Deed restriction complicates DeLaSalle field plan

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January 31, 2005 // UPDATED 1:51 pm - April 26, 2007
By: Scott Russell
Scott Russell

Meanwhile, Park Board OKs Nicollet Island Inn sale

A new hurdle has surfaced in DeLaSalle High School's plans to build a multisport athletic facility on Nicollet Island: part of the site has a deed restriction that requires the land remain a regional park.

DeLaSalle officials have floated a plan to lease Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board land to build the football/soccer/softball field with 600-seat bleachers. DeLaSalle controls 70 percent of the site; it needs the other 30 percent from the Park Board.

DeLaSalle would pay for the improvements and get the home field advantage it has long wanted. In return, the Park Board would get to use the facility during the summer.

However, the Park Board acquired at least part of the proposed site with a $1.1 million grant from the Metropolitan Council, said Arne Stefferud, a Met Council planning analyst. The grant required the Park Board to have a restrictive deed covenant limiting the land to a regional park.

Stefferud said any land deal - even if it were only a small piece of original purchase - needs Met Council review and approval. Further, the Met Council's regional parks policy says that if land is going to be converted to a nonpark use, it requires an equally valuable exchange of land or facilities, he said.

Barry Lieski, DeLaSalle principal, said the school was unaware of the deed restriction on Park Board land until project opponents raised the issue at a recent public meeting.

Superintendent Jon Gurban said his staff was investigating the deed-related issues.

The project is in its infancy. DeLaSalle officials have had informal talks with Park Board staff about the approval process but have not given the Park Board a formal proposal.

"We don't have a donor lined up to pay for this," Lieski said. "We don't know how much it would cost."

Still, a key Park Board vote could be on the horizon.

Lieski said DeLaSalle supporters surveyed the Park Board members informally to get their initial reactions. "To a person, they said yes - but we need to know more," he said.

However, the school doesn't want to spend a lot of money on architectural drawings and land surveys until it has a more formal indication of support, he said.

School officials plan to bring a resolution to the Park Board to encourage the school to proceed. No date is set to present the resolution, but Lieski said: "The sooner the better."

Advocates and opponents of the DeLaSalle stadium attended the Park Board's Jan. 19 meeting and spoke during open time. Each side got a total of nine minutes to speak, but it was enough for deep divisions to emerge.

Island resident Barry Klegg presented a 300-signature petition of people opposing the plan. State Rep. Phyllis Kahn, an island resident, also raised the restrictive covenant issue and questioned using public parkland for private use.

Brother Michael Collins, DeLaSalle president, said the school had always welcomed a neighborly relationship with island residents and had been forthright in explaining the proposal.

He took exception to what he characterized as misrepresentations of the school's plans as a football field for 20 to 30 boys, when it would also provide soccer and softball fields for both boys and girls.

School officials also objected to resident claims that the facility would have a 400-foot long, 12-foot-high retaining wall, because the school had done no such drawings.

John Derus, a DeLaSalle alumnus and board member took some island residents to task, noting they have their residences on Minneapolis parkland and lease it. "They have a sweet deal," he said.

Park Board President Jon Olson said he knew of no timeline to make a decision. "[DeLaSalle has] issues to work out with the neighborhood. I think they will do that," he said.

Abdo in at Inn

In other news, the Park Board approved transferring the Nicollet Island Inn lease to a company headed by Larry Abdo, who said he would both bring back catering and weekday breakfasts and make the Inn one of the top romantic destinations in the country.

Weekday breakfasts could resume as early as March 1, Abdo said after the vote.