5/2/2013 1:57:00 PM City extends project tax
abatement for 15 years
by PAUL RIGNELL
The Chisago City Council reopened a public hearing April 23 for considering a new request from land owner Dr. Michael Hursh, who wants to build a three-floor hotel with 50 guest rooms and a pool, on Sportsman Drive at North Avenue.
The land is adjacent to his property that was developed for McDonald’s and Fantastic Sams in late 2011. In September 2012, the council approved a request from Hursh for tax abatement on the hotel land that would have been good for up to 10 years or about $170,000 in subsidy. He returned to council chambers with news that he is still working on financing, and asked the city to extend its tax abatement agreement to 15 years for a maximum $285,000. “(A hotel) is a piece that’s missing in the overall commercial structure of our community,” he said in seeking the council’s approval.
Mayor Bob Gustafson and Councilmember Don Taylor said there were certain benefits that would come from being able to offer a hotel of this scope in the Chisago Lakes area. Taylor said they would need only to walk upstairs above the city offices and their council chambers to find office space that a former paying tenant vacated due partly to a local lack of lodging. “They moved because they were always sending their people (out-of-town associates) to Forest Lake,” said Taylor. Councilmember Joe Sroga said he thought of events such as the Chisago Lakes Triathlon, which in reality could probably fill a hotel for a night.
Councilmember Ron Swenson said he appreciated what his colleagues were sharing, yet he feels 15 years is too long for possible tax abatement based on reports from staff that Chisago County, for example, has limited its tax abatement approvals to a maximum seven years in most cases. “Fifteen years is a long time,” Councilmember Marie Rivers acknowledged, “but if we don’t get this hotel in there, it may be another 15 years before anything goes in there.”
The council granted Hursh’s request on a 4-1 vote, with Swenson dissenting. Known for his Lindstrom dental practice Hursh has owned the site in Chisago City for 12 years, he told the Chisago County Press.
Council approved a full liquor license for Center City native Jessica (Fredlund) Johnson as she plans to open the Northern Lake Tavern and Grill, at 10470 South Ave. Jessica and her spouse, Chad Johnson, were scheduled to close May 1 on their purchase of the Trappers’ building from long-time area restaurateurs Lou and Linda Radich. At the April 23 council meeting, Linda, said that her retirement decision, with Lou has been bittersweet. “Our customers are not just our customers, they’re our friends,” Linda said, “but it’s time to think about doing something else now, relaxing. “(Jessica and Chad) are good people. I know they’re going to run it well.”
The younger couple comes into this venture with more than 30 years of combined restaurant and bar management experience. “The location is amazing” in Chisago City, said Jessica. “A liquor license is needed to modernize it, but we are going to focus on food.” The Johnsons plan to open the Northern Lake Tavern and Grill 11 a.m. weekdays, and 10 a.m. Saturday and Sunday for breakfast. They expect to stay open until 1 a.m. Monday through Saturday, and to midnight Sundays.