A $5 million purchase agreement exists between Pine Meadows Golf Course owners and the Denali Real Estate Group of Nisswa.
The Denali Real Estate Group describes itself as a land development firm relatively new to the Brainerd lakes area.
Craig Fink, president of the Denali Real Estate Group, said in a news release that the group's development philosophy is to ask the city what it wants and "not tell them what we think they need."
Fink, who could not be reached Friday for additional comment, is described as experienced in land redevelopment as a vice president of a prominent but unnamed Twin Cities development firm, according to the news release.
Baxter City Council member Darrel Olson, who is mayor-elect, said the council has not seen a formal development proposal. He said rumors that a purchase agreement was in the works have been circulating for weeks.
"I have no comment until I see something," he said. "It's pretty hard to comment on innuendo at this point."
Denali Real Estate Group hired Westwood Professional Services of Brainerd to oversee the land planning and engineering for the project.
"We see this project as being somewhat similar to the old Paul Bunyan Amusement Park, which simply outgrew its useful life, and was no longer economically feasible to operate at that location," Fink said in the news release. "Because of the growth of Baxter and the development along the western and southern boundaries of the golf course, the highest and best use for the property has changed. We have listened to the concerns of the residents of Baxter regarding this property, and will take them into account. Our initial vision is of a park-like project with a focus on green space and water features, as well as trails that complement and tie into the arboretum. We are looking to create a setting with a real sense of community, which is both useful and complementary to the area as a whole.
"This project will evolve as we get feedback from both the city and the community. We agree in general with the seller's concept that this project warrants a combination of mixed-use commercial and residential development, with a majority being housing."
Pine Meadows Golf Course is zoned Residential 1, which allows single-family homes. Rezoning the property would require public hearings. Baxter City Council members previously said rezoning the property to commercial would be an uphill battle.
David Mooty, president of Continental Golf Corp., which owns Pine Meadows, listed the property for sale in late September.
Gary Walters, speaking for a group of lakes area business people looking at a Pine Meadows purchase, said his group is in a "wait-and-see attitude."
Walters, Crow Wing County commissioner, announced last summer he was looking into retaining the golf course through the private sector. "I understand the elected officials don't view (the golf course) as a commercial area," he said.
"I do think it's unfortunate," Walters said, adding when he heard rumors of a purchase agreement he had "locked down" a proposal where the city of Baxter would have ended up with an 18-hole golf course forever. Walters said he could not comment on the details, but the plan did not involve commercial development.
Walters said they will wait to see how the city of Baxter responds to a development plan for the golf course with the Denali Real Estate Group.
"We could not make the numbers work at $5 million," Walter said. But he said they have looked at the numbers and the project is workable in a range closer to $3 million.
Denali Real Estate Group reported since the golf course was listed for sale, there was a lot of interest from other developers. Rob Johnson of RE/MAX Commercial Properties and Business Brokerage was the listing agent.
In the news release Fink said: "We knew that if we didn't secure this site, another developer would have. We understand that there will be some challenges ahead, but we are confident that our local team can deliver positive results and a project the community will be proud of, while the city will benefit from the increased tax revenues."
RENEE RICHARDSON can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5852.
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.