Letter: Keep public voice in public property discussion


I'm concerned about the future of the Conoco site that Kwik Trip donated to Lake City. The public, you and I, has an interest in that donated property that is on the verge of being embezzled.

At risk is the public's right to decide by referendum if property lying within the lakefront protection area outlined in the City Charter can or cannot be sold.

To date Lake City Charter's law that public land can't be sold without an approving public referendum has been respected. This was demonstrated in last fall's South Washington Street closure referendum.

Now, a claim has arisen that although the Conoco site lies within the Charter's lakefront protection zone, it can be sold by the Economic Development Authority without a referendum. Without speaking to motivations, that theory appears based upon two notions: 1. A claim that the EDA owns the property and the city doesn't; 2. A claim that the EDA is a private owner.

In fact, the site is titled in the name of the Lake City EDA. Three years ago the EDA seemed the logical steward to hold the land gifted to our City Council as public property. This is evident in past public meeting minutes.

Lake City is exceptional. It is a home-rule city allowed to decide its own organization. We answer to our locally drafted City Charter that may differ from the rules and laws of other Minnesota cities. Therefore, legal rulings borrowed from other statutory or charter cities are likely to be misguiding.

No matter how it is done elsewhere, our EDA gets its authority from our City Council. Our City Council gets its authority from our City Charter. Our Lake City Charter Commission accounts to the district court, not the city attorney.

What the EDA and/or its individual board members are allowed to do, not do, or prohibited from participating in needs definition from our City Council.

There is nothing honorable to be gained by stifling the public voice.

Lake City needs its EDA to champion, not override, the public aims and intentions set forth in our City Charter.

Public voice and vigilance are in order because contiguous public shoreline ownership is forever our (Lake City's) most valuable civic asset. Protect our shoreline!

Sam Poppleton

Lake City