by Dennis Dalman
Details and a timeline of the sale of golf-course land by the City of Sartell to a private developer continues to move forward, with a closing on the buyer’s agreement set for January 2024.
That land sale, at a price of $426,000, remains one of the most contentious council decisions in Sartell history, with many former city council members and mayors, not to mention city residents, loudly condemning the decision, and many still do.
The Sartell City Council recently approved on a vote of 5-0 the amendments to the original purchase agreement. That vote locked in the provision that the purchaser of those 81 acres must maintain that land as a golf course for at least 30 years. To break that requirement, future city councils would have to vote unanimously to undo that 30-year mandate.
The final buyer’s agreement between the city and the buyer (Sartell resident Brandon Testa of Three Tees, LLC) will be considered for a final closing this January. The development agreement and all of its provisions will be reviewed by the council this December.
In 2008, the City of Sartell purchased about 160 acres of land that had been owned by the Sartell Golf Course, a privately-owned 18-hole golf course adjacent to Pinecone Road N. The city used regional half-cent sales tax revenue to purchase it.
After the purchase, half of that land was made into Pinecone Regional Park; the other half (81 acres) was leased to Boulder Ridge Golf Course, based in St. Cloud, which set up a new 9-hole golf course on the Sartell-owned property under a lease approved by both parties.
The rationale for the sale this year is that the new owner (Three Tees) would build upon the success of the Boulder Ridge course, plus add more amenities (restaurant, new clubhouse, irrigation-system improvements and more) that are beyond the city’s financial abilities.
In October of 2022, the city council called for Request for Development proposals for that land. It received four proposals, which were presented to the city council at a public meeting on Jan. 9, 2023.
Then, in March, the council met in a closed session meeting, with the city attorney, hashing out legal questions and drafted a purchase agreement. They also notified the lessee, Boulder Ridge, of their intentions to sell that land.
In early May, after further council discussions and a push-back of outrage from the public, including former and some current city officials, the issue was delayed until the May 22 council meeting.
The roar of opposition was based on the following accusations: there was a serious lack of public input into the sales proposal; the purchase price for the land that the city agreed to was far below the value of that land; the land should remain as city property for potential future parkland developments, and there were alleged conflict-of-interest issues between the council members who voted for it and the man who wanted to buy the land.
At the May 22 council meeting, those who voted to sell the land were council members Tim Elness, Alex Lewandowski and Jill Smith. Those strongly opposing it were council member Jed Meyer and Mayor Ryan Fitzthum.