County board OKs purchase of Seneca site
The Olmsted County Board approved a purchase agreement on Tuesday to acquire 11 acres of land adjacent to the county-owned Graham Park.
Under the deal, the county will pay Seneca Foods $5.6 million for the property, which until recently was used as a cannery.
The county does not yet have detailed drawings on how it plans to use the land. However, any future use of the site will likely tie into Destination Medical Center plans to make Graham Park a hub for transit.
Commissioner Sheila Kiscaden, a proponent of the deal, said the county never anticipated the opportunity to purchase site would come before them. Seneca approached the county about the site after it announced plans to end seasonal canning production locally.
Despite uncertainty on how the site will be used, Kiscaden said she is confident the county will find a way to make the most of the investment.
“[Detailed plans] will come over time as we work with the city, as we work with the Destination Medical Center, as we look at private investors, for converting this into a wonderful asset for the community,” she said.
In addition to plans for a transit hub, or “mobility village,” commissioners said the Seneca site could also be used as part of the Graham Park master plan — which calls for the construction of a new arena/expo building, along with a permanent site for the farmers market.
Commissioner Ken Brown called the purchase a “very strategic and solid move for the county,” adding that he has already heard from developers interested in partnering with the county on the site.
“I have absolutely no doubt that we will get all, or more than all, of our money back on this purchase once plans have been developed,” he said.
Two commissioners, Mark Thein and Gregg Wright, voted against the purchase. Thein, whose public remarks on social media generated attention over the weekend, said the deal was being driven primarily by emotions and personalities — and warned that the county would have buyer’s remorse.
“I do want the record to show that I think Libby’s looks a lot better on the label than it will on the property tax levy,” said Thein.
Both Thein and Wright noted that their opposition had nothing to do with the Ear of Corn water tower on the site (both support saving it). As part of the agreement with Seneca, the county plans to preserve the tower.
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