how to use bonds for the project. Community Development Director Bill Turnblad said that the National Guard is hoping to begin breaking ground in April for the project, assuming the money is approved.

• Waived the fee to rent the city’s amphitheater for Cruisin’ on the Croix. The decision will only last for one season, to allow organizer Scott Zahren to budget for next year. The amphitheater rental would normally cost $125 per day.

Contact Avery Cropp at avery.cropp@ecm-inc.com

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