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North Shore News Hour

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  • Monday 12-1pm
  • Monday 5-6pm
  • Tuesday 12-1pm
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News

The North Shore News Hour includes up-to-the minute weather, North Shore happenings in local news, sports and entertainment, as well as a variety of features from WTIP staff and volunteers. If you miss the North Shore News Hour at noon, tune in for a replay Monday through Thursday beginning at 5:00 p.m.


What's On:
Pat Ditlevson clung to a rock in the river awaiting rescue.

Cascade River rescue survivor talks to WTIP

A woman from St. Joseph, Minnesota was rescued from the Cascade River after losing her footing while on a hike near the high-flowing waterway on June 17.

WTIP reported on that successful rescue operation, which involved the Cook County Sheriff’s Office, the Lutsen Search & Rescue Rope Team, North Shore Ambulance, Minnesota State Patrol and U.S. Border Patrol. The hiker was transported by ambulance to North Shore Hospital, where she was evaluated and released.

Community members who were aware of the emergency call wondered how she was doing. WTIP reached out to that hiker, Pat Ditlevson, to find out how she’s doing. Ditlevson shared her recollection of the incident, and added her gratitude to all of the parties involved in the rescue.

Here’s Rhonda Silence with more.

Click on the slideshow to see a photo of Pat Ditlevson just moments before she tumbled into the raging waters of Cascade River. Photos courtesy of Pat Ditlevson. 
 

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Hamilton Housing, LLC's first project, an affordable rental house

Local entrepreneurs launch Hamilton Housing, LLC

Many North Shore residents struggle to find a safe and secure place to live. There has been a lot of talk in Cook County about this housing shortage and there have been some efforts to construct housing.

The latest housing projects developed by the Cook County/Grand Marais Economic Development Authority (EDA) and One Roof Housing have been focused on market rate housing in Grand Marais and rental units in Lutsen.

Village North, a development by Bruce Block, on the former Gofer Cabins site, is addressing some of the affordable housing needs, but there is more to be done.

That’s where Anna and Sarah Hamilton come in. They have launched Hamilton Housing, LLC and are working to develop affordable housing options in Cook County.

WTIP’s Rhonda Silence talked to the duo about their efforts.
 

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An architect's drawing of the building that Berner Properties would like to construct between Java Moose and Harbor Inn.

Grand Marais planning passes, but city postpones variance for new building

The Grand Marais Planning Commission and City Council dealt with two variance requests for properties within the city in recent weeks – and the city council and planning commission didn’t agree on one of the proposals.

On October 3 the city planning commission passed recommendations to approve the two variance requests, but not without lengthy discussion.
The first variance request was from Anna & Sarah Hamilton, for a property at 902 West 5th Avenue West, in the Creechville area. The Hamiltons requested permission to build a 16-foot wide residential structure on a lot 300-square feet less than the required city lot. The Hamiltons are working on an affordable housing project and although their project did not meet any opposition, it did raise questions.

After discussion, there appeared to be consensus that the current zoning ordinances are not conducive to the construction of affordable housing. Planning commissioner members agreed needed to be discussed at future meetings.

In the meantime, the Hamilton’s variance was approved with a unanimous vote.   

The second variance request was from Berner Properties, for the property between the Harbor Inn and the Java Moose coffee shop on Wisconsin Street. The Ogema Realty building on that lot was demolished earlier this year

David Berner, whose family has owned that piece of property for decades, requested a variance to construct a 31.5-foot tall building, 18 inches taller than the maximum allowed height of 30-feet.

His company, Berner Properties describes the proposed building as a three-story building with retail use on the ground level.
With Berner was local attorney Tyson Smith who said he was happy to represent Berner on this project, on what he called one of the smallest—if not the smallest—developable lots in the city of Grand Marais.

Smith pointed out that Berner and his construction team had determined that they should leave space between the new building and the adjacent structures to avoid moisture problems for all parties.

However, that decision means even less space for the structure on the small lot and less space for a retail area on the ground floor.

Berner said he had made significant modifications to his original plan and he asked the city to please consider allowing the additional 18 inches of building height which would be primarily for the first floor commercial space. He explained that for the retail space it was critical to have 11-foot high ceilings.

The subsequent floors would have 9 foot and 8 foot ceilings. 

The planning commission also discussed parking and Berner explained that he had two dedicated parking spaces for his building and he was working on a shared parking agreement with the Harbor Inn next door.

Planning Commission Member Staci Hawkins said she would like some sort of condition requiring that the first floor is some sort of commercial space, not lodging. The commission noted there was not a good way to enforce that, but agreed to add that condition to the variance.

Planning Commission Member Todd Miller noted the public concern over his recent construction—which does fall under the 30-foot height limit. In light of some negative comments over his property, he asked if the city should seek more public input before granting the variance for additional height.

That comment did not sit well with Planning Commission Member Hal Greenwood, who said Miller should not even bring that up as it brought controversy to his door.

Miller replied that the community reaction was precisely why he thought the public should have more input on this latest proposal.

Other board members said they shared Miller’s concern. The motion for the variance to allow 18-feet of additional height ultimately passed with Commission  Members Michael Gary, Stacy Hawkins, Tim Kennedy and Hal Greenwood voting in favor and Todd Miller casting a no vote.

City Council questions building height on variance request
The zoning variances then went to the Grand Marais City Council on Wednesday, October 10. The variance for the Hamiltons’ Creechville area lot was approved fairly quickly with a unanimous vote.

However, there was significant discussion of the Berner Properties variance request. The city council questioned the drawings and documents, noting that it seemed that the document dimensions would result in a building height over the requested 18 inches.

After nearly an hour of discussion with David Berner and Attorney Tyson Smith, the city council postponed the decision, asking Berner to bring his plans back to the council’s next meeting with clarification.

Because of additional work with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency regarding soil clean-up of the parking area at the back of the lot, Berner said construction would not actually take place until 2020.        

WTIP's Rhonda Silence shares a report on the planning commission meeting and an interview on both variance requests with Grand Marais Mayor Jay Arrowsmith DeCoux. 

 


 
The Voyageur II entering the Duluth Harbor under the High Bridge on October 5 - Photo courtesy of Duluth HIgh Bridge Harbor Cam

Isle Royale ferry season ends with a final trip to Duluth

Another season has ended for the boats of the Grand Portage-Isle Royale Transportation Line. The Sea Hunter and now the Voyageur II have been taken to dry dock at Lakehead Boat Basin in Duluth. 

WTIP's Joe Friedrichs contacted Captain Ben Silence aboard the Voyageur II as he made the trek to Duluth. Here's that conversation, along with a photo of the Voyageur reaching its destination and sailing under the Duluth High Bridge, courtesy of the High Bridge Harbor Cam. 

 

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Before running, the North Shore Storm goes through a vigorous warm-up routine

Great season start for North Shore Storm runners

The North Shore Storm, the combined Cook County/Two Harbors cross country running team, has had a great start to the season. 

The boys' varsity took 1st place at the Eveleth Cross Country Meet and the JV boys took 2nd. They followed that with an impressive 3rd place at the Milaca Mega Meet. 

The girls' varsity finished 2nd in Eveleth  At Eveleth, the JV girls took 1st. And at the Milaca Mega Meet, they finished 10th. 

Next up for the Storm is the Swain Cross Country Meet, one of the oldest races in the country. It is held at the scenic Enger Golf Course in Duluth. 

As the team was warming up recently, WTIP's Rhonda Silence caught up with some of the varsity runners to hear more about how the season is going. 

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ISD 166 Board Chair Sissy Lunde and Superintendent Bill Crandall at a recent school board meeting

Local schools among those denied state security grants

The Minnesota Department of Education announced Monday that more than 120 schools will share the $25 million in safety grant funding approved by the Legislature in May as part of a capital investment bill.

More than 1,000 schools had requested money for $230 million worth of projects that will not be funded.

“Students and teachers clearly need more support to ensure our kids are safe,” Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius said in a statement announcing the grants.
 
“The school safety grants announced today only scratch the surface,” she said.
 
District leaders submitted applications for individual school buildings. Some districts had multiple projects funded.
The Anoka-Hennepin, Columbia Heights, Inver Grove Heights, Lakeville, Mahtomedi, Minneapolis, North St. Paul-Oakdale-Maplewood, Rosemount-Apple Valley-Eagan, Roseville, South St. Paul, South Washington County, St. Paul and West St. Paul-Mendota Heights-Eagan districts all had projects funded.

The grant amounts were capped at $500,000 except for the Ada-Borup district in northwestern Minnesota that received $512,726. Education department officials said the grants would be split between the Twin Cities metro area and Greater Minnesota.
Area school districts that received portions of the requested safety grant money were Chisholm, Hibbing and St. Louis County.
Schools that requested safety grant funding include Ely, Esko, Eveleth-Gilbert, Floodwood, Grand Rapids, Greenway, and Virginia. Also denied was the Lake Superior School District and Cook County Schools (ISD 166).

Superintendent Bill Crandall serves both the Lake Superior School District and Cook County. WTIP’s Rhonda Silence reached out to Crandall to learn more.
 

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Walking School Bus - Photo courtesy of Moving Matters.JPG

The six "Es" of Safe Routes to School

Each month the Sawtooth Mountain Clinic offers infomation on a timely "Topic of the Month." This month the topic is "Safe Routes to School" and the actions taken to make Grand Marais a safer walking area. 

Hartley Acero of the Sawtooth Mountain Clinic talks about the six "Es" that make a community safer in which to walk. Acero explains they are: engineering, enforcement, education, encouragement, equity and evaluation. 

One of the educational efforts that has taken place in the past is the "Walking School Bus," in which students, parents, school officials, members of law enforcement and the general public walk together to school. It's meant to determine the safest routes for walkers and to encourage children and parents to make that walk part of their everyday routine. The next "Walking School Bus" event will be Wednesday, October 10. 

WTIP's Gary Latz talks with Hartley to learn more. 

 

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 Cook County Sheriff's Office

Theft and vandalism at North Shore Car Wash

Last Friday, Peter Schliep, the owner of the North Shore Car Wash and Laundromat was met with an unpleasant surprise when he opened the car wash for business. Overnight on September 21, someone had pried open a coin box, taking all of the coins and damaging the box beyond repair.
 
Schliep said only one of the two car wash bays was damaged, however, it is a bad time to have a bay down, as there are a lot of grouse hunters and leaf lookers washing cars this time of year.
 
The North Shore Car Wash also provides free boat washes under the Minnesota Aquatic Invasive Species Prevention Program.
 
Schliep was able to make temporary repairs and both bays are now back in service.
 
Schliep tells WTIP that he has cameras at the car wash and laundromat and Cook County Law Enforcement said the suspects have been identified. The case is currently under investigation.
 
 
 


 
While Grand Marais looks for a solution, an above ground sewer line is in place temporarily

City wastewater department faces challenges

Grand Marais Public Utility Commission workers were putting their pumper truck to use this week because of a faulty lift station on the west side of Grand Marais. That problem has been resolved for the most part, but the wastewater department is facing a deadline to get the line along Highway 61 repaired and back in the ground. 

Rhonda Silence finds out more about PUC activities in this interview.
 

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City Hall

Citizens fill city hall for North House lease discussion

The Grand Marais City Council met Wednesday, September 26 and discussion continued on the city’s lease with the North House Folk School.

The city of Grand Marais owns the property on which the North House Folk School is located. The city leases the harbor side property to the school for approximately $4,000 annually.

North House’s current is lease for 25 years, of which 11 years remain. In 2017, North House approached the city to get an early extension of its lease, to either 50 or 99 years.

Discussion of a possible extension led council members to consider a change to the criteria used to gauge whether North House was fulfilling its side of the lease agreement. Councilors agreed that the lease should clearly outline what the city expects in community outreach programs.

The council asked North House to return to the September 26 council meeting with more information on what the city gains from programming directed at community members, such as programming for local school students and events.

Returning on the September 26 were North House Executive Director Greg Wright, board members Mike Prom and Mark Glasnapp. In addition, there the city council chamber was filled with citizens, many who spoke during the public comment period.

North House provided information in the council packet, listing things such as dedicated educational programs for 3rd, 4th and 5th grade classes; the high school timber frame course; youth sail camp and deckhand programs; as well as a 25 percent tuition discount for Cook County residents.

North House also pointed to community projects such as the Rec Park timbered bridge and the shelters at the Rec. Park, stating that North House would be open to discussing other such projects to support the city and its residents.
In addition, North House said that it will continue to keep its waterfront campus open and welcoming to the public, adding that North House has conducted the day-to-day and annual maintenance of the folk school grounds, freeing the city’s maintenance department from those duties.

Carl “Pete” Gresczyk, a citizen running for a city council seat, led off the public comment period, stressing that he thinks North House is a great organization, which does a lot for the community. However, he asked the council to put a value on the city property currently occupied by the North House Folk School. He said that value is what should be used to determine what the lease payment should be for the school.

Several other citizens also spoke, with Fritz Sobanja noting that the low lease payment was intended to help the folk school as it was getting established. He suggested that be reevaluated.

Jim Vannet noted that the low monthly payment was terribly inadequate and offered to pay $400 a month to lease the waterfront property. He urged the council to reconsider the lease payment and to not agree to a 50- or 99-year lease. He said that would lock the city into a deal that may not be sustainable.

Barb LaVigne, co-owner of the Angry Trout Restaurant, near the North House campus, said North House has brought great economic benefit to the community, bringing visitors to town in February, March and November, when business is usually slow.
LaVigne also suggested taking the approximately $30,000 or $40,000 that could be collected in taxes on the property and dividing it amongst property owners, to see what the true impact is to taxpayers.

Dave Williams, owner of Bear Track Outfitters, said the city and North House Folk School keep saying the folk school is helping local businesses. He said in his case, it caused him to lose business as the instructor/guides he had worked with went to work at the school. He said not all businesses—or tax payers—see benefits from North House.

The day after the meeting, WTIP’s Rhonda Silence sat down with Mayor Jay Arrowsmith DeCoux to talk about the North House lease, as well as the ordinance on first floor lodging in downtown Grand Marais, the city-county agreement on operation of the Cook County Community YMCA and more. 
 

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