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The Minnesota Landscape Arboretum will sell a 52-acre piece of rolling, wooded property for $1.5 million, the University of Minnesota Board of Regents has decided.

The buyer, Jeff Verdoorn, intends to build a single-family home on the property, according to U documents.

The property is a parcel south of W. 82nd Street in Chaska, across the road from the arboretum. The parcel was listed for $1.9 million and has been on the market since 2012.

The arboretum, which last year celebrated its 50th anniversary, acquired the land in the 1960s as part of a farm that spanned both sides of W. 82nd Street.

But it wasn’t a good fit with the rest of the arboretum, said director Peter Moe. It lies in a watershed that flows into the Minnesota River, while the rest of the arboretum is part of the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District.

It also extends outside the area that arboretum officials decided in 1998 would be the main focus of its projects and programming, bounded by W. 82nd Street, Bavaria Road and Highways 5 and 41.

The arboretum is part of the U, along with the adjacent Horticultural Research Center, where U scientists develop new varieties of apples, grapes and other produce.

Together they occupy about 1,200 acres in Chanhassen and Victoria.

West 82nd Street, a gravel road, might be upgraded to a paved county highway in the coming years, said Carver County engineer Lyndon Robjent. That would further separate the 52 acres from the rest of the arboretum.

And unloading the parcel will enable the arboretum to surround its entire property with a fence to keep out deer, which caused widespread damage to tulips and other plants in the past.

Minimal development

The listing for the property said: “Land can be developed into 5 potential homesites, or have your Dream Estate.”

Moe said it’s unlikely that the property would be a practical site for a large housing development. It contains wetlands and steep hills, is zoned for low-density housing and is not connected to city utilities.

Minimal development on the land is important, he said, “because that means that most of the property will stay in pretty much the same condition it is now” and continue to offer a scenic view beyond the arboretum boundaries.

The buyer could not be reached for comment.

Proceeds from the sale will enable the arboretum to pay off a $1.2 million loan from the U that it used in 2013 to purchase a different piece of property — 78 acres alongside Lake Tamarack near Victoria, Moe said.

“We’re not publicizing the [Tamarack] property very well because it doesn’t have very good access off of Highway 5,” Moe said.

The arboretum purchased the property primarily for conservation reasons and to protect the lake’s water quality, he said, even though the land lies outside the boundaries drawn by the 1998 plan.

One of country’s largest

The arboretum is one of the largest botanical gardens in the country and twice has been voted the nation’s Best Botanical Garden in a USA Today reader’s choice contest, topping a list of 20 gardens nominated by horticulture experts.

It has grown by about 300 acres since the 1990s.

“At that time the communities surrounding us were all developing at a fairly rapid rate,” Moe said, and arboretum officials were concerned that development could stifle its growth and mar the surrounding countryside.

One piece of land the arboretum acquired once had been wetland. It was owned by a developer who planned to fill it with a gas station/convenience store and housing, Moe said.

Instead, the arboretum bought it and created an area called Spring Peeper Meadow, where native wildlife, flowers and grasses flourish.

“It’s a completely restored wetland with diverse native plants, full of birds and butterflies,” Moe said.

Katy Read • 612-673-4583