Agreement reached to fill gap in regional trail

A gap in the Nine Mile Creek Regional Trail network through Edina will now be completed after a unique, multi-party eminent domain resolution that was approved at the June 7 Edina City Council meeting.
The three-party negotiations between the Three Rivers Park District, Gateway and most recently the city of Edina had been going on for quite some time.
When completed in 2018, the 15-mile Nine Mile Creek Regional Trail will connect the communities of Hopkins, Minnetonka, Edina, Richfield and Bloomington.
Planning for the segment and preferred route through Edina was identified by Three Rivers and the city council in late 2010.
The goal was to use public land as much as possible. In Edina, the majority of the trail was set to connect Edina High School with several city parks, including other public properties such as Lake Edina, Fred Richards Park and the Edina Promenade.
However, with a 15-mile trail crossing through several metropolitan suburbs, there were locations, called “pinch points,” where easements across private land are needed for the trail to be completed, including with the Gateway property on 77th Street West.
The eastern segment from Tracy Avenue to the Richfield border is under construction, and the western portion from Tracy Avenue to Hopkins will begin construction next year.
Since planning began, Three Rivers has been securing property rights for placement of the trail on private property.
Eminent domain negotiations began in late 2014 between Gateway and Three Rivers for a permanent easement of more than 7,000 square feet across the north side of Gateway property.
They were not able to finalize negotiations because Gateway ownership was concerned with the loss of use of the trail easement for snow storage in the winter.
The final written offer to Gateway was $380,000.
The city of Edina became part of negotiations and found a potential three-part solution:
• The city would provide Gateway with a 3,250-square-foot permanent easement for future parking lot expansion, along with assurance from the city that Gateway will be allowed to use it for parking and snow storage.
• Three Rivers would give Gateway $250,000 for compensation for legal fees, the
temporary construction easement, the permanent easement and the loss of use of a remnant piece of land to the north for the permanent easement.
• Gateway would approve the easements and the eminent domain case is resolved out of court at no additional expenses to all of the parties involved.
Planners and negotiators, such as Jonathan Vlaming of Three Rivers, called the solution unique because it provided the city a net gain of public
recreational land while also reducing the overall cost to taxpayers, which at a minimum would save $130,000.
Because of the protections afforded to landowners in eminent domain law, the potential total cost, including legal fees for resolving the case in court, could easily have doubled the original offer.
“This is a pretty good deal,” Vlaming said. “It is essentially an easement swap … and saves taxpayers $130,000. The reality is, if this had gone all of the way through … it could have been much, much more.”
Council members were also pleased with the results of the negotiations.
“We are solving our problem with the property we need, to get the trail through … and also get them what they need for snow storage,” Councilmember Kevin Staunton said.

Contact Ethan Groothuis at [email protected]