Council holds off on agreement for local developers

Jesse Batson

Jesse Batson

After numerous locals spoke on behalf of Brookings developers at the March 28 City Council meeting, the council voted 4-3 to hold off on granting Prairieland Partnership, LLP an exclusive right to negotiate development for the land where the Department of Transportation (DOT) county shop currently sits.

At the March 14 meeting, the City Council members received criticism for not giving the public enough time to debate before the council made the DOT purchase.

Council member Mike Bartley addressed the criticism they received during the March 14 meeting.

“These things have to be done sometimes in executive sessions,” Bartley said.

They kept it confidential due to the developer’s request.

Dick Peterson, owner of Cinema 5 theater complex, addressed the council on the issue.

“We have developers here in Brookings,” he said.

Among those he mentioned were the Mills family, who were influential in bringing in Apple-bee’s Neighborhood Grill & Bar.

“I believe you need a task force to develop this,” Peterson said. “Stop. Take a breath. Move forward as a community.”

Bartley argued that Prairieland has the contacts needed in order to develop the land.

They would like to see progress by December 2007.

“That’s an ambitious schedule,” Bartley said.

Local realtor John Gustafson addressed the council as well.

“I’m just concerned we haven’t given a local developer any time,” he said.

He suggested holding off on making this decision until local developers have had a chance to bid for the job.

Local realtor Mike McClemens suggested giving half the land to Prairieland while allowing local developers the chance to develop the rest of it.

“You don’t have to lock this into one package in my opinion,” he said. “It’s just not the best thing to put all your eggs in one basket.”

Local realtor Dave Kneip also addressed the council.

“Mike McClemens makes a very compelling argument,” he said.

“People in town that make money locally spend money locally,” Kneip said. “We need to consider our local people. We can’t shut them out.”

Councilmember Julie Whaley questioned whether or not local developers took available of the opportunities they had.

“There’s been a lot of scuttle,” she said. “A lot of talk. We’ve been talking DOT for four years now. Has anyone approached the DOT and took that route?”

City Council member Tom Bezdichek clarified that the government was “regulated as to how to go about selling it.”

Mayor Scott Munsterman cast the deciding vote in the 3-3 split.