St. Louis County Board opposes land giveaway to IRRRBSt. Louis County Commissioners went on record Tuesday opposing a plan by some Iron Range lawmakers to give 1,416 acres of state tax-forfeited land near Giants Ridge to the Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board.
By: John Myers, Duluth News Tribune
St. Louis County Commissioners went on record Tuesday opposing a plan by some Iron Range lawmakers to give 1,416 acres of state tax-forfeited land near Giants Ridge to the Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board.
The County Board unanimously passed a resolution opposing the deal, setting up an unusual disagreement with Range lawmakers, usually strong allies of the county.
The undeveloped land north of Biwabik — which includes old mining areas, woods, lakes and streams — is managed by the county in trust for the state. But IRRRB officials are eying it for future expansion around Giants Ridge, especially for vacation home development.
County officials only recently found out about the bill, HF 401, introduced by DFL Reps. Tom Rukavina of Pike Township and Tom Anzelc of Balsam.
Bob Krepps, the county’s land commissioner, said there was no contact between the IRRRB or Range lawmakers and any county official before the legislation was introduced.
While the county isn’t necessarily against the IRRRB acquiring the land to expand the Giants Ridge ski and golf complex, county officials say the IRRRB should buy the land like anyone else. The county manages nearly 900,000 such acres of tax-forfeited land, most of it forested but some in cities.
“We’ve managed some of this particular block for timber harvest but avoided any very intensive management because it’s in the Giants Ridge expansion area where they want to grow. So it’s on the list of land we would sell,” Krepps said. “Just last July we sold them (160) acres in that same general area. The problem this time is they just want to take it, without paying us for it, and that has a lot of people upset.”
Krepps estimates the land in question is worth $2.5 million to $3 million, money that would be split between the county, townships, school districts and the state.
The county can’t stop the legislation, but it can express its concern.
“This kind of land grab really sets a bad precedent in how the county and schools get compensated for tax-forfeit land,” Krepps said.
County commissioners coincidentally received Krepps’ 2010 report Tuesday on how much money the county’s land program netted. Commissioners gave preliminary approval to distributing the $3.2 million net proceeds from timber and land sales last year, including $1.4 million that will be doled out to cities, towns and school districts where the land was located to help reduce local property taxes.
Anzelc said the land would be used for future development, but deferred to Rukavina for specifics. Rukavina did not immediately return a call from the News Tribune.