Blaine council delays sale of land near City Hall

Staff Writer
I cover the cities of Andover, Blaine and Ramsey. I have worked at ABC Newspapers since August 2007.

A Blaine dentist will have to wait a little longer before he can buy a piece of land next to Blaine City Hall to build a new office.

A Blaine dentist is offering to buy 1.58 acres on the west end of a 7.39-acre site by Blaine City Hall. There were not enough members of the Blaine City Council present at the June 15 meeting to formally accept a letter of intent so the item was tabled to the July 13 meeting. File photo
A Blaine dentist is offering to buy 1.58 acres on the west end of a 7.39-acre site by Blaine City Hall. There were not enough members of the Blaine City Council present at the June 15 meeting to formally accept a letter of intent so the item was tabled to the July 13 meeting. File photo

Dr. Douglas Green, a 13-year Blaine resident who opened Imagine Smiles in the spring of 2011, offered $447,361 for 1.58 acres at the corner of 108th Lane and Town Square Drive through a letter of intent. If the council approves Green’s offer, he can file a preliminary plat application that would go through the public review process like any other development.

The $447,361 would go into the Blaine Economic Development Authority fund. The Blaine EDA, which is comprised of the full seven-member council but has its own taxing authority separate from the city, had deeded the land to the city in 2014 after a citizen task force identified it as the number one site for a new community center.

The 1.58 acres is on the west end of a 7.39-acre parcel that was targeted for a community center in a November 2016 referendum that a majority of voters opposed.

Had the council vote taken place on June 15, there would have been a 3-2 majority in favor. But because the property is currently owned by the city of Blaine, four affirmative votes are needed since this would constitute a majority of the seven-member council. This requirement for selling its land is in Blaine’s city charter.

With Council Members Jason King and Dick Swanson absent, there were fewer people to get to the four-vote requirement.

With the understanding that the vote would have failed after all five present members of the council spoke, the council decided to table a vote until its next regularly scheduled meeting on July 13. The council normally has a meeting on the first Thursday of a month but is not in July because of the Fourth of July holiday.

Council Members Dave Clark and Andy Garvais were planning to vote no on June 15 because they feel the land is too valuable as a public commodity.

Garvais said the council has only had two discussions on this property since the referendum failed. It was brought up during a March workshop retreat and again in May when the council first heard of Green’s interest.

“The issue I have is at the retreat we said we were going to discuss the future of this property and the next thing that happened was a workshop to sell the land, so I don’t think we’ve really had a full discussion on what we want to use that on,” Garvais said,

On the other hand, Council Member Julie Jeppson believes one of the council’s role is supporting Blaine residents and businesses. In addition, Jeppson prefers to deal with an actual proposal rather than continue to hold onto a property with no clear alternatives at this time.

“I understand the conflict with that property and what it could be, but those are ‘what if’s,’ and moving forward with those questions could prevent anything from happening on that property for a very long time,” she said.

Council Member Wes Hovland said Jeppson stated it well and he concurs, simply because the council during general elections in 1998 and 2016 saw voters oppose community center proposals.

“The public has twice now made it very clear they are not in favor of building a community center,” Hovland said. “Part of what I’ve been trying to encourage for some time is get this property on the tax rolls. Put it to use. Let’s move forward.”

Mayor Tom Ryan has said he felt the location near city hall was not the best site for a community center because he thought the property was not large enough and because of the high volume of traffic that would have been coming throughout the day.

“The land was too small for a community center to start with,” he said. “It’s our job to get our properties back on the tax rolls. We got a good price on it. A city resident will operate this. Medical is the best use we have here. They don’t fail. They’re strong. They’re successful.”

Clark recommended the council delay a vote to July 13 so there would hopefully be a larger contingent of council members to vote.

“I think there’s probably four votes, maybe five, to say yes to this, but I am not going to vote how I think another council member would vote,” Clark said. “I don’t think this is time sensitive. I’m not going to developer yes when I do not intend to support it going forward.”

Prior to the vote, Blaine Economic Development Coordinator Erik Thorvig pointed out that the Blaine Planning Commission and the City Council probably would not be reviewing the preliminary plat until this fall or early winter and groundbreaking may not happen until the spring of 2018.

The letter of intent would be void if the city and Green don’t finalize a purchase agreement by the end of 2017, which would make the property available again. The closing date has a deadline of May 31, 2018 in case there are delays next year.

Dr. Green’s plan

Imagine Smiles’ is now at 10705 Town Square Drive NE, which is on the opposite side of the street from where he wants to build his new clinic.

Currently, the dental office is 2,000 square feet and has five clinical rooms. Green said the fifth room is his old office he converted to a clinical room due to patient demand. He is the only dentist on staff.

The new office building is proposed to be 16,500 square feet, but Imagine Smiles would not use the full building and other spaces would be available for lease. He envisions having 10 to 14 clinical rooms in a 5,500-square-foot clinic. This will include rooms for specialty cases, a suite for isolated dental amalgam removal and a surgical suite.

He is looking to hire one or two more dentists based on patient demand.

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