At the last meeting in January, the Grand Marais city council discussed a possible sale of municipal land, climate change and mask mandates.
The final action at the council meeting was a closed session to “develop or consider offers or counter-offers for the sale of city-owned real estate located at 1800 West Highway 61,” which is a lot at the former Tomteboda Resort, now owned by the city. It is west of the city’s public works facility.
The municipal council is authorized to hold a closed session to discuss real estate negotiations. DeCoux said an offer has been made on the property. He told WTIP that during the closed session, council discussed the assessment values and descriptions of the property and worked out what the city believes is an appropriate and fair offer for the city. DeCoux said the information would be shared with the potential buyer and if accepted, the sale would proceed. Otherwise, the matter will appear on another agenda of the city council during another closed session.
Discussion of this property was initiated by former Councilman Tim Kennedy in July 2021. Kennedy completed his term on City Council in December 2020. As a citizen, he suggested the city obtain an appraisal in case any interested buyers would approach the city. At that time, he said he had very tentative plans for a new business, a bike shop, and he said city property might be a good location for that. Kennedy told the city council that if the land came up for sale, he would be interested. Kennedy said that if he was able to acquire the land, he would like to build and operate a bicycle repair business there.
At that July meeting, the board acknowledged Kennedy’s request and pointed out that there were no plans to sell the lot at this time. However, council has asked city staff to research what needs to be done for a sale of city property to occur. In the follow-up WTIP conversation with Councilor Kelly Swearingen, she reiterated that the lot was not sold at this time. Once a decision has been made on how to sell the lot, it could end up being bought by anyone, Swearingen said, not necessarily Tim Kennedy.
Since then, the only mention of city-owned property was in a December 8, 2021 report by City Administrator Mike Roth who told council the city was awaiting an assessment and engineering for the sewer service before proceeding. start the discussion on the placement of the city. property for sale. Roth told the council that the value will be based on usable space.
According to the League of Minnesota Cities, cities have the power to sell land or buildings they no longer need to anyone except government officials and certain employees. The league states that, in general, a city does not need to obtain public permission to sell land. Land sales are generally not required to use the bidding process.
City issues climate emergency declaration
The meeting began with a public comment period, during which citizens spoke in support of a resolution declaring a climate emergency for the city, both in person and via Zoom. Two young people from the community, Olya Wright and Naomi Tracy, gave a presentation on their concerns about the impacts of climate change.
The city has debated whether or not to join 16 other cities that have proclaimed a climate emergency resolution for the city. Mayor DeCoux said the town of Grand Marais has already taken steps to recognize climate change and in fact has a climate change action plan. Adopting a declaration is therefore more of a signal to state and federal governments to prepare for climate emergencies. DeCoux said that in the event of a major fire or flood, there are few funds available to help small towns like Grand Marais. He shared the scenario of a massive flood damaging the city’s sewage treatment plant. He said that as a town of 1,300 people, there is no way for the town to make these repairs.
The council held discussions, with concerns from Councilman Craig Schulte, who noted cyclical weather patterns in Cook County. He noted that growing up in the Grand Marais, he saw the ever-changing weather. A discussion of climate versus weather ensued, but the city council ultimately voted to pass the resolution declaring a climate emergency in the town of Grand Marais. The vote was unanimous, with Schulte ultimately voting yes.
Citizens demand city mask mandate
Council members said they heard from some citizens asking the city to implement a mask mandate for the city in light of the county’s recent spike in positive COVID-19 cases. DeCoux said he consulted with city attorney Chris Hood to see if the city had the authority to do so. The city attorney said no. To declare a mask mandate would require some kind of emergency declaration. Hood told the city that such a statement would be best handled by the state government.
DeCoux and advisers noted that individual businesses are asking customers to wear masks and they said they hoped everyone would consider doing so, but agreed there was no way the city could. adopt or enforce a mask mandate at this time.
In other cases
The city again discussed the proposal to rezon the Cedar Grove Business Park to allow residential use on company-affiliated business park lands. However, as there remained questions about the compatibility of residential and commercial uses, as well as concerns about the adequacy of infrastructure for pedestrians, the decision was postponed. The council has asked the Cook County/Grand Marais Economic Development Authority to gather more information for the council.
The city has also emphasized the need for citizens to run for positions on various boards and commissions. The city needs someone to serve on the Grand Marais Public Utilities Commission, the Planning and Zoning Commission, and the Grand Marais Park Board. Anyone interested in joining these councils is encouraged to contact City Administrator Mike Roth at 218-387-1848 or by email at: email@example.com.
The next Grand Marais City Council meeting will take place on Wednesday February 9 at 6:30 p.m. in the City Hall Council Chamber. The public is invited to attend. Town meetings can also be viewed on the town’s YouTube channel.
WTIP’s Rhonda Silence speaks with Mayor Jay DeCoux to learn more about the actions at the meeting in this interview.