Gambling on Central

I will have a busy morning of blogging once again based on stories in today’s Trib. But first an old story from 2012 sent to me once again by my old Let Duluth Vote ally. Its part of the continuing story related to decisions made by the City of Duluth for development of the Central location. I found this sentence near the end particularly interesting as it ties in with one of today’s Trib stories related to the threat of the Fon du Lac Reservation becoming a tax free cancer inside Duluth:

“One resident brought up a popular rumor about the site, that it could become home to a casino. Hamre said the business park classification would not allow for such a use. It’s a protection city planners were careful with after public discussions last year, Hamre said.”

NOTE: This 2012 article begins at the end of this post and is posted in full.

I am troubled that the Feds are allowing Fon du Lac the power to buy up downtown Duluth and make it soverign reservation land free from Duluth’s taxes or regulation. Of course, on the one hand I think to myself of the poetic justice this inflicts on the larger europeanized culture that “stole” the land from native Americans but on the other I can see a devastating threat that such a tax loophole would pose. It would advantage all manner of developers who the Casino might bring in to build in what may become a prime tourist area in the years ahead. Under this Federal restriction, the City would be powerless to prevent Fon du Lac from waging a potent economic war against the City and non Reservation businesses.

I’ll be the first to admit that the original agreement thirty years ago to let the Casino be set up in Duluth’s downtown was not an act of charity on the City’s part. I will also acknowledge that some of our politicians of that Era may have been condescending towards their Fon du Lac partners. But that hardly excuses the Reservation being granted the power to be equally contemptuous of the needs of Duluth. I’m not sure our new Mayor Emily Larson has what it takes to defend the City’s rights in court where the fight against this threat should be made. BTW. I’m pretty sure that Wally Dupuis, who took over from Karen Diver used to be a student of mine in the Proctor Schools.

Not that losing tax base is all that big a deal. Central is likely to be sold to someone as a TIF District which could exempt it from paying property taxes for up to a quarter century or more. And today another story demonstrates how eager Rep. Simonson is to give the site away to a developer by excusing them from paying sales taxes on any construction they undertake on the site.

I see that Chair Harala accompanied Supt. Gronseth to St. Paul to defend the deferred sales tax. She’s a busy person having also stayed with the rest of the Board through over three hours of testimony last night on the possible threat of rubber mulch on our playgrounds.

I could thoroughly understand her lack of enthusiasm when I handed her the prospective call from three minority members for another long meeting next Monday night over a renewed discussion of our policy forbidding a sale of Central to a competing school. Unlike one of the Board members who breezed into last night’s meeting fifteen minutes late and left a little over half way through the meeting Chair Harala doggedly sat through the entire discussion with the rest of us sans Alanna Oswald. Alanna drove down to St. Louis to watch the Denfeld Robotic’s team on which her son is a member and which she helps coach. Here’s today’s Trib story on that.

Ms. Oswald will not be the only local in the cheering section. Rep. Simonson is flying down today NOTE CORRECTION with Principal Sconiers to witness the achievement and competition. I guess Erik is now the official savior of Denfeld although I don’t know how preventing an agreement with the DPSA Charter Board to put a cap on its future enrollment gives Denfeld any long term protection. My email Buddy sent me an email with a link to this story in the Trib asking me if this wasn’t some sort of “shell game” over taxes. I told him I didn’t thing shell game was the most apt description. The glorious Central site is fast becoming the School District’s white elephant. The original “white elephants” were sacred elephants that the Siamese King gave to his rivals in the Kingdon knowing that their upkeep would bankrupt them.

Here’s that story from the

DNT, April 27, 2012

Duluth school district officials say they’re encouraged by revisions to the city’s plan for redeveloping the former Central High School site after an early plan left them concerned the site would be hard to sell.

The revisions are the result of the school district objecting in January to the city’s original land-use plan for the site, which set aside a large part of the property as green space. The district asked for time to redraw the lines to allow more of the 77-acre site to be developed.

Kerry Leider, property manager for the district, said he was happy with the new map that boosts the developable area by 16 acres — 43 as business park and 12 as urban residential.

“We’ve ID’d places that are developable,” Leider said.

There were few other objections to the modified plan during a public information meeting Thursday night.

“It’s what I expected,” said Keith Hamre, the interim head of the city’s Planning Division. There hadn’t been any comments on the new map released before the meeting.

Hamre and Leider agreed that getting the land-use plan set by next month will help the district market the site.

Leider said there has been interest from developers in the site but nothing solid. Under the long-range plan that called for closing the high school and selling the property, the district expected to get $13.7 million.

“Questions about land use have been an inhibiter,” Leider said.

Hamre expects the Planning Commission to take up the new plan May 8 and recommend it to the City Council for its meeting May 29. The School Board will meet to discuss the plan May 15.

Specific zoning inside the land-use plan will come over the summer, which, Hamre said, could be done in coordination with a buyer of the property. The city is in the process of setting up new zoning areas across the city.

Leider said it’s probable that the site will be sold in pieces depending on developers.

There are still vociferous objections to how the Central site has been handled and to the school district’s long-range facilities plan in general.

A handful of people attended the meeting at City Hall. Most were neighbors in the Blackman Avenue area just west of the site.

People there have been upset with increased traffic on the street that serves as a secondary access to the site. The school district permanently blocked the main road to the school off Central Entrance over the winter to avoid plowing expenses and to restrict access by potential vandals, Leider said. He said the district will consider placing a gate at the entrance that would allow controlled access.

Despite being closed, there remains activity at the Central site. The school district uses some of the athletic fields and there is a maintenance facility on the site.

One resident brought up a popular rumor about the site, that it could become home to a casino. Hamre said the business park classification would not allow for such a use. It’s a protection city planners were careful with after public discussions last year, Hamre said.

Any development on the site will still have to go through the regular zoning allowance process when specific projects arise.

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