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Northshore development continues to be sensitive issue
Photo: The shoreline below Pork City Hill in Two Harbors is platted for housing development.
Considered by many to be one of the most beautiful places on the planet, Lake Superior’s Northshore draws tourists, photographers and new residents from around the world. That kind of attention gives some people hope for an economic future, while others are concerned that the natural places will be loved to death. Clearly, it has prompted planners to review each proposed project much more closely.
At an April Two Harbors city council meeting, a request to rezone 11 acres owned by ACRE Development, situated at the entrance to town, was denied. Just where Scenic Highway 61 and the expressway meet, the area in question was already zoned for business; ACRE sought to change it to an industrial zone. Company representatives told the planning commission that they wanted to build a mini-storage facility. Planners, however, ruled that storage units were an inappropriate development for highvalue property on the city’s main thoroughfare, and an eyesore for visitors.
“There is property on CSAH 26 that is already zoned for that,” said city councilor Robin Glaser. “It would have opened a whole can of worms.” The requested zoning ordinances could have allowed for future industrial development, giving subsequent owners the chance to move from one industrial application to another, such as manufacturing. “That’s not what we want people to see coming into Two Harbors.”
Two of the 11 acres that are set farther back off the road are now designated for light industrial use, leaving ACRE the opportunity to build storage units out of sight.
The property is part of the significant holdings of Sam Cave, a real estate developer from Roseville.
Originally railroad property, it was purchased by Cave in 2002 and subsequently was transferred to the LLC. The DM&IR sold 48 acres on Lighthouse Point to Cave, along with the 11 acres inland that lie next to Highway 61, and 90-plus acres adjacent to Pork City Hill.
ACRE’s property on Pork City Hill has gone through preliminary platting, subdividing 14 lots on the water and three more set back. Those lots are for individual housing units, and are about two acres in size. Pork City Hill lies on westerly arm of Agate Bay, behind the working ore-docks that still load thousandfoot Lakers during the shipping season. The 4,900 feet of lakefront property at the foot of Pork City Hill lies outside of city limits, and is bordered by an active loop of rail line.
While lakefront property offers wellheeled buyers some spectacular views, the prospect of listening to empty train cars rattle their way back to the mines may tarnish the setting’s ambience. Cave’s vision has been to sell individual lots to home-builders, and he fought to have the city of Two Harbors bring in utilities. City officials, however, have made it clear that option is closed. In 2012, the county board approved a rezoning request for the 90 acres at the bottom of the hill, changing it from a commercial urban to a commercial rural zone, which would allow private septic systems. At this point, ACRE is able to move forward with any plans, such as making work and other improvements on the property. Final platting has yet to be done, and if approved by the county board, would allow ACRE to sell the parcels.
Pressure for developing the Northshore is already high, with second home and recreational land development on the rise. Watershed issues are raised with development, with the lake and the streams that feed it sensitive to changes in land use. Barb Liukkonen, retired from UM Water Resources, said that new construction increases impervious surfaces like roofs, and roads that can lead to polluted runoff in the watershed.
“The more we pave and compact the Northshore – adding salt, sand, and fertilizer to a landscape that wasn’t there before – the harder it is to protect the water,” she said. While stormwater ponds can help, (that type of mitigation is sound in principle), they can present challenges during heavy rain.
According to public documents, the top of the hill is also owned by Cave and Associates. No plans for developing the crown of the summit are known at this time. Cave and Associates declined to comment about their plans.
While protecting the shoreline from over-building is important to Lavonne Christensen, Odyssey Real Estate Group, she also sees a benefit to easing restrictions on commercial development.
“Let the commercially zoned properties remain land that can be developed with rules that will fit into an economic plan that works for developers, tourism needs, and that will support and protect the local people as well,” Christensen said. New density rules in Lake County are the same for commercial and residential properties, and that “eliminates any future developments in the fast-growing tourism area,” she said.Previous BusinessNorth Exclusives Articles:
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