by Dennis Dalman
Opposition is rapidly mounting to a proposed sale of city-owned land to a private developer – a proposal that was tabled at the May 8 city council meeting and will be revisited at the May 22 meeting.
Some months ago, the city received offers from four private developers interested in purchasing the golf-course land. One of them – the one now under consideration, was from Three Tees LLC to sell 81 acres of land that has long been leased by Boulder Ridge for use of the nine-hole Pine Ridge Golf Course. Under the proposed agreement Three Tees would have to operate a golf course there for 30 years.
Those on record as opposing the sale are current Mayor Ryan Fitzthum and former mayors Bob Pogatchnik, Tim O’Driscoll, Joe Perske and Sarah Jane Nicoll; current city council mayor Jed Meyer and former council members Paul Orndorff, Dennis Molitor, Sandra Cordie, Mike Chisum, David Peterson, Brady Andel, Jeff Kolb, Steve Hennes and Pat Lynch; and former Sartell Parks Department member Michael Burzette.
The proposal involves selling for $426,000 the 81 acres of golf-course land to a company known as Three Tees LLC, whose manager is Brandon Testa, owner of the House of Pizza in Sartell.
Among the concerns and questions from opponents are the following:
Why sell now?
What is so wrong with Pine Ridge Golf Court that would cause the city to terminate its lease?
Why has there been virtually no public input or open public meetings about the sales proposal?
That land is the southern half of 160 acres purchased by the city in 2008 for about $3.5 million from the privately owned Sartell Golf Course. (The northern half of the property was developed into Pinecone Central Park via a private-public partnership.) Funding to buy the 160 acres came mainly from revenue from Sartell’s share of the regional half-cent sales tax.
Those in opposition note the land purchased by Sartell in 2008 was meant for public uses, including parks and recreation, and because of that it should remain under city ownership for future uses.
Opponents maintain the sale of land for $426,000 is far less than its actual value and would, in effect, result in a big subsidy for the buyer. In addition, the sale would terminate the long-term lease agreement between the city and Boulder Ridge, and that would require the city to pay Boulder Ridge $60,000 for early termination of the lease. That payment would come out of the $426,000 sale price, meaning the city would net only $336,000.
Boulder Ridge has paid the city $30,000 per year to lease that land for Pine Ridge Golf Course.
One of the most vocal opponents, former council member Steve Hennes, pointed to a city memo that states the sale would result in a “redevelopment opportunity (to) achieve the goals of the city and provide a longstanding request for more full-scale restaurant opportunities and outdoor music/food venue options . . .”
To which Hennes replied in a letter written to the city council: “We would argue the city has no interest in selecting a winner among the restaurant opportunities available to Sartell area residents. The city should work to provide a favorable environment for investment and development for all businesses, but selling on preferential terms to one operator puts other restaurant options in town at a disadvantage.”