Twin Metals purchases land in downtown Babbitt

by Nick Wognum -

The Babbitt City Council has approved a purchase agreement for city land to Twin Metals Minnesota to build an office building and parking area where the Bryant Center was located.
The purchase price for the land was set at $70,000. The land value was determined by an appraisal.
The two parcels being sold total 16.8 acres. The closing date for the sale is scheduled for December 31.
The city also approved rezoning the land.
Dean DeBeltz of TMM spoke at a Nov. 26 hearing in Babbitt.
“We will be opening an office in the city of Babbitt at some point in time in the future. The reason we are requesting the rezoning is for that office space and parking,” said DeBeltz.
Debeltz said the company’s timeline is unknown. He said the plan is to submit a proposal to the state and federal government in mid-2019.
“The length of that process is unknown,” said DeBeltz. “We feel this is the right time to purchase the property and begin making plans.”
DeBeltz said the PolyMet project took over seven years to get regulatory approval.
“We’re looking at 5.5 to 7.5 years at best. Our interest would be to pick up that large parcel so we have options to move parking spaces and a facility,” said DeBeltz.
The company plans to have 306 parking spaces for employees who would take busses to the underground mine located near Highway 1 and the Kawishiwi River.
“Shades of yesteryear with Reserve Mining doing that,” said council member Terry Switajewski.
The property includes the city’s historic mining equipment display.
DeBeltz said, “We would be interested in supporting the city for that. We would maintain it and enhance it. Whether it gets shifted we’d have to determine at that point.”
The company has also started a phase one review of any environmental concerns with the property.
Neighbor Kathy Verbick asked if the company would be able to later sell the property.
“We wouldn’t have intentions of buying it to sell it,” said DeBeltz. “The reason to purchase it is to use it to support the project. We don’t intend on buying it to sell it.”
Mayor Andrea Zupancich spoke in favor of the rezoning.
“I’m in full support of this great thing for our town. Having 300 extra people in our town is a good thing,” said Zupancich.
“Dilly dilly I’m with ya,” said Switajewski.
Planning Commission member Dave Sherman said, “The city is always looking to increase the tax base and it would do that. With that many cars coming in, what’s it going to do for gas stations?”
Barbara Jensen, who owns property across the street, said she was concerned about the value of residential properties nearby.
DeBeltz said the company would be open to address people’s concerns.
Lassi said the city has developed standards on how a building can look along with landscaping.
“There won’t be any pole barns there,” said Switajewski.
Tom Duffy, who owns the former motel, expressed his support.
“I think it would be great for Babbitt,” said Duffy.