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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Issues of land ownership in the Northfield area­­

<ong>There’s land in these hills!

The city of Northfield may receive up to nine acres of land for less than the cost of a donut at Sayles-Hill. A Northfield family, the Gleasons, have offered to sell between 6.94 and 9 acres of land for $1 to build a new fire and/or police headquarters.

The space is located just off of Hwy. 3 South, next to Upper Lake Foods and about three miles from Carleton. According to the Rice County Assessor’s Office, the nine acres are believed to be worth about $265,000. The family was willing to donate the land for almost no cost if it was put toward public services.

Northfield needs a new Safety Center to hold its fire and police departments. The current one, located at Fifth Street and Hwy. 3, is too small and in disrepair. Yet the land for a buck is just one of the possible sites to place the new Safety Center. Two other sites have been recommended by the city’s Safety Center Task Force; both are a similar section of the city as the Gleasons’ land. The other sites were appraised to be worth over three times the price of the Gleason land. The Task Force recommends building a $10.4 million, 47,500-square foot joint facility for fire and police.

The City Council will choose one or two of these three sites to build fire and police headquarters. All three are located further south from the center of town compared to the current Safety Center. To determine the new location, the city government will project response times not only from the sites to different parts of the city but also from the volunteer firefighters’ homes to their equipment.

City Councilman Kris Vohs said the $1 land could make building separate police and fire facilities more affordable.

There’s no land…(at least yet)

Northfield and the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) are still trying to negotiate over the price of an 18,000 square-foot parcel of contaminated land that the city will buy from MnDOT. The city has promised MnDOT that it will buy the land at market value from them in order to sell it to the developer of The Crossing project.

Located at the northeast corner of Hwy. 3 and Second Street alongside the railroad tracks, MnDOT wants $208,000 for the parcel. However, the city has only offered about $50,000 due to their leeriness about the land’s contamination and the unknown costs of cleanup that Northfield will have to assume.

The discussions have gone on for over two years with several proposals being offered to help settle the dispute, such as having a MnDOT-chosen mediator to set the price. On Monday, the City Council approved an option to split the difference and buy the land for $131,000. MnDOT has not yet responded to the Council’s offer.

Even more disputes on land

The city of Dundas is also involved in a dispute over land with the Minnesota Department of Revenue. This one involves a 2.7-acre property that formerly was a Kor Ethanol plant.

The site was given to Dundas in 2005 to be used to build a government municipal center through a tax forfeit. The city could not find a buyer to develop the property in three years, the amount of time Minnesota gives a city to build a municipal center on a tax-forfeited property.

Dundas believes the Rice County board of commissioners terminated the state’s right to the property. The state disagrees.

Last week, the Dundas City Council voted 4-1 to file an appeal in district court if the state tries to take over the property. The city looks to lose up to $300,000 from cleaning up the old ethanol plant if the state reclaims the land.

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