Letter: The effort to protect Lake City's waterfront not over
To the Editor:
As an advocate for public ownership of Lake City's shoreline, I applaud those who voted down the referendum (1,508-1,091) vacating part of Washington Street. Indirectly, it asked permission to privately develop protected public ownerships on Block 13. The specific public ownerships are Washington Street and the Conoco site donated to Lake City by the Kwik Trip Corp.
This time, I caution you about another plan to circumvent our city charter's prohibition against selling city-owned property lying within the zone of public lakefront preservation.
Our acting city planner informed me of a recent Lake City attorney opinion that the Conoco site can be sold in spite of our city charter. The theory appears to be that Lake City Economic Development Authority, the city's agency managing the Conoco site, is not accountable to our charter.
Having served on the Charter Commission, I don't believe this theory holds water. But it will, if nobody opposes it.
Out of 854 municipalities in Minnesota, 107 are charter/home rule cities. Lake City is one of them. It has been commonly believed and trusted that all of Lake City's governance operates under the umbrella of its city charter.
Two generations ago, Lake City's point, marina and McCahill play-park existed in a patchwork of private ownerships. Parcel by parcel, forward-looking local benefactors assembled those contiguous lakefront properties on behalf of the public. Those public ownerships now appear on our postcards and make an impression that attracts newcomers and adds to Lake City's home values. I think that legacy is worth protecting and continuing.
Up to this point Lake City's planning has cited Block 25 (Cater-corner from the Conoco site) as the logical hotel location. That agrees with my experience as an urban redevelopment planner.
In the long term, Lake City might want Block 13 to be a park and Block 25 to be a hotel with supporting uses. I hope this is at least looked at as a potential path of both least resistance and least regret.
Lake City is a beautiful city. It deserves a big picture: a prudently crafted and well-coordinated long-term land-use and economic vision. Others do it. So can we.