Rhonda Silence

EDA public hearing on Cedar Grove Business Park lot sales May 28

The Cook County/Grand Marais Economic Development Authority (EDA) held its regular May meeting on May 12, but it was, like so many meetings in the COVID-19 pandemic era, held remotely. That did not stop the EDA board from discussing some important issues.

The EDA board tentatively agreed to three lot sales in the Cedar Grove Business Park, pending a public hearing on Thursday, May 28 at 4 p.m. Like the regular monthly meetings, this will be held remotely. The public is encouraged to sign on to observe the meeting and public comments may be sent in advance to director@prosperitynorth.com.

The first lot sale to be considered is to the Cook County Historical Society. This sale has been discussed at two previous EDA meetings, the first in February 2019. The historical society needs an appropriate place to house the 25,000+ items in its museum collection. The current location—the basement of the old lighthouse keeper’s home, the historical museum—has flooded twice in recent storms. The historical society currently has items stored at a variety of different areas that are not properly climate controlled.
The society had a collections assessment completed by the Midwest Arts Conservation Center, which came up with some recommendations and shared preliminary sketches of what the storage building would look like.

At that first meeting with the EDA, the historical society asked the board to consider selling the society the lot for $1, which the EDA felt was not appropriate, given the fact that other lots in business park had been sold at prices ranging from $28,000 – $35,000. The prices vary because of the condition of the lots—size of lots, how much is buildable because of wetland, etc.

EDA Director Mary Somnis also pointed out that there are special assessments on all of the Cedar Grove Business Park for utilities. For each lot sold, the EDA must pay $10,000 to $15,000 toward those assessments.

The EDA made a counter offer to the historical society to sell the lot for $20,000 plus closing costs. The historical society accepted that offer and the sale will be finalized, pending the results of the May 28 public hearing.

The second potential lot sale, called the North Point project, was before the EDA board for the first time. The buyer, Brad Shannon of Grand Marais, wants to put up a building on this small lot to build a youth activity center. North Point, Inc is working to establish a nonprofit to serve area youths.

After an offer and counteroffer, the EDA board said it would sell the lot in question for $25,000, including closing costs. That was accepted by North Point. The EDA board made a unanimous motion to move ahead with the sale, pending the results of the public hearing.

The third purchase request was for two lots, one that allows owner-occupancy, to a new business moving to the community, Fort Road Properties. This is a property investment and development company. After negotiations, the EDA board agreed to a sale price of $50,000 for the two lots. One lot is in the owner-occupied section of the business park. This will also be considered at the May 28 public hearing.

In other business at the regular May meeting, the EDA board approved a letter of support for the proposed Lutsen Mountains ski hill expansion, contingent that the letter include a statement that there are concerns regarding the 1854 Treaty Rights and how this impacts the Grand Portage Band of Lake Superior Chippewa.

After some significant discussion, a motion passed to send the letter of support to the U.S. Forest Service for Lutsen Mountain’s proposed use of the land. The vote was four EDA board members in favor, two against, with one board member absent.

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The public hearing will be facilitated by Small Business Development Center Representative Pat Campanaro. For more information on participating in the EDA Public Hearing, contact EDA Director Mary Somnis at director@prosperitynorth.com or call 218-387-3112.

WTIP’s Rhonda Silence spoke with EDA president Howard Hedstrom after the May EDA meeting about the lot sales. Here’s their conversation.