City land sale for zipline not a done deal – yet

The City of Grand Marias has signed a purchase agreement with former Economic Development Authority director Matt Geretschlager for 20 acres along the Gunflint Trail. Geretschlager intends to construct a zipline on the steeply graded land.

The nature of the sale has raised a number of questions in the community. Chief among them is the question of a conflict of interest with Geretschlager. City Administrator Mike Roth said ‘no.’

“The Cook County-Grand Marais EDA is its own separate entity. It has its own board, its own budget, it doesn’t take direction from the city, does not receive funding from the city. Matt is not an employee of the city. There’s no conflict of interest there.”

In the meantime, the EDA board and Geretschlager mutually agreed his last day as director would be June 12.

Another citizen concern has been the method of sale, but Roth said the city operated within state statute.

“A lot of the questions the councilors had about that is, what is our required process here? It was addressed by the city attorney early on when Matt made his request. There is no public hearing requirement for the sale of city-owned property. It’s just as simple as it happened. Someone can come in and say, ‘I’d like to buy that piece of property,’ and the city council goes through some process to decide what it’s worth and whether they’re willing to sell it, and the can offer it for sale.”

Even though a purchase agreement has been signed, the process is far from over. Roth said the price is $75,000 but the sale has not yet closed. He added that the appraised value is not public information at this time.

“Appraisals that are done on property the city is considering for sale is something considered private by the state. So it’s up to the city council whether they want to release that information and to this point they have not released that information. Although it doesn’t make any sense to me to release it before you’re done negotiating for price.”

Once the transaction closes, Geretschlager will need to come back to the city’s planning commission with detailed engineering plans for the property development, seeking a conditional use permit for land zoned Recreational/Commercial.

Roth said at that time the planning commission, and ultimately the city council will have to determine if the end use of the property meets the terms of a conditional use permit. A part of that determination is including input from adjacent land owners and the general public.

Roth said to the best of his knowledge, clear title to the land has been established and a closing could take place anytime.