Council gets petition for referendum
on Point zoning
By Monica Isley
Lake County News-Chronicle (MN)
Posted July 14th, 2005
A petition calling for a referendum on or repeal of the
comprehensive plan amendment was given to the Two Harbors
City Council at its Monday night meeting.
After the signatures on the petition are documented, and
it is checked for compliance with the city charter, the
issue is expected to return to the council at its July
25 meeting for a decision about whether to repeal or bring
it to a referendum.
The petition came after the council approved the third
reading of the amendment to the comprehensive plan dealing
with waterfront zoning. After a third reading, citizens
have 30 days to ask for a referendum or repeal.
Speaking for the Save Lighthouse Point Campaign, Micky
McGilligan explained that the group is asking for a repeal
or referendum in order to keep current zoning as is while
efforts continue to find ways to purchase Lighthouse Point
outright from developer Sam Cave, or to acquire it by
At the same time, McGilligan said, it would prevent disturbance
of the buried waste beneath the grassy area that was once
used as dumping area before the city decided to turn it
into a park when the Sonju Trail was developed.
Once purchased, the group hopes to have the area rezoned
to Park Preserve, a zoning designation that doesn’t yet
exist in Two Harbors, but which was planned for the Point
in the city’s 1999 comprehensive plan. McGilligan said
they prefer that designation because Two Harbors’ Parks
and Recreation (PR) zoning allows hotels, motels and restaurants.
“We are not an anti-development group,” McGilligan said.
“We don’t mind any of the other developments being planned
by Cave and others in and around the town.”
Currently, most of the Point is zoned PR. Cave has asked
that a small PR section, as well as one zoned Industrial,
be changed to MUW (mixed use waterfront), which would
allow condominiums to be built, with conditional use.
Negotiations with Cave for purchase of the Point have
repeatedly fallen through, according to council members,
and Cave’s asking price for a 100-foot wide trail easement
is nearly what he paid for the entire Point three years
ago when he bought the property from DM&IR Railroad.
The Save Lighthouse Point Campaign maintains that if Cave
is allowed to rezone the property, it will increase its
value, making purchase by the city much more difficult.
McGilligan said the group believes that the public is
best served by leaving the entire Point as greenspace,
evidenced by the large numbers of locals and visitors
who use the Point. A park of that nature would also increase
the surrounding property values, she said.
At issue is the type of appraisals that have been done
on the Point, using the “highest and best use” scenario
should the Point, or parts of it, be rezoned.
Wendy Walker, who did the appraisals for the area for
the Department of Natural Resources when it bought the
proposed marina property from Cave, has argued that potential
zoning must be considered. Jane Reyer, a Grand Marais
attorney working with the Lighthouse Point group and also
for the National Wildlife Federation’s Great Lakes Project,
said that it can be zoned as is.
“The city needs to make a clear decision about what they
would like to have on the Point,” Reyer said. “If you
want it to be a park, then make that decision and gather
the correct information to make it happen. When you make
your intent known, then you need an appraisal as the land
is currently zoned; that sort of appraisal is the place
to start with negotiations.”
After an earlier council meeting, attorney David Salene,
who represents the Jensen-Re project on Burlington Bay,
agreed that the appraisal can and should be done as the
property is currently zoned.
More discussion about the issue surfaced later in the
meeting when the council decided what would be done with
the petition. Some councilmen referred to the three other
appraisals that have been done, and the costs involved
When challenged by council president Jon Jacoby to pay
for the type of appraisal they want for the Point, the
Lighthouse Point group agreed they might be able to do
that. They also offered to help apply for more grants
and to spearhead other fundraising efforts to purchase
Mayor Robin Glaser questioned why the group prefers the
Industrial zoning to an MUW, and was told that even that
the I zoning valued the property at less than MUW would.
“People want to build condominiums, the don’t want to
build cement plants,” one member of the Lighthouse Point
group said in response.
Jacoby and other councilmen expressed some worry that
condemnation proceedings would only drive the price up
higher than it is now. He also pointed out that negotiations
with Cave have been ongoing since he first bought the
“We’ve looked under every rock for money and tried to
work out deals,” he said.
Audience member Tom Koehler urged the council to exercise
its rights to protect the use of the Point through the
zoning that exists there now.
“Mr. Cave bought a park,” he said. “He knew it was a park.
You’re under no obligation to help him develop it.”
It was noted that scheduled hearings on the MUW zoning
request will go on as planned, although no action will
be taken by the council until the status of the petition
Cave, who was in the audience, made no comments during