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Clough Island Development: Superior’s White Elephant?. Prepared by Friends of the Superior Municipal Forest-St. Louis/ Pokegama Estuary. Superior. Clough Island. West Duluth. Background of Clough Island. 320-acre island at the heart of the St. Louis Estuary

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Clough island development superior s white elephant

Clough Island Development: Superior’s White Elephant?

Prepared by Friends of the Superior Municipal Forest-St. Louis/ Pokegama Estuary

Background of clough island






Background of Clough Island

  • 320-acre island at the heart of the St. Louis Estuary

    • Adjacent to the Superior Municipal Forest

  • Owned by the Whiteside family from 1902-2002, when it was sold to Progress Land Company

Proposed development
Proposed Development

  • luxury 300-room hotel

  • 700 housing units

  • golf course

  • marina

  • Publicly funded road and bridge

Public funds
Public Funds

  • Nearly 2 miles of road through the Superior Municipal forest, ending on Chases Point

  • Bridge from Chases Point to adjacent islands to Clough Island

  • Ferry?

  • Parking for Ferry?

    • Parking lot 6 football fields in size required for present conceptual plan

Status of project
Status of Project

  • Developers have requested rezoning to a planned development district

  • The City Plan Commission have forwarded their recommendation to rezone to the City Council

  • The City Council is taking public hearings on the rezoning on July 5th and 14th

City code for rezoning
City Code for Rezoning

  • City code reads that the city MUST base the rezoning on a plan that includes:

    • survey by registered land surveyor

    • plot plan showing all uses and structures drawn to scale

    • topographic map with 2 foot intervals

    • building plans that show use of each floor and the bulk of the aesthetic nature of the building planting plan

    • statement of development stages including time limits

    • statement related to adequacy of public facilities and utilities

    • statement of proposed method of financing with evidence that the proponents can finance it, and evidence that it conforms to the Waterfront Commercial Development Standard

Reason for city code
Reason for City Code


    • In spite of this, the Plan

      Commission recommended

      rezoning with NONE of these

      requirements fulfilled!

  • The plan approved by the City becomes the rules the developers must follow in construction.

    • If the City passes the zoning change with the present plan, it would be like giving them a blank slate to build whatever they want

City officials positions
City Officials Positions

  • Jeff Vito, the city’s public works director:

    • “Like everybody else, we initially had a lot of questions whether something of this scale could survive up here. But the more we’ve studied and have worked on this, the better it looks.” David Price,, 4/15/05

How can the City say this, when they have so little information to assess whether this is a feasible project??!!

  • Dennis Dalbec, Head of the City Council:

    • "This project, upon its completion, will reduce taxes 20 to 30 percent. In other words, it would be like having your taxes paid for every three to five years by someone else.“ MPR, 5/02/05

Where is the analysis to support this statement?

Market analysis
Market Analysis?

  • Only two months of the year have average high temperatures above 70° F in Superior – July and August. (


White elephant
“White Elephant”

  • Without a detailed plan, the feasibility of the project CANNOT be evaluated.

  • If the City jumps the gun, and commits to building a road, a bridge, a ferry service and parking, and then the development fails, who pays?

    The TAXPAYER!!!!

Environmental feasibility
Environmental Feasibility?

  • Unstable Clay banks

    • Developer’s drawing shows large million dollar homes right on the edge of bluffs!

Environmental feasibility1
Environmental Feasibility?

  • Impermeable substrate – water does not flow through clay!

    • All pesticides and fertilizer applied to golf course would go straight into wetlands and the estuary

Environmental feasibility2
Environmental Feasibility?

  • Marina and docks?

    • Water depths around the island are mostly less than 4 feet!

    • Dredging would disturb fish spawning grounds

Water depth ~1 ft.

Sensitive environment
Sensitive Environment

  • "There are a bunch of those fish that are around the island at some point in their life cycle -- crappies, perch, northern pike, musky, smallmouth bass, largemouth bass... and then a bunch of the forage fish, the minnows that the big fish feed on," Dennis Pratt, Lake Superior area fisheries manager for the DNR in Superior. Duluth News Tribune, 2-20-05

Sensitive environment1
Sensitive Environment

  • “[The 70 acres of] wetlands are some of the few remaining in the St. Louis River estuary and the western Lake Superior basin. The island is home to a multitude of birds and animals at various times of year, some on state and federal protected-species lists. The Nature Conservancy says the estuary has ‘global significance’ because of the rarity of wetlands near Lake Superior.” Duluth News Tribune, 2-20-05


  • Before rezoning, the City must, by it’s own ordinance, require the developer to demonstrate

    • A detailed plan

    • Financial viability

    • Environmental viability

    • That the changed zoning would be in the best interest of the citizens of Superior!

Call to action
Call to Action

  • Call City Councilors and the Mayor to express your concern

  • Make yourself heard at the Public Hearings!

    • July 5th, 4:30 pm, Govt. Center

    • July 14th, 6:30 pm, Govt. Center