A request came before the Stillwater City Council during its July 2 meeting that doesn’t happen frequently — a property requested to leave Oak Park Heights and join the city of Stillwater. In response, Oak Park Heights asked Stillwater to swap the property for a segment of roadway.

Canvas Health, a non-profit that provides mental and chemical health services, purchased several homes that share the block with its Stillwater location with the plan to redevelop the area. The block is located south of Orleans Street between Panama and Ozark avenues. However, not all of the homes on the block were a part of the city of Stillwater. Two parcels of property in the block north west corner are in Oak Park Heights.

On the west side of Ozark Ave., the block is a part of an island of Oak Park Heights that exist within the city border of Stillwater. The block immediately East of the Canvas Health block is also a part of Oak Park Heights. However, the property immediately south of the block - the former Oak Park Elementary School - is located within the city of Stillwater.

In order to redevelop the block to fit its future needs, Canvas Heath has asked the city of Stillwater to join all of its property within the city of Stillwater. As the majority of their property is within Stillwater, they thought it would be easier to just join everything in Stillwater, said community director Bill Turnblad.

In response, the city of Oak Park Heights has asked for a property swap. In its request, the city of Oak Park Heights would agree to let the property join Stillwater if the city of Stillwater gives up an access road on the north side of Highway 36 - the Lookout Trail North turn off from Highway 95.

Currently, the Minnesota Department of Transportation has jurisdiction of the indicated portion of Lookout Trail North that Oak Park Heights desires.

With the construction of the St. Croix Crossing bridge complete, MnDOT has indicated it will return this right-of-way property to the city of Stillwater. Instead of this new property joining Stillwater, Oak Park Heights believes that it would be more beneficial for their city to have right-of-way access.

When the city council asked staff if they saw anything negative about the swap, all were in favor.

“We do not have any objections,” said Shawn Sanders, head of Public Works. If the city were to take control of Lookout Point North, the city would be required to maintain and plow the road.

As the redevelopment of the Canvas Health Clinic would not add to the city’s tax base as a non-profit, the city would not see a gain in taxes by adding the property.

“It is not a tax-based question. We don’t see a downside,” said Turnblad. “It’s a win-win.”

“I think it is great we are working cooperatively with Oak Park Heights,” council member Tom Weidner said.

Turnblad said the city would move forward with the work needed to approve the exchange of property between Stillwater and Oak Park Heights.

Contact Alicia Lebens at alicia.lebens@ecm-inc.com

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