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HomeCommunityTwo Harbors City Council meeting February 27, 2023

Two Harbors City Council meeting February 27, 2023

The regular Two Harbors City Council meeting was adjourned shortly after it began on Monday night to make time and space for public input regarding a Concept Plan for Lighthouse Point. The concept proposal calls for the construction of 13 buildings, contain­ing 26 townhouse units on a 5.4 acre of land with a commercial lot for the development of a “coffeehouse/restaurant facility,” along with “shared gathering space for residents and public use in the City of Two Harbors”.

The Council chambers were crowded with area residents who wanted to weigh in on the concept plan. Many salient points were raised highlighting residents’ concerns about whether or not the development, as it cur­rently is described, would actually benefit the Two Harbors community. Residents voiced concerns that the development plan will com­promise the historical and cultural integrity of Lighthouse Point and that the proposed blasting that will need to be done to level the terrain for construction will damage the light­house. The parcel of land in question had a railroad spur running through it for decades. A railroad track is a red flag for contamina­tion due to the significant levels of coal waste that such sites contain. Every industry on the waterfront was powered by coal for many decades and when the City acquired the land to construct the equalization basin in 2004, which is adjacent to the Lighthouse Point parcel, they encountered arsenic contami­nated soil. The cost to the City for removal and disposal of that contaminated soil, at that time, totaled $369,658.00. Additionally, that amount, spent in 2004 was for an end use in an in­dustrial site, not a residential site.

Another concern raised by several residents revolved around efforts to designate the site a TIF district. The primary purpose of a TIF (Tax Increment Financing) is to aid in the financing of real estate development costs. TIFs are usually applied to blighted proper­ties and obtaining this designation comes with certain requirements placed on the developer. These requirements can include provisions for things like the construction of affordable housing, replacing substandard buildings, cleaning up pollution, financing public infra­structure like streets and parks and providing general economic development incentives. Granted, the concept plan does not address all of these specific issues but the general view­ point expressed at Monday night’s meeting is that the Council and the public need to have a more clear idea of how the developer plans to address these concerns before the project moves to the planning stage.

The proposed townhomes, built with beau­tiful lakeshore views are obviously going to be high-end properties. This begs several questions. Will they be affordable to typi­cal residents of Two Harbors? Will families with school-aged children be able to afford to live there? What will the development do to area property taxes and how will the costs of that increase be distributed? How will the development address the glaring need for affordable housing? How does the develop­er plan to address environmental concerns? Residents of Two harbors seem to be over­whelmingly in favor of revitalizing the City’s waterfront, but are questioning whether or not the concept plan offered by this developer will actually meet very specific needs that the community has.

The City Council clearly has to have more answers to some very important questions before giving the green light for this project to move to the planning stage. Obviously, it will be in the developer’s best interest to be very clear with both the Council and the res­idents of Two harbors regarding their vision for how this project will meet the needs of the wider community.

In other Council business, Jody Zastera was appointed to the Library Board of Direc­tors and will serve a term that runs to March of 2025. The Library Board is working to re­model the Library’s bathrooms and the Board report indicated that library usage among children and teenagers has increased.

Upcoming meetings that the public may be interested in include the Planning Com­mission meeting, scheduled for March 7th at 5:30 PM, and the next City Council meeting, scheduled for March 13th at 6:00 PM.

Katee Rose contributed to portions of this article.

Rick Evans
Rick Evans
My wife, Marsha Kinzer (a proud DEHS Greyhound, class of ‘77) introduced me to the North Shore on vacation in 2012. It became our regular escape when the stress of our careers in education became overwhelming, and it didn’t take me long to fall in love with the breathtaking scenery, the nice people, and “salad” containing Jell-o and marshmallows. So you can either blame or thank my loving wife for my being here, because when we needed to choose a retirement hometown, Marsha advocated hard for her beloved Duluth, and here we are, six months later. Yes, this will be my first northern Minnesota winter. Yes, I welcome thoughts and prayers. Government, public policy, and social justice weighed heavily in the curriculums I taught at the high school level over a thirty-eight year career. In addition, we were a laboratory school focused on critical thinking in conjunction with technical and scientific writing. So when I found myself adrift on the great ocean of retirement and spied a raft, I jumped at the chance to take up what I’d left behind…minus the bad teachers’ lounge coffee. My position at the NSJ allows me to combine my passions for government and writing, and it’s helping me to feel less out of touch in new surroundings. When I’m not being “Cubby” (Marsha’s favorite new nickname for this green reporter) I enjoy pointing at eagles and saying, “Look, honey. There’s an eagle.” I’ve had an active side hustle as a professional musician for almost as many years as Charlie Parr. As a guitarist/singer/songwriter, I graced the stages of clubs and festivals around southern Wisconsin, including an appearance on A Prairie Home Companion. Should I even mention A Prairie Home Companion, or am I the only one here old enough to remember what that is? Look! An eagle!
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