Late last month, state officials announced that the "upper post" of Fort Snelling—which includes 26 buildings built as early as the 1870s—will be converted into affordable housing units with the help of a twin cities based apartment developer.
Developers have said that roughly $70 million of the $100 million, 41-acre project would come from public funds in the form of state and federal low-income and historic tax credits. Additionally, developers will also pursue tax-increment financing from Hennepin County and put in $5 million of their own equity.
Currently, the buildings are being managed by the DNR and have been vacant for several years—with many structures in disrepair as organizations and others have been searching for ways to put this property to use.
$70 million in public money for 190 housing units is a steep price tag. What’s more, Lieutenant Governor Tina Smith said in a press conference that a deal on the project could be handled through Governor Mark Dayton's office, without approval from the Legislature.
Not only do I question the Governor’s authority to approve $70 million in public money without legislative approval, I question Hennepin County and the DNR’s authority to transfer the upper bluff area from a Parks and Lands program to a Historic Monuments program. This would void the DNR's deed restriction, and allow the DNR to lease the land for non-recreational use.
The use of $70 million in public money and the transfer of land deeds and responsibilities of historic buildings and land is something that should and needs to be properly vetted and approved by the Legislature with input from the public.
I plan on looking into this proposed deal in greater detail in the coming weeks as I continue to look for ways to ensure your hard earned tax dollars are put to the most responsible use.
As always, please do not hesitate to contact me if you ever have questions relating to state government or a state agency. It is an honor to represent you and our communities in St. Paul.