By Lois E Johnson
Moose Lake Star-Gazette 

Commercial, housing development in store for Moose Lake


December 13, 2018

The Small Area Plan for the remainder of the land owned by the Moose Lake School District was presented to 15 members of the public and city and school officials at a special meeting on Thursday, Dec. 6, at the Moose Lake School.

Justin Otsea, Senior Planner for the Arrowhead Regional Development Commission, had a map on display that laid out the areas for commercial development, multi-family housing or single family homes. A representative of LHB, an architectural and design firm from Duluth, assisted with the design.

According to the map, there is room for three commercial lots between Shopko and Kwik Trip along Highway 73. Moose Horn Drive would be extended from Shopko to Opportunity Drive, the street that serves Kwik Trip.

Commercial businesses with housing above could be located on the south side of Moose Horn Drive, according to the map. There could be shared parking lots.

Otsea explained that representatives of the city, school board and several other stakeholders have served on an advisory committee. A public survey was also conducted and sent with utility bills to residents of the city and employees of the Department of Corrections.

“We had 228 responses,” said Otsea. “That is a fantastic return of the surveys.”

Ostea said people preferred light poles with banners, angle parking and an island buffer in the parking lots. They also preferred broad sidewalks with planters, benches and trees along the street.

Photos were shown of buildings that would have storefronts on the main level with residential housing on the second level.

“The wetlands have already been delineated,” said Otsea. “Those impact some sites but there is still an opportunity for development. People can park and walk to the different areas.”

Areas to the south of the commercial area showed the location of the school and future practice fields for baseball, softball and other outdoor sports, as well as the school forest. There would be additional parking for the sports complex as well as for a playground or a park that could serve the residents in the area, Otsea said.

A residential area would be located southeast of Kwik Trip. Single-family or multi-family structures could be located on seven lots bordering the east-west portion of Opportunity Drive, the map shows. Eighteen single family homes would be located south of the multi-family lots on a half-acre to one-acre parcels.

“There is a desire for more density on the north side of the residential area, such as town homes or split homes,” said Otsea. “People who live there would rent and limit the work that comes with home ownership.”

There would be paths and trails to the school forest and other areas.

There was a question whether any businesses had expressed an interest in locating on the property.

“There has been some general interest,” said Otsea. “But there is nothing solidified. This plan sets the stage and gives the school and the city a plan to generate interest.”

City Administrator Tim Peterson said the property is not for sale yet. The city and school district will be working with a realtor to list the land for sale.

“What we’d like to do is expand what we already have, like add a restaurant,” he added. “We need to find the best fit where new business can go.”

The next step is to work with the Planning Commission to turn the map into a final document. That document has to then be approved by the city council.

“We are not going to let this sit idle for 10 years,” Peterson said. “We have to come up with some incentives, such as a TIF (tax increment financing) district to make it more worthwhile for the investors to develop the property.”

Mayor Ted Shaw pointed out that the focus of the city will always be on the downtown area.

“We do not want to abandon the downtown,” he said. “We love it and want to keep it that way. This is an opportunity to get new development and add to the area.”


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