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Brown unveils alternate plan for winery deal

After negotiations broke down between John Falconer and the Red Wing Port Authority's real estate committee, the much-ballyhooed Falconer winery expansion seemed dead in the water.

At the Port's Monday meeting, however, port member Tom Brown threw it a life preserver.

Brown, a real estate agent, took time out from his role as a port member to speak to the board as a citizen.

During the meeting's public comment period, Brown made a pitch for a new plan -- one that aims to address the hang-ups of the original deal.

The plan would involve a partial sale and a partial lease of the port's land -- 28 acres at Highways 19 and 61 -- and would protect the port against an unwanted development, Brown said.

Port members had said they feared a potential strip mall development if Falconer were to default on his loan.

Because much of the land would be leased to Falconer -- some of it with an option to buy later -- Brown said the port could ensure desirable development.

Meanwhile, the plan would give Falconer five years to construct his winery, doing away with the benchmarks he took issue with.

If he was not successful, the port would only lose a fifth of the land -- the fifth least visible from the roads.

Also, because he would be buying less land, Falconer wouldn't have to borrow as much money.

"This proposal isn't perfect, and no one will get one 100 percent of what they want," Brown said, adding the port would likely be criticized, but if it pursues his option "no one can say that these parties didn't try to look at all the available options."

No action was taken on the plan Monday and no agreements have been drawn up.

In fact, the idea was news to the other port members and to Falconer.

"All the details to this is news to me right now," Falconer said. "We all heard it at the same time."

Port member Stephen Castner said Falconer has to indicate he supports the idea before anything can happen.

"I don't think it's all that bad of an idea, but it has to come from John," Castner said.

The plan's details need to be spelled out, Falconer said.

"It's a possibility, but it needs further discussion," he said.

At the port's last meeting, the deal between the two parties was given a deadline -- which is today.

Castner said that wouldn't stop this new proposal.

"This isn't by any stretch of the imagination the same offer. So this is a new deal," he said.

Port members Nona Nelson and Jim Kelm were absent from the meeting.