ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Hermantown Superfund site on the auction block

A St. Louis County Superfund site going on the auction block is expected to attract considerable interest from developers. The old Arrowhead Refinery site at Highway 53 and Ugstad Road in Hermantown has been cleaned up and deemed suitable for ret...

A St. Louis County Superfund site going on the auction block is expected to attract considerable interest from developers.
The old Arrowhead Refinery site at Highway 53 and Ugstad Road in Hermantown has been cleaned up and deemed suitable for retail or light industrial use.
It's one of the tax forfeited parcels that will be offered for sale by the county at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 20, at the DECC.
One developer is already pursuing the property, and at least four others have expressed interest according to the county land department. The county has set a minimum bid of $195,000. If no bids are accepted, the site will go back on the block in June.
The 28-acre site is one of the last large remaining undeveloped chunks of land in the Miller Trunk corridor, and the city of Hermantown would like to see it developed.
Hermantown City Attorney Steve Overcom said the city wants the site to be dedicated to a "big box retail development" so it can collect sales taxes and property taxes will be paid.
However, to avoid any possible liability, Hermantown does not want any interest in the property itself.
Overcom spoke to the St. Louis County Board of Commissioners about the site at Tuesday's meeting. He said Hermantown has been working on a development agreement for the site with Bill and Irv's Properties, Inc.
Action on that agreement has been tabled by the Hermantown City Council. But with the sale looming Tuesday, those developers wanted the county to pull the land from the tax sale for more time.
"We don't have a normal piece of property here, we have a Superfund site," said Bryan Anderson, representing Bill and Irv's, who own the adjoining land. "We have some concern the property is overpriced."
He asked the board to pull the property from the auction or utilize a special sales procedure.
"Lets get it sold, let's get it developed," said Anderson. "Bill and Irv's have a track record."
Maureen Johnson with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) confirmed the property will always be a Superfund site with some conditions that have to be monitored.
The commissioners were not inclined to pull the property from the auction and took no action on the request. There was also a concern about favoring one developer over others.
"This is a pretty darn good deal for that amount of land," said Commissioner Peg Sweeney.
Commissioner Mike Forsman had a similar sentiment. "It you want to build on a site, this is the site to build on," he said. "This site has papers to prove it isn't a polluted site."
"We should look at the auction as an opportunity for all the builders in the area," said Commissioner Dennis Fink.
MPCA representatives will be at the auction with a handout and to answer questions from potential bidders.
One of the agency's concerns is that any development maintain certain grading standards to control drainage.
"We think we've cleaned it all up," Johnson said. "There are conditions that have to be maintained. We want the developer to work with us to maintain those conditions."
The Arrowhead site operated as a used oil refinery from 1945 to 1977. The process generated a highly acidic, metal laden sludge, which was dumped in a two-acre lagoon on the property.
The MPCA got involved in 1976. In 1980, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency completed an emergency cleanup and fenced in the sludge lagoon.
During the next two decades, the property was the subject of various environmental investigations, court action and cleanup efforts.

What To Read Next
The system crashed earlier this month, grounding flights across the U.S.