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Baxter City Council: Timing not right to purchase 'spectacular property'

BAXTER - A property with scenic vistas from a 100-foot slope was recognized as spectacular but the Baxter City Council agreed with its parks commission in deciding against buying the land.

The Baxter City Council declined to purchase 80 acres of land with Mississippi River frontage. The property on Timber Ridge Drive courtesy of Google maps.
The Baxter City Council declined to purchase 80 acres of land with Mississippi River frontage. The property on Timber Ridge Drive courtesy of Google maps.

BAXTER - A property with scenic vistas from a 100-foot slope was recognized as spectacular but the Baxter City Council agreed with its parks commission in deciding against buying the land.

Tuesday, the council considered the Larry Helsene property on Timber Ridge Drive. Before Helsene listed the land with a real estate agent, he contacted the city to see if Baxter had an interest in purchasing it. The land, about 80 acres, is in southwest Baxter. In his background to the city council, Josh Doty, community development director, stated the land is unique compared to parts of Baxter with water frontage on the Mississippi River, Bass Lake and another unnamed lake.

The land is across the Mississippi River from Crow Wing State Park. Doty noted the Helsene land is southwest of the city's Mississippi River Overlook Park. The idea of the city considering the property, perhaps for a park, came up during the winter. One of the the goals for Baxter's Parks and Trails Commission is conservation of Mississippi River frontage.

Doty said the parks commission wasn't interested in updating the comprehensive plan to give this property a higher priority, in part because not as many residents live in the area.

Council member Quinn Nystrom, who serves as liaison to the parks commission, said it didn't seem a viable option to take on as the city has other parks that aren't completed. Even if money wasn't an issue, Nystrom said access was, as people would have to go to Pillager to get to the property.

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Mayor Darrel Olson said the parks commission's arguments were well-thought-out and he personally agreed. The other option for the city, Olson said, would be to pay for the property out of general funds.

The land was not on the city's long-range plans for transportation needs but any future road improvements would likely need to be on Helsene's property because of the unique land formation and significant water bodies and wetlands. Accessible from the Camp Jim Road, the land sits at the end of a long, dead-end road. Doty reported Helsene was looking at carving out 10 acres where his house sits for a separate sale, leaving about 80 other acres for the city to consider at a price of $6,000 to $7,000 per acre. At $6,000 per acre, the cost would be $480,000. Staff estimated the city has about $400,000 remaining in the park dedication fund, considering 2015 expenses. Doty said Crow Wing County estimates the value of building and land for the entire acreage at $266,700.

Baxter also looked to see if the historic Leech Lake Road once was on the Helsene property. Research found the road was farther west.

Council members concurred on admiration for the land in question.

"It's a great piece of property," Olson said.

Council member Todd Holman asked city staff members to put a letter together to thank Helsene for his offer to the city.

"It's a spectacular site, but probably the time or place is not now," Holman said. "Maybe the opportunity will come around in the future."

RENEE RICHARDSON, associate editor, may be reached at 855-5852 or renee.richardson@brainerddispatch.com . Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/Dispatchbizbuzz .

Related Topics: BAXTER
Renee Richardson is managing editor at the Brainerd Dispatch. She joined the Brainerd Dispatch in 1996 after earning her bachelor's degree in mass communications at St. Cloud State University.
Renee Richardson can be reached at renee.richardson@brainerddispatch.com or by calling 218-855-5852 or follow her on Twitter @dispatchbizbuzz or Facebook.
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