Proctor gets OK to annex land near Interstate 35A judge has given Proctor the green light to proceed with plans to annex 67.4 acres of land fronting Interstate 35.
By: Peter Passi, Duluth News Tribune
A judge has given Proctor the green light to proceed with plans to annex 67.4 acres of land fronting Interstate 35.
In so doing, he dismissed a suit filed by the city of Duluth and Midway Township. Sixth Judicial Court Judge Shaun Floerke issued his decision Tuesday.
The ruling will allow developer Seth Oliver to make a parcel of land he owns part of Proctor. Although he has not disclosed specifics, Oliver has shared with Proctor city officials plans to bring a “big-box retailer” to the area. The site was home to the now-defunct Sundowner Motel on the south side of the freeway.
Midway Township opposed the annexation, out of fears it will erode its property tax base and take away its jurisdiction over the proper development of the area.
Duluth Mayor Don Ness had asked Proctor to engage in planning meetings for the freeway corridor before granting Oliver’s request for annexation. He explained that Proctor serves as a major gateway to the Twin Ports.
But the annexation proceeded without any consultation involving Duluth, and Proctor Mayor David Brenna said the city did not need its neighbor’s blessing to grow.
“I don’t see why people are upset about 100 to 200 jobs coming to the area,” Brenna said.
Robert Asleson, a Duluth assistant city attorney who argued the case, said the city would have preferred to have had discussions directly with Proctor and filed suit only when its neighbor refused to engage in dialogue.
“A court is where you go when communication breaks down,” he said.
Asleson contrasted Proctor’s actions with those of the city of Duluth, when it was asked to hand over land in its jurisdiction to its neighbor. Last year, the city agreed to allow Proctor to annex the St. Louis County Fairgrounds, which had previously been within Duluth’s city limits.
“We did that cooperatively, because we saw it was for the good of the community and the area,” Asleson said. “We were asking for the same kind of thought and planning process here.”
Even though the city of Duluth did not prevail in court, Asleson said that while the case was in progress, all parties were ordered to sit down with a mediator, allowing for at least some discussion of concerns.
“We were able to open some line of communication that previously had not been open, and we’re hopeful it will lead to more cooperative discussion in the future,” he said.
Despite objections from Duluth and Midway Township, Proctor held public hearings and met the legal requirements necessary to annex the property, Floerke said.
Floerke’s decision could be appealed, but Asleson said the city has made no decision as to its next step yet.
John Bray, an attorney hired to represent Proctor, praised Floerke’s decision, saying: “I think the court got it right on the law.”
He wouldn’t hazard a guess, however, as to whether the ruling will put the matter to rest.
“I hope it’s over, but you never know,” Bray said.
“Personally, I can see Midway Township opposing it, so it doesn’t open the door to more annexations,” Brenna said of the case. “But I can’t see why Duluth stuck its nose into this. When I think of all the money spent by all three of us on lawyers, I have to conclude that it could have been put to much better uses.”