Duluth City Council voted unanimously Monday night in favor of a resolution to transfer ownership of approximately 37 acres of land in Lester to the Duluth Economic Development Authority, in the hope that the organization can successfully market the property to future real estate developers. The subject land is located on the south side of the golf course and constitutes approximately 14% of the total golf course ownership.

Speaking in favor of the resolution, 2nd District Councilor Joel Sipress said: “What we’re looking at here is the sale of a relatively small portion of the Lester Park Golf Course property to for development purposes, while maintaining the vast majority of Lester Park. Golf course as an open public park. ”

The city’s earlier attempts to solicit development plans for a larger 50-acre portion of the golf course in 2014 and 2020 have been unsuccessful.

Gary Meader / Duluth News Tribune

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The resolution passed on Monday said: “The city administration believes that the transfer of ownership to the authority … will improve the ability of the city and DEDA staff to engage developers and encourage the development of mixed income housing. “

Two plots of land would be set aside for affordable housing, renting out housing to tenants within the financial reach of households earning no more than 60% of the region’s median income. Globally, no less than 20% of new housing units built on the golf course are considered to be affordable housing by the same definition.

Councilor Gary Anderson, who represents District 1 of Duluth, including Lester Park, said: “I am delighted to see this resolution move forward and look forward to the next steps, so we really hope to come forward with further development. the right size and appropriate for this neighborhood “,

The land is to be sold in pieces or as a whole at market value, estimated at approximately $ 1.3 million cumulative. Any proceeds from the sale of the property must be reinvested in Duluth’s public golf program, and in particular the Enger Park golf course.

This course should be temporarily inactive for a one-year major overhaul. In the meantime, the 18-hole Lester Park Golf Course, previously on hold, will reopen before being permanently retired.

Anderson said he liked the idea of ​​breaking the golf course ownership into pieces, allowing for incremental development with a variety of housing.

“I am delighted to see mixed income housing coming here. Mixed income is what built Lakeside. Mixed income is what built Woodland. Mixed income is what built Gary-New Duluth. There are very few parts of our city that has not been built on a variety of housing availability, ”he said.

Lester Park golf course in Duluth on July 1, 2021. Steve Kuchera / Duluth News Tribune

Lester Park golf course in Duluth on July 1, 2021. Steve Kuchera / Duluth News Tribune

Sipress said the type of housing offered would allow young people who grew up in the neighborhood to return to the Lakeside-Lester Park neighborhoods.

“We’re talking about making sure that if you work at the New London Cafe washing the dishes, or work at Sammy’s, or work at the new brewery, you can afford to live in the neighborhood where you grew up. This is what we are talking about. And I think we absolutely have to make it clear that every neighborhood should be a neighborhood where people who don’t earn a lot of money can afford to live, ”he said.

Monday’s resolution demanded no fewer than eight affirmative votes from all nine council members, due to the high standard set for the disposition of the established public park land.

A future ordinance is expected to make the conditions set out in the resolution of intent adopted on Monday legally binding on any future development agreement involving the land.

While Sipress supported the resolution, he said: “My only concern is that this land transfer to DEDA will last up to seven years. They will have seven years to pursue this land development. And we have no idea who will be mayor in seven years, and we have no idea who will be the commissioners of DEDA. We have no idea who the city staff will be. there is a change of perspective in relation to a future administration, and if DEDA goes ahead and sells this land to a developer in violation of the terms of the development contract, and if due to the views of a future administration, the city does not apply the development agreement, I asked the city attorney to tell us what recourse would a future city council have? “

Sipress said he hoped council would have that question answered before he was asked to vote on a real sales order for the property in question.