Biomass representatives talk to EDA about a lot in Cedar Grove Business Park

George Wilkes and Paul Nelson of the Cook County Local Energy Project (CCLEP) appeared before the Cook County-Grand Marais Economic Development Authority (EDA) a second time on Tuesday, March 12 to ask about the possible purchase of a business park lot. As suggested at a previous meeting, the CCLEP representatives looked at Lot 7, but have determined that Lot 6 better meets their needs. “We feel Lot 6 is the best location for a biomass district heating plant,” said Wilkes.

Wilkes asked if the EDA would consider “holding” Lot 6 for the biomass project.

Nelson said they understood that there were concerns that the biomass facility would look too industrial for the lot at the entrance to the business park. He shared photos of some biomass heating plants that were aesthetically pleasing. Nelson said a great example is a district heating plant in downtown St. Paul. Board Member Don Davison reiterated that he was still very concerned about the aesthetics. He reminded his colleagues that the EDA is still trying to get Como Oil & Propane to install the screening it said it would erect on its lot.

Wilkes answered concerns about emissions from the plant. He said there would be virtually no smoke, perhaps only a steam plume in the winter. Regarding traffic, Wilkes said there would be 2.5 truckloads per week, less in the summer and more in the winter. He also said they could screen the view from the road with vegetation.

Wilkes said another idea under consideration is a partnership with the Northwoods Foods Project to construct a community garden. Wilkes said a community garden could possibly use some of the biomass heat for greenhouses and maybe even ash for the garden. “It could be very synergistic,” he said.

Asked about funding for purchase of the lot and construction of the facility, Wilkes said they were optimistic because the project met criteria from several potential funding entities. He said it has potential for job creation, is environmentally friendly, and has some forest management benefits. Nelson added that the EDA would be able to offer new tenants the opportunity to link to the biomass system. And, said Hanson, “We are one of the best-situated small communities because of the 1 percent monies and the feasibility study that has been done.”

There was considerable discussion and Nelson said all of the questions asked by the EDA were good ones and many will be answered by Phase 2 of the biomass feasibility study.

Chair Sandbo said the EDA would have to hold a public hearing before any lot sale and the community would have the chance to weigh in on the matter. Harrison said if the EDA moved ahead, it would want a premium price for the lot. He noted that the purpose of selling lots at a deep discount is to get properties on the tax rolls, but if the biomass plant was operated by the Grand Marais Public Utilities Commission, it would be tax-exempt.

Sandbo said the EDA could not hold the lot unless some money was put down on it, but added “ No one has been knocking our doors down to buy a lot.”