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EDA continues efforts to sell Cedar Grove Business Park lots
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EDA continues efforts to sell Cedar Grove Business Park lots

The Cook County/Grand Marais Economic Development Authority met on April 9 and once again discussed the need to fill two vacancies on the EDA board. The EDA also heard an interesting proposal for use of a business park lot.

The EDA started its meeting by reading a letter of resignation from the county-appointed EDA representative Carol Mork. The EDA board accepted her resignation with regret. It was noted that this creates a second vacancy on the EDA board, as the city-appointed representative Virginia Palmer resigned earlier this year.

WTIP spoke to EDA Executive Director Beth Drost about the vacancies after the meeting and she said it is possible that the positions have been filled. However, she encourages other members of the public interested in serving on the economic development board to contact her for future consideration. WTIP has since learned that Steve Surbaugh has been appointed to fill the county EDA representative seat. Listen to a WTIP interview with the newest EDA board member here. 

The EDA considered an offer on a Cedar Grove Business Park lot from Ron Piercy of RP Sterling, LLC. Piercy has had success in art business development with three Yellow Bird Fine Art locations, one here in Grand Marais. He shared information about his most recent venture, an 8,000 square foot art space in Washburn, Wisconsin. At that site, Piercy created a wine bar, art studios, and housing, and he recently sold it.

Piercy would like to purchase a business park lot to do something similar. He hopes that his purchase of Lot 9, Block 5, a 1.44-acre parcel, could provide work or studio space for potters, jewelers, painters, glass artists, and others. Piercy told the EDA board that there is a lack of space for artists to work.

His plan calls for starting with 3-4 “tiny studios” connected by pathways, with one studio having plumbing for bathroom facilities and providing water for artists who need that for their work. His plan calls for all structures to have electricity and heat. Piercy said the studios would be of different sizes so that some would support two artists rather than one. He anticipates the site could evolve and support additional structures, but 3 to 4 are in the current plan.

The EDA pointed Piercy to the Grand Marais Planning Commission, to ensure that a lot with multiple structures does not need a conditional use permit or variance. Since the EDA meeting, WTIP has learned that Piercy would not need any special permission, as long as the structures meet all set-back regulations.

Piercy’s purchase offer reflected the need to mitigate wetlands on this lot, which includes a year-round creek. The EDA board thanked Piercy for the presentation. After he left, the board discussed the offer and directed EDA Director Drost to make a counteroffer.

The EDA also discussed the upcoming construction of an animal shelter on a Cedar Grove Business Park lot. Funds are available for this construction–$55,000 from Arrowhead Animal Rescue and $25,000 budgeted by both the city of Grand Marais and Cook County. Chris Skildum will be the contractor completing the construction. However, a memorandum of agreement needs to be completed before the work can begin.

The EDA continues to finetune the language which would allow some residential use in the business park. Grand Marais city council members had expressed concern that allowing this use could lead to rentals in the business park. The intent is to allow a business to have living quarters for the business owner or employees. The EDA is considering clearly stating that these owner-occupied lots cannot be used as vacation rentals. Director Drost and EDA Board Member Ann Sullivan are finalizing the changes to the existing language and hope to bring it before the city planning commission in May.

In other EDA news, Scott Harrison, EDA treasurer, gave an overview of our budget. He provided a summary document and went over each line item with the EDA board. Harrison told the EDA board that the golf course was in very good financial shape as it prepares to open for the 2022 season.

WTIP’s Rhonda Silence learns more about all of this and more in this interview with EDA Director Beth Drost.