Lighthouse Point finally in city’s handsLast Thursday, after a court order issued by Sixth District Judge Mike Cuzzo, Sam Cave handed deeds over to the City of Two Harbors, giving ownership of a large chunk of Lighthouse Point and Van Hoven Park, among other parcels. The conveyance of the property is the final chapter in a decade-long story.
By: LaReesa Sandretsky, Lake County News Chronicle
Last Thursday, after a court order issued by Sixth District Judge Mike Cuzzo, Sam Cave handed deeds over to the City of Two Harbors, giving ownership of a large chunk of Lighthouse Point and Van Hoven Park, among other parcels. The conveyance of the property is the final chapter in a decade-long story.
“This is a long time coming,” Mayor Randy Bolen said during the Two Harbors City Council’s last meeting.
Seven years ago, the story seemed over. The News-Chronicle ran a story, “Waterfront compromise forged,” in its November 2, 2006 issue. After five years of legal wrangling and a 13-hour marathon mediation session, developer Sam Cave and the City of Two Harbors had finally reached an agreement regarding the future of waterfront property owned by Cave.
At that time, Robin Glaser was mayor of Two Harbors. After a four-year hiatus from politics, she was elected to the council in 2012—a council that was still talking about Sam Cave and Lighthouse Point.
“It was like déjà vu,” she said.
But on June 24, City Attorney Steve Overom told the council that the story really was over, thanks to a court order issued by Cuzzo. Cuzzo ordered Cave to turn over the wooded area of Lighthouse Point, Van Hoven Park, the land surrounding the community center and roadways, which Cave did last Thursday.
“This is huge for the city,” Overom said. Cuzzo also awarded the city attorney fees, to be paid by Cave.
The saga started in 2002, when Cave purchased land from the DM&IR Railroad along Agate Bay, including parcels surrounding the Two Harbors Lighthouse. He had plans to build a hotel and condominiums.
The city, after a public outcry about losing say in decisions about development along the harbor, disputed some of the land ownership and told Cave he couldn’t build under current zoning. The city offered to work with Cave on the zoning and provide some tax breaks on Agate Bay and Pork City Hill development in exchange for a transfer in ownership of the wooded property and some other areas along the bay.
Cave said the city needed to guarantee it would annex his 140 acres on Pork City Hill because it couldn’t offer tax increment financing or other develop incentives with the property still in Lake County’s hold.
In 2006, Cave and the city came to an agreement but, the city contended that Cave backed out of the bargain, according to a subsequent news report in the News-Chronicle. Several lawsuits ensued along with the running dispute over whether the original agreement was binding. A motion to hear the dispute was originally dismissed by then Sixth District Judge Kenneth Sandvik. It then went through the appeals process and eventually to the state Supreme Court, where it was rejected in 2009.
In 2007, a stipulation was added to the mediation agreement that said Cave must present development plans to the city before December 2011 or hand over the land. Cuzzo’s recent decision honored that timeline by ordering Cave to turn over the deeds, resolving the matter in favor of the City of Two Harbors.
“I’m so pleased that we’re getting to a point where something positive has happened,” Overom said.
Overom has been the city’s attorney since 2002. He called the conclusion a “win-win” and said the future of the waterfront is now in control of the City. He said the uncertainties that caused the public outcry against Cave’s proposed development in 2002 have been resolved.
Overom added that the city has a vision for the waterfront – using Lighthouse Point and a planned marina in Agate Bay, along with changes in zoning, to encourage economic development and investment in the Two Harbors downtown area.
According to Overom, Cave turned over his remaining land to ACRES Development, a company owned by Cave & Associates Operations Manager Craig Ankrum. Overom said they haven’t proposed any development on the land within city limits yet. ACRES has, however, submitted an environmental assessment worksheet for a possible housing development on Pork City Hill to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.
A message left at Cave & Associates asking for comment regarding the court order was not returned before press time.
“When I heard the news I really had tears in my eyes. I never thought this was going to end,” Glaser said.
Overom said a surveyor is drawing up maps to clarify ownership. Watch the News-Chronicle for the maps and further updates on this story.