Council votes to not sell park land for Elizabeth expansion, wants more information

HUMBOLDT — Council wants more information before it sells a slice of St. Elizabeth Park land to The Elizabeth Retirement Community for a 16-suite expansion.

At its Feb. 22 meeting, council voted to not sell the land to Stewart Properties. The land is needed for the expansion to meet legal requirements.

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Michael Behiel, Humboldt’s mayor, said council wants to know what the original agreement and intent was with the Sisters of St. Elizabeth when they sold their convent and surrounding lands to the city. The city in turn sold the convent building to Stewart Properties.

“All we said was: today we're not prepared to approve it until we can do some more research ourselves,” the mayor said.

“Especially given the fact that one of the city's core values is play, work and live, we really were concerned about doing anything to reduce park size until we were sure that it was in the city's best interest.”

Behiel said council wanted to make sure they had the facts before making a decision

“It’s easier for us to make sure we're doing it right before we do it, than to grant this through and then we find out that we've erred terribly, and we need to try and find a way to back ourselves out of it.”

There were also questions about two buildings that would be included in the land transfer. Both are being used by the city’s community and leisure services department for storage, but they may have historic value due to being part of the former convent.

Gerald Baron spoke to council during a public hearing for the project. He told council that he had conducted an informal survey. Some of the opinions coming from the survey included concerns about access to the nuns’ cemetery, the effect on the park and the ownership of the two buildings. He added he found a lot of support for the expansion.

“The reason why I'm here, the main thing is that we are really requesting a little more time to take a look at this whole proposal,” he said, adding later the extra time could be used to develop a win/win approach that would address public concerns.

The city had received two letters in support of the project after the deadline for the council’s agenda was sent, one from The Elizabeth’s resident council and another from a sister belonging to the Sisters of St. Elizabeth. There were two letters sent before the deadline opposed to the project based on past experiences with the retirement home.

“Council has also discussed and carefully considered the concerns that the community may have with this proposal based on other matters,” Frank Carpentieri, the city’s planning co-ordinator, told council in regard to those two letters. “However, these matters are considered beyond the realm of land use planning and development.”

Behiel said Stewart Properties can re-approach council in the future.

“We have declined it right now but Stewart Properties, at any point, can come back and ask again.”

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