Editor’s note: In December 2015, the City of St. Paul conducted a property line survey at the request of the residents who live in the home just east of St. Anthony Park Library, as the homeowners were planning to put in a new fence and a new parking pad along the alley. The survey revealed that 3,400 square feet of land that the current and previous owners of the property were told was part of the lot actually was part of the St. Paul Public Library’s land.
The City of St. Paul and the homeowners are working on a solution to the property line discrepancy. One solution could be a land sale, in which the city sells all or part of the land to the homeowners. If a proposal to sell the land is brought before the St. Paul City Council, the city will give a 20-day notice of a public hearing, which will take place at a regular St. Paul City Council meeting, according to Jill Boldenow, spokesperson for the St. Paul Public Library.
The two letters below are in reference to this situation.
As neighborhood residents, we are asking you to get involved and contact Ward 4 Councilmember Russ Stark and Mayor Chris Coleman with your opinion about the sale of land that was donated for our branch library. The City of St. Paul Real Estate division and the St. Paul Public Library director want to sell a portion of Lot 21—on the east side of the children’s rotunda at the library—to its neighbors. The current neighbors [and] previous owners [thought] that the land where they now want to construct a fence was part of the property they had purchased. It turns out, after a city survey, the land is part of Lot 21, donated in 1917 for our library.
In our neighborhood, issues involving public lands have been brought to the appropriate board and the community council for presentations and discussions. This particular issue regarding the potential sale of St. Anthony Park Library land was discovered by accident and brought to the library association on April 11. It was the early residents of St. Anthony Park who raised the funds in 1914 to purchase the land for the library, a condition required by Andrew Carnegie in order for him to cut the check to provide building funds for our library.
These early residents knew the importance of a library and the green space that would surround it. The first three lots for the library (Lots 22- 24, Block 37) were purchased by the Improvement Association of St. Anthony Park (the precursor to the [now-defunct] St. Anthony Park Association) and donated to the city for the library. Luckily, the fourth lot (Lot 21, the lot in question) was donated (Ramsey County I.D. #515892-3) by Edward and Grace Freeman and Harry and Celia Clemons in 1917, the year the library opened. If they had not donated this land, the special children’s rotunda
addition could not have been built in 1999. The west edge of Lot 21 runs through the middle of the rotunda addition.
Our neighborhood has always been creative in how we respond to issues, as we have a community with very innovative thinkers. If the issue is brought to the neighborhood for a full discussion, citizens could meet to come up with a solution that would provide benefits to both the library and the neighbor. One idea we have is to provide a lease to the neighbors so that they could install a fence on a portion of Lot 21 on the condition that when they leave, rent, sell or deed their property, that the fence would be removed and the next owner clearly told where the true property line exists. There may be other ideas to consider.
One hundred years ago residents of our neighborhood stepped up to the plate to purchase or donate the land for a Carnegie Library. It is now our time to step up and make sure this land stays long term for what it was intended—for future library use.
Please take time to share your thoughts with Councilmember Russ Stark and Mayor Chris Coleman and request a neighborhood meeting(s) before this issue is brought to the City Council for a hearing or vote. Their contact information is Stark, firstname.lastname@example.org or 651-266- 8640, and Coleman, 651-266-8989 or stpaul.gov/departments/mayors- office/contact-mayor.
Mary Maguire Lerman, Bill Lerman and Cindy Anderson, St. Anthony Park
The listerv has been abuzz with neighbors weighing in on an issue that I suspect could happen to any homeowner anywhere in St. Anthony Park, as our property lines are notoriously inexact. Depending on who and when your property was surveyed, the results could vary by anywhere from 2 to 37 feet, as Rick and Nancy Foss found out recently.
The Fosses live right next to our branch library [and] have for the last five years. They bought their house from the McCords who owned it for 24 years before that, who bought it from someone else. During all that time the property line between the library and the adjacent house was unchanged. As far back as 1940 there’s an aerial photo of that same boundary line and there’s no indication it changed much prior to that photo.
Surveys, you want surveys? There’s the original, there’s one from 1910 that appears to be different. Then there are several surveys throughout the years between then and now that seem to be based on previous surveys or survey pins. Then there is one done recently based on historical research that indicates the lot line is actually up to 37 feet closer to the Fosses’ house. That’s the one that landed them on listserv.
I suppose I should throw in the additional complication about the library gardeners wanting the disputed land for a pollinator garden, the city saying it doesn’t want the land, and the negotiations that will hopefully lead to a resolution that makes everyone mostly happy. That seems like a reasonable result for all those folks, including the Fosses, who have paid property taxes all these years, maintained the land and, of course, paid for it as part of their
home’s purchase price.
By the way, if you’re thinking
about having your lot surveyed, know that there is at least one surveyor who refuses to work in our neighborhood due to the “nightmarish” nature of our lot lines. That should prevent no one from remembering that the lines that separate us, while important, are not as important as the relationships we forge beyond those lines.
Our commitment to neighborliness is what makes St. Anthony Park such a great place to live.
Jon Schumacher, executive director, Saint Anthony Park Community Foundation (This commentary first appeared on Schumacher’s weekly blog)