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Council moves forward with potential development of golf course land

DULUTH, MN– What’s the future of public golf in Duluth?

That’s been a burning question for months now as a portion of Lester Golf course will shut down next year, leaving a big question mark on what to do with that space.

Monday night, the Duluth City Council approved a resolution to move forward with a process that would allow developers to submit proposals to the city for review, for the potential development of space on both of the city’s public golf courses.

Back in May, Duluth City Administration proposed selling about 16-acres of the Enger course driving range and the Lake 9 at Lester, which is about 50-acres. Both courses have accumulated millions of dollars in debt.

Many golf advocates are fighting to keep the courses open and operational, but an option for affordable housing could be on the table.

Councilor Gary Anderson says if a developer were to submit a proposal for housing or mix-use property, it would have to be a very creative idea to win over the council.

“Having this on tonight’s (Monday) agenda elevates the conversation for the whole community. Let’s the community know that this process is moving forward and invites the community to participate further in the conversation with the next steps.”

Councilor Anderson says anytime public parkland is up for sale it’s an emotional process and a really significant discussion for our community.

Dan Baumgartner, President of Friends of Duluth Public Golf says, “Duluth public golfers want to share our parks, that’s why we pursuing multi-use opportunities. But again, tonight’s (Monday) resolution, we’d like to keep all options on the table with it […] We desperately need a long term master plan and advisory board.”

The council would have to have 8 of 9 councilors vote yes to approve the sale of the land.

At this time there are no potential developers in the works.

Chief Administrative Officer, Noah Schuchman says the next steps as the process unfolds is to craft a Request for Proposal (RFP) for potential developers. He says submissions would be reviewed by the council and administration and have to fit the criteria which would have to be in line the Image Duluth 2035 plan along with council recommendations.

Schuchman says there is no timeline for the potential sale of land as the administration and council needs to thoughtfully consider any potential developer.

Also Monday night, the read an ordinance for the first time that would change the official zoning of the Lester Park course from rural-residential to mixed-use- neighborhood.

Councilor Anderson says, “that would allow for some particular types of commercial development  along with residential neighborhood on what is currently parkland.”

The ordinance change could be voted on during the next council meeting on Aug. 26.

Jessie Slater

Weekend Anchor and Multimedia Journalist

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