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Woodbury, county set for big park land buy

Washington County is poised to help the city of Woodbury buy prized open space.

County commissioners will vote Tuesday on a plan to put $1.34 million toward Woodbury's purchase of 41 acres of undeveloped forest and wetlands southwest of Interstate 94 and Manning Avenue.

The city is near a deal to buy the land from Stonehenge Development, which plans a long-term business development project called Red Rock Territory on over 300 acres in the city's northeast corner.

It is a $3.57 million deal, and the city asked the county to put up half of that. The county's contribution would be about 37 percent, within the range it has offered for past park land purchases.

"It's not as much as we had hoped to get, but we're close enough now," said Steve Kernik, Woodbury environmental planner.

In exchange for contributing funds to the purchase, the county is seeking conservation easements for the property, preventing future development on the site.

Kernik said the city wants to close the deal because the developer never was required to offer the land for sale.

This would be the county's first use of spending that Washington County voters approved in 2006. The so-called Land and Water Legacy Program, passed by referendum, allows the county to borrow up to $20 million to acquire open space.

Commissioners last December decided to borrow the first $10 million this year, and the county will use a portion of a 2010 property tax levy increase to begin repaying the bonds.

Washington County Commissioner Lisa Weik, who represents Woodbury and has walked the site, said that the land would be a good park acquisition.

"I definitely think it's a prized parcel that we should protect, and I do think the Land and Water Legacy dollars would be an excellent use for that parcel," Weik said.

The city plans to use funds from its own open space referendum, approved by voters in 2005.