City approves sale of I-500 track
Developer to pay up to $3.25 million for 65 acres
By SCOTT BRAND
SAULT STE. MARIE - A $3.25 million property sale approved at Monday's meeting of the Sault Ste. Marie City Commission will send the organizers of the International 500 Snowmobile Race scrambling to find a new home for 2009.
But, then again, maybe not.
The city has agreed to part with up to 65 acres of land at a rate of $50,000 per acre - clearing the way for developer Philip Garforth of Legacy Quest to build a biodome, water park, theaters and 300-room hotel on the property. Under the terms of the agreement, the city will get all of the money up front at the June 15 closing date with a formula in place to refund a portion of the purchase price, up to $30,000 an acre, if Garforth meets all of the established goals by Jan. 1, 2013.
“What we're proposing is a clear sale of the property,” said City Manager Spencer Nebel, leading up to the vote. The city had previously toyed with bonding and benchmarks to assure the property was properly developed but, in the end, opted for the cash in hand route with potential rebates.
City Attorney Steve Cannello provided additional re-assurance, terming this a “no-risk deal.”
Garforth came under some fire from Commissioner Ray Bauer who had come up empty while researching claims made during the developer's original presentation.
“I was not able to find evidence of many things you claimed to be part of,” said Bauer.
Garforth countered that Bauer's findings were irrelevant to this transaction.
Under the terms of the agreement, the city will get cash in hand before turning the land over to Garforth. The biggest risk, it appears, would be the city sells the land at the established $50,000 an acre and construction does not occur on the property. If this did occur, the city would have more than fair-market value for this parcel and adequate seed money for a new I-500 Track.
The commission also agreed to set aside $800,000 from the purchase price for finding and building a new I-500 Track. A committee will be appointed at the April 21 meeting for this purpose.
“I've already got about $1.3 million into this project,” said Garforth before the commission voted. “I'm very excited and very dedicated to this project.”
The developer also indicated he had a very aggressive time table.
“I'm not going to be sitting on my hands, I want to get this project started as soon as possible,” he added.
The commission voted 5-1 to approve the purchase agreement, with Commissioner Bauer providing the lone opposition.
The money and property are scheduled to change hands on June 15, if all goes according to plan. But, if something happens to derail this transaction, the I-500 could again be running at that site next February when the green flag drops for the 41st race
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