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Duluth Council Supports Option of Selling Golf Course Land

Baihly Warfield
Updated: May 13, 2019 10:53 PM

The Duluth City Council has supported moving forward with exploring the option of selling public golf course land. 

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The resolution of support does not mean that the land is certain to be sold. The council must also approve a rezoning this summer, and eight of nine councilors must eventually vote in favor of the sale.

City administration has proposed selling the driving range portion of the Enger course, about 16 acres, and the Lake 9 at Lester, about 50 acres. Last week, the Parks Commission approved a resolution of intent to sell 6-2. City staff envision new housing developments on the sold land.

"Sustainability can mean environmental, and certainly, there's a lot of components to that," Councilor Arik Forsman said. "But it also can mean financial decisions that need to be made." 

The city also plans to add 450 acres of tax-forfeited land to Lester and buy 30 acres of tax-forfeited land for an expanded Enger Park. The new land would be protected from future development. 

The council approved two resolutions, one in support of administration's recommended changes and one amending the comprehensive land use map for those areas of Lester and Enger.

Councilor Joel Sipress said this plan is much better than anything he would have expected to be voting on. 

"This vote is not a rezoning. But it's a vote that's preparatory to rezoning," Sipress said. "Under our planning processes, we have a land use map that indicates the intended future use. This would indicate that the intended future use of those 50 acres is for development."

Many golfers and others concerned about the possibility of selling public land turned out to Monday's council meeting to voice their opposition. 

"Lester Park and the golf course is a park first. It is public land first," Carl Haensel, northern Minnesota chair of Minnesota Trout Unlimited, said. "As people that really work to conserve our cold water resources both around the state and in the city of Duluth ... we really are concerned about the long-term prospects of looking at golf courses as a potential sale of park land."

Dan Baumgartner with Friends of Duluth Public Golf said they can't help but feel disappointed by this proposal but that the group will work with the city to preserve public golf moving forward.

"We do need a plan now. We need a plan soon, a master plan going forward," Baumgartner said. "There's a lot of specifics that still need to be ironed out. A short-term example, we have to move the driving ranges. A longer term example, we'd like to make the courses multi-use so that everyone can enjoy the parks year-round."

JT Haines said he is concerned with the lack of public engagement in the process, and he wants to make sure there is a close look at any environmental impacts.

"I think any future use would have to consider all sorts of potential impacts, in particular, flood runoff, our climate goals as a city, traffic congestion, infrastructure, all of those things," Haines said.

The next step is a rezoning of the land to Mixed Use-Neighborhood, which will come to the city through an ordinance proposed by the Planning Commission. Administration said they would expect it to go to the Planning Commission in June and reach the council in July. 

Other Council Action:

  • Approval of a resolution "reaffirming Duluth's commitment to the values of inclusion, equity and justice. It asks city administration develop a program around implicit bias and diversity and asks the Human Rights Commission to promote the values. 
  • Approval of an amendment to the massage therapy ordinance, which removes a requirement that license applicants disclose their weight, height and eye and hair color. 

Credits

Baihly Warfield

Copyright 2019 WDIO-TV LLC, a Hubbard Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved

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