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Great Lakes Article:

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 eminent domain.

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 with those.

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 the Point.
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 property.

“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 is determined.

Cave, who was in the audience, made no comments during the discussion.

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