by Dennis Dalman
At its May 22 meeting, the Sartell City Council, by a 3-2 vote, approved the sale of golf-course land in the heart of the city.
The discussion and decision about that controversial issue came during the last half of a 4.5-hour marathon meeting.
Voting for the sale were council members Tim Elness, Alex Lewandowski and Jill Smith. Voting against it were council member Jed Meyer and Mayor Ryan Fitzthum.
The decision means that the city will sell – for $426,000 – 81 acres of what is now the Pine Ridge Golf Club to Three Tees LLC, whose owner/chief manager is Brandon Testa, who owns the House of Pizza in Sartell.
In 2008, Sartell signed a lease agreement with the owners of Boulder Ridge who have long owned/managed the Boulder Ridge Golf Course in southwest St. Cloud. Under terms of the lease, Boulder Ridge turned what had been a previous golf course (the privately owned Sartell Golf Course) from an 18-hole course to a 9-hole one. The city purchased that private land in 2008, part of a 160-acre spread. The other half of that land was made into Pinecone Central Park via a public-private partnership. The city paid almost $3.5 million for the land with revenue from the regional half-cent sales tax.
The city will now give Boulder Ridge a one-year notification to the termination of its lease on May 23, 2024.
The purchase agreement between the city and Three Tees requires that land to remain operational as a golf course for 30 years, and any removal of that restriction would have to be approved unanimously by the current city council or future city councils. Three Tees also plans to add amenities on about three acres of land at the corner of the golf course – a restaurant, for example.
The land-sale discussion at the May 22 council meeting began with a presentation of a long, detailed background of the sale proposal, which was written and read aloud by Sartell City Administrator Anna Gruber.
The council then asked Gruber a flurry of questions for more than two hours.
The council members in favor of the sale said the new owner would bring some new amenities to that area while also maintaining the golf course. They also said it would prevent the city from having to take on any financial liabilities for the golf course, especially the need someday to replace an expensive irrigation system.
Council member Jed Meyer opposed the sale, saying the city was selling it for a price way too low. Mayor Fitzthum repeatedly said the council should put the “proposal” on “pause” until the council can meet with state legislators to find out for sure if the sale will jeopardize any future access to half-cent sales-tax revenue.
Earlier in the week, all council members received a letter written by State Rep. Tim O’Driscoll (R-Sartell) and State Sen. Jeff Howe (R-Rockville), who expressed concerns about the sale because it had been purchased by the half-cent sales tax.
For a more detailed story, including more comments from participants in the discussion, visit thenewsleaders.com.