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Delay sought for zoning at Ah-Gwah-Ching

WALKER — Cass County Board voted Tuesday to ask Walker city officials to postpone indefinitely setting any zoning for the former Ah-Gwah-Ching property.

The property was annexed into the city in 2008.

The city planning commission held a public hearing Monday night on a proposal to zone city owned parcels at Ah-Gwah-Ching as “public”, but parcels the county and state own as “low density residential”.

Administrator Robert Yochum appeared at that public hearing to object to the fact the low density residential class would allow neither for the county to build future government buildings there, nor for the county to make available the other half of its portion for any future health care complex.

Commissioner Jim Dowson said there must have been some communications failure between the county and city that led to city officials apparently not realizing the county’s plan all along to use their portion of Ah-Gwah-Ching for government and health care operations.

Also at the Monday city hearing was Cass County Economic Development Director Gail Leverson, who noted she has a letter of interest from Sanford Health Systems, which is considering whether to offer a health care campus at Ah-Gwah-Ching.

Properties the state still owns at the site include 39.6 acres Minnesota DNR is managing as an aquatic wildlife management area and 55 acres the state has been trying to sell since the county bought its 76-acre tract from the state.

The DNR portion includes easements that would give Highway 371 views and Leech Lake access for any future health care development on the county land.

Yochum said Tuesday he believes the state will lower its minimum bid from $340,000 to $200,000 this summer in an effort to make it more appealing to buyers. He said limiting use at this time might further discourage the state’s potential buyers.

Commissioner Bob Kangas said it was his impression the county bought its share of Ah-Gwah-Ching as a way ultimately to offer more jobs in the area. Limiting use of the land to residential would eliminate that potential, he said.

The next city planning commission meeting will be at 6 p.m. May 21 at Walker Fire Hall.