City council and North House Folk School begin conversation for prosposed sale of leased city-owned property
North House

City council and North House Folk School begin conversation for prosposed sale of leased city-owned property

The North House Folk School officially began a conversation with the city council during the July 13 meeting regarding the proposed sale of the leased city-owned property. 

The property being discussed is leased 25 years at a time by North House, with six years remaining on the current lease. As the North House recently pivoted its campus development plans, it set its sights on securing a long-term future on the city-owned parcel.

The parcel is central to North House’s operations, Greg Wright, the executive director, said, including three structures frequently used for classroom instruction, public events, and other campus needs.

The value of the .83-acre parcel, located between the Grand Marais Recreation Park and the North House owned Fisherman’s Daughter/Dockside fish market, is just over $1.2 million. Before potential sale negotiations begin, the North House requests that an updated appraisal be conducted to confirm that value. 

There were multiple public comments received during the open forum period of the city council meeting. Both in support and opposition of the proposed sale of the city-owned property.

Vice Mayor Craig Schulte told WTIP in a July 18 interview that city council members have also received a mixture of public support and opposition feedback from the community outside of the city council meeting.

Mayor Jay Decoux removed himself from the North House conversation during the July 13 city council meeting due to a conflict of interest. Decoux teaches classes at the North House Folk School. 

In addition, council member Anton Moody was not in attendance during the meeting. As a result, only three council members participated in the conversation. 

Schulte expressed that he views the city-owned parcel as a considerable asset, and at this moment, he doesn’t prefer to sell the property. Instead, he said, “I think moving along with a more equitable contract between us and North House would be something that I think I would like to pursue.”

However, Schulte said that additional public feedback is necessary. He said, “I just want to make sure we’re making the right decisions that’s in the best interest of the city at this time.”

Under the terms of the lease, North House pays a monthly fee of approximately $390 to lease the bulk of its lakeside campus. That equates to roughly $4,700 annually. If the city did sell the property, they would get a sizeable lump sum for the parcel that could benefit the financial standing of the city budget. 

While the initial financial benefit is enticing, the city would lose long-term monthly fees and a valuable public-owned asset. In addition, the North House is a nonprofit organization, meaning it does not pay property taxes on land it owns.

The request to purchase land from the city is not the first action North House took in recent years regarding land ownership. In 2018, North House completed the sale to buy Dockside Fish Market (now Fisherman’s Daughter) for approximately $1.3 million. In fall 2021, North House purchased a parcel of raw land across Highway 61 from a resident for $275,000.

The city council received an email from a private individual who expressed interest in purchasing the property. Schulte said that further discussion regarding the legal process of a private or public sale would occur at an upcoming council meeting. 

Despite what lies ahead for further discussion, Schulte emphasized that he wants the public to be involved. He said, “I think any public comments that we received need to be read at the public meetings and needs to be weighed into that (discussion).”

The city council did not move forward with a decision at the July 13 city council meeting. Instead, council members will spend time weighing the issue while they receive feedback from the community. The conversation will resume at an upcoming meeting.

After the council meeting on July 13, North House Folk School hosted three community conversations to address questions about these new plans. The listening sessions were on July 14, July 15, and July 17. The final listening session is on July 19 at 7 p.m. It will take place in the Green Building at North House.

Comments and questions can be directed to Greg Wright or Tom Morse –the school can also be reached at 218-387-9762.

WTIP’s Kalli Hawkins spoke with Vice Mayor Craig Schulte after the July 13 city council meeting about the initial conversation and the next steps. Audio below.