At the February 19thCounty Board Meeting, Olmsted County voted to purchase the parcel of land at 12thStreet and 3rdAvenue SE for $5,600,000. This is the site where the current Seneca food processing plant is now located. (This is the site that has the corn tower.) The sale is contingent upon getting clear title and an environmental assessment. The Board vote was 5 yeas and 2 nays. I was one of the nay votes. My reasons for voting against this purchase included:
- Graham Park already has space for a mobility hub (this was already included in the approved Park master plan). The Seneca site was not needed for the mobility hub.
- Graham Park already has space for a farmers market (this was also included in the Park’s master plan). The Seneca site was not needed for a farmers market.
- It has been suggested that this land could be used for affordable housing; however, less expensive land in other locations would be more suitable for affordable housing. It is not possible to create affordable housing on expensive land.
- It has been suggested that buying this property would include the rail line that could be used to transport people from the site to downtown on a trolley system. However, the site that is a part of the Graham Park master plan already has access to the rail line. The purchase of the Seneca property was not needed to gain access to the rail line.
- A mobility hub is the responsibility of DMC and the City. Olmsted County tax payers already contribute $3,000,000 a year to DMC transportation. This purchase, if it is to be used as a transportation hub, is an additional $5,600,000. There is no agreement with the City that the $3,000,000/year contribution will be used for this purchase. Without an agreement, Olmsted County residents will be taxed for the $3,000,000/year contribution and the purchase of the land.
- The $5,600,000 cost does not include the destruction of the current buildings or the site preparation. The estimates of this additional cost is about anywhere from $2,500,000 to $4,400,000 making the total cost of this purchase from $8,100,000 to $10,000,000. (These figures would include the preservation of the corn tower.) This cost will also be born by the residents of Olmsted County.
- There is no development plan in place. There is no agreement with the City for the transportation hub. There is no plan of how this will be integrated with current Graham Park master plan.
- The current Graham Park master plan already has a price tag of about $20,000,00. (Olmsted has asked the State for $12,000,000 in bonding money that still leaves $10,000,000 for Olmsted County residents to pay for. The purchase of the Seneca property and the site preparation would add to this to the $10,000,000 cost of the proposed master plan.
- Olmsted must be careful to consider the growing number of elderly homeowners and not put into jeopardy those who are on a fixed income.
- I always supported keeping the corn tower even if the County did not buy this land. I do not believe the corn tower was ever in jeopardy. However, the corn tower is a Rochester (city) historical icon, not an Olmsted County historical icon.
- Although there are positive aspects to purchasing this property, I believe that the negative aspects are greater than the positive ones.
Moving Forward: Other Commissioners have stated that they believe the County can recoup the cost of the purchase. I hope that this is true and I will work diligently with the other Commissioners to do what I can to mitigate the cost of this purchase and insure that this purchase does not become a long-term financial burden.