An outlot is a remnant piece of land that is left over after a developer has surveyed, planned and developed a new subdivision. Outlots are left over because they may not fit nicely into a particular lot or perhaps has a swamp on it or some other unique environmental feature on it. Sometimes a storm water pond is preserved on an outlot.
Outlots are typically given to the City at the time the City approves the final layout of the subdivision. Why does the City take ownership of an outlot? Usually it’s to preserve undeveloped land for environmental reasons. Sometimes it’s to preserve access to a storm water pond, trail or park land.
The problem for the City with outlots is how to maintain them. Many outlots lie in the center of a subdivision development, which means that many of the lots in the subdivision share a common property line with the outlots, which means there are many opinions to consider when deciding what standard to use for outlot maintenance.
A few years ago the City decided that in most cases we would use a very low standard of intrusive maintenance for City-owned outlots. We decided this in part to save money, but also to encourage more natural environment in the City. We decided that property owners could maintain (i.e. – mow) their property up to their property line, but that we did not want them to start mowing the City outlots they bordered.
The photos above capture the effect of this decision. The upper photo was taken of an outlot in the northwest part of Eden Prairie this year showing the outlot being relatively (but not completely) unmowed. The bottom photo is taken of the same outlot in 2008 showing what the outlot looks like when one of the adjoining property owners mowed it.
The current condition of the outlot is the more natural condition of the land. But many residents think it looks worse than when it was mowed. Our challenge as a city government is that we have property owners who live adjacent to this outlot who want both conditions for this outlot: some want it mowed and some want it natural. What’s a city to do about that?
Staff are giving a short presentation to the City Council tonight about our outlot maintenance policy. We will get their feedback on the policy issues at play and decide what to change, if anything, from there.