Development project considered for Ah-Gwah-Ching
WALKER — Cass County Economic Development (EDC) Director Gail Leverson informed the county board Tuesday of two multi-dwelling development projects being considered if the county chooses to sell some of the property the county owns at Ah-Gwah-Ching.
Both projects would depend upon results of a current land value appraisal, whether the city of Walker would consider tax-increment financing and whether the county wants to sell.
Boser Construction of Sauk Rapids would seek to purchase five acres of land north of where the county has considered locating future government buildings. Their plan calls for building a single-story 12-unit apartment complex with one, two and three bedroom units.
It would be designed for general occupancy at market rates.
Russ Wood of Walker seeks to purchase three lots southeast of the future government site on a bluff above the DNR wildlife management area that is on the Leech Lake shoreline.
His plan calls for 20 single-story units to be built as duplexes or four-plexes, which could be expanded to 16 more units on a second lot. On a third lot, he proposes to build a single family home for a caretaker and maintenance buildings and an office.
Wood’s proposal would be to make the duplexes housing only for seniors. The concept would be to offer pre-assisted living services through a contract he would arrange to provide in-home services to those occupying the dwellings.
Leverson told the board that neither developer was interested in state property being offered for sale north of the county’s site, because both developers believe the state’s asking price is too high to make their projects economically feasible.
Further, they object to the fact the state land is closer to Walker city sewer ponds than county’s property, she said.
These projects would leave 12 acres at the northeast corner of the property for any future potential medical facilities. Currently, no medical providers are showing an interest in a medical development at the site, according to Administrator Robert Yochum.
If the county sells any of its holdings on the former state hospital site, Yochum reminded the board, the county’s purchase agreement with the state calls for all proceeds after costs to sell to go directly to the state. This is because the county bought the site for $1.
“We have a quarter of a million dollar investment out there (in new water and sewer infrastructure).” Chief Financial Officer Larry Wolfe also reminded the board. “If we sell it, that investment is gone.”
He also noted the county needs to determine where road easements will be located before any development can begin at Ah-Gwah-Ching. Further, there likely are additional old pipes and potentially hazardous materials underground in areas not excavated during demolition of old state buildings, he said.
Commissioner Jim Dowson said he thought the county bought the property for a medical campus and future county expansion.
“We shouldn’t give away something we want down the road,” Commissioner Bob Kangas said.
The board appointed Commissioners Dowson and Jeff Peterson to meet with county staff, city officials and EDC board members to evaluate the county’s and city’s future intent for the property and whether these developments would be compatible.