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Editorial: Kudos to city and county on Lakeland Hotel plan stand, Do-nothing faction is hurting WIllmar

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The Willmar City Council and Kandiyohi County Board of Commissioners are to be commended for approving a 15-year tax abatement for the proposed redevelopment of the historic Lakeland Hotel building in downtown Willmar.

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The community is fortunate that the majority of these decision-makers had the foresight, wisdom and courage to take a risk in the form of a small investment for the potential reward of a $3.6 million redevelopment investment in downtown Willmar.

We especially commend Mayor Frank Yanish for his tie-breaking vote in support of the city's approval of the tax abatement, essentially overriding the donothing faction within the City Council. And we commend Councilmen Denis Anderson, Bruce DeBlieck and Rick Fagerlie, and the entire Kandiyohi County Board for their support of this project.

The Lakeland Hotel was recently named to the National Register of Historic Places, but currently is owned by Bremer Bank due to a previous owner's bankruptcy. Southwest Minnesota Housing Partnership of Slayton has stepped forward with a proposed $3.6 million redevelopment plan for the building. Southwest's plan includes purchasing the building; maintaining the exterior façade; maintaining three commercial spaces on the ground level; and transforming the residential units into affordable housing on the upper floors.

The approved tax abatement would cost the city about $60,000 and the county about $95,000 over 15 years. Southwest is not asking for a tax abatement from the Willmar School District.

This sounds like a minimal investment by local government to help re-start the rejuvenation of this particular historic building and downtown Willmar.

Even the Willmar Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce endorsed "this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to invest in the jewel of downtown" Willmar, said Chamber President Ken Warner.

In simple terms it is a good business decision for downtown Willmar and will help improve the image of the downtown sector.

City Councilmen Ron Christianson, Jim Dokken and Steve Ahmann opposed the Southwest Minnesota Housing Partnership's redevelopment proposal for various weak reasons.

Christianson said Monday, "Doing nothing is not going to do any harm."

So passing on a proposal to invest $3.6 million in downtown Willmar will do no harm. What?

That's the problem with the donothings on the City Council. They never want to do anything, except maybe if they proposed it or if it fits their narrow ideology.

It is time to put grudges against other developers, ideological mantra and/or partisan posturing aside and move on to making appropriate, sound and logical decisions for the betterment of downtown Willmar and the rest of the city as a whole.

As Mayor Yanish said Monday, "The option to do nothing is not an option." How right he is.

We again commend Mayor Yanish, Councilmen Anderson, DeBlieck, Fagerlie and the Kandiyohi County Board for their wisdom and leadership on this downtown redevelopment project proposal.

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