Watertown, county working to acquire property

The Watertown City Council last week approved a Memorandum of Understanding with Carver County that defines both parties’ roles in the potential acquisition of a tax-forfeited property on 30th Street, as well as an adjacent property.
The city first became aware of the tax forfeited property in August, and has since been working with the county on its acquisition. The city hopes to use part of the 45-acre property as a nature conservation area with trails for public use, and at first believed it could acquire the property through a $250 conditional use deed. However, the council later learned that due to special circumstances of the property, the city will first need to seek special legislation that will allow the state to convey the land to the city.
However, even if the city is able to successfully acquire the property from the state, one of the key requirements in being able to utilize the property ­— which is tucked between Tuscany Village and the Wildflower Development — is the acquisition of property owned by Vern and Elaine Rosckes along County Road 10. The city recently obtained an agreement from the Rosckes family to purchase the property, a purchase that, based on the Memorandum of Understanding with Carver County, is expected to actually be funded by the County.
The Memorandum of Understanding calls for the County to reimburse the city $200,000 to acquire the property, pending the city’s ability to obtain special legislation to acquire the neighboring tax-forfeited property. As part of the agreement with the county — which the County is still reviewing — the city would deed the low area of the Rosckes property and the tax-forfeited property to the county. The county would convert the low area into wetlands, ultimately to be able to utilize the wetland credits it would receive.
The city of Watertown would retain the upland portion of the tax forfeited property along 30th Street, roughly 15 acres. The county would also fund $100,000 toward Watertown’s development of trails and park space in the conservation area.
As part of the Memorandum of Understanding, the City would also have the option to purchase the County’s existing public works shed on CSAH 20 for $25,000 once the County vacates that property for a new site. The new site could potentially be on the 15 acres of the tax forfeited property along 30th Street that the city would retain.
Of course, the agreement between the County and the City is entirely dependent on the city receiving special legislation from the state. The city will begin working with legislators to obtain the necessary legislation.
The agreement to purchase the Rosckes property before special legislation is passed to acquire the adjacent tax forfeited property does present minimal financial risk to the city, though the three-year contract for deed to acquire the property is set up to minimize that risk as best as possible.
The cost of the property is $200,000, which would be broken down and paid by the city in four installments. The fist payment of $5,000 would be due no later than May 1, with an additional $65,000 payment due no later than Aug. 1. Additional $65,000 payments would be due no later than April 1, 2015, and Nov. 1, 2016.
However, the city would also make an initial $1,375 payment to secure the option to acquire the property, which would be due before Feb. 15. If the city ultimately is unable to receive special legislation to acquire the tax forfeited property, it could back out of the deal to purchase the Rosckes property, forfeiting just the initial $1,375 payment.
As part of the agreement to acquire the Rosckes property, the city also will excavate sediment in the pond directly east of the Wildflower development. The city will also trim trees along the existing trail behind Wildflower and allow Vern Rosckes to farm the property in 2014, 2015 and 2016.

In other business:
• The Council directed city staff to work with the county on a streambank restoration project the Carver County Water Management Organization has planned at Rick Johnson Park.
The WMO originally granted the city money for a streambank restoration project in areas of the park in 2008 and 2009. The project was aimed to prevent errosion that typically happens to the bank in the spring because of flooding.
The project was mostly completed, but according to Paul Moline of the WMO, there were several major pieces of the project missing in terms of vegetation and restoration of the surface area. The WMO is now planning to move forward with a plan that would finish the vegetation aspect while also accommodating the frequent fishing that happens in the area.
The project’s design will create two separate fishing “blocks” on the west bank of the river, designed to provide specific areas where fishing should occur. This should prevent the likelihood of newly planted vegetation from being trampled, while also creating an aesthetically pleasing new design in the park that will provide a stable area for fishing. One of the fishing blocks will be located at the dam, with another just a bit up river.
The plan is that the design of these two fishing blocks can later be replicated in other areas of the park or even on the opposite side of the river, creating a consistent theme throughout the area.
• The Council reappointed Danette Painshab, Bill Tschida and Joel Skoog to the Park Commission and Don Hendricks, Rob Wilkening and Jim Sandquist to the Planning Commission. There is still one vacancy on the Park Commission and there are two spots open on the Planning Commission. The city is actively seeking applicants for those spots.