Duluth City Council endorses option for sale of golf course land

DULUTH, MN– Lester Park Golf Course will soon shrink by 9 holes. That decision Monday from Duluth City Council.

Starting next golf season, Lester will go from a 27 hole course to 18. But what to do with the soon-to-be vacant land remains up in the air and a source of growing controversy.

The City Council voted to endorse a plan that will look into the future of 50 acres of public course. The approval will begin a process with the intention to sell that land in the future.

Earlier this month, City Administration proposed selling about 16 acres of the Enger course driving range, and the Lake 9 at Lester, which is about 50 acres.

The proposal could end with Lester Park Golf Course closing entirely in three seasons if its financial performance doesn’t improve by 2022.

Last week Duluth’s Parks and Recreation Commission approved a resolution of intent to sell and develop multi-use housing development on the property.

Many golf and green friendly advocates spoke during Monday’s meeting, saying the environmental impact is a big concern.

Duluth Resident, Rich Staffon says, “not only would we lose access to a large area of public land. But there will also be substantial environmental impact by replacing this green space with dense housing.”

Many are suggesting the council take a deep look at the climate, land, and traffic impacts proposed housing developments could bring.

Duluth resident JT Haines says, “really worried about taking steps now that put us too far down a path that limits the public and the city’s opportunity to consider what could be the future of this park.”

Many who spoke are asking the council to keep the land as public green space, rather than housing.

City Councilor and member of the Duluth Golf Advisory Committee, Arik Forsman says, its a complicated process because when you look at all the options to pull the Lester course out of the red, the sale of property would have the greatest potential to pay off millions of dollars of debt which was created after years of the course struggling.

All of the councilors stressed that no land is being sold right away and that they will only vote on an ordinance moving forward with the sale if the housing development meets affordable, environmental, and sustainable standards.

The next step is to rezone the land to Mixed-Use Neighborhood. The city’s Planning Commission will create an ordinance which will then go to the council. The ordinance could go before the council as soon as July.

The councilors approved the plan 7-0 with Councilors Jay Fosle and Em Westerlund absent.

OTHER COUNCIL BUSINESS: 

Council approves an amendment to Massage Therapy Ordinance which eliminates licenses therapist from having to disclose their weight, height, eye, and hair color. A previous amendment extended store hours and the way businesses use their main entrances. The ordinance will go before the council for a final vote May 28.

Council approves a resolution to reaffirm Duluth’s commitment to the values of inclusion, equity, and justice within the community.  This comes after posters popped up around a Duluth park last month seeming to promote a White-Nationalist group. The city will develop a program and work with the Duluth Human Rights Commission on how the city responds to and prevents these issues and promote the values put forth.

Jessie Slater

Jessie Slater

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