Council members looking more favorably on a 60-acre agreement as opposed to one on the entire 100 acre parcel.

With the Crookston City Council apparently lacking the appetite to greenlight a land option agreement with Epitome Energy founder Dennis Egan that would encompass all 100 acres of the CHEDA/City-owned property on Crookston’s southern edge where he hopes to build a massive soybean crush and biodiesel facility, it looks like a scaled-back, 60-acre land option with Egan is the desired path forward.

While Egan might prefer a 100-acre land option, CHEDA Executive Director Craig Hoiseth told his board of directors this week, the Epitome Energy head also realizes that a 60-acre land option is better than nothing.

But Egan’s agreement with the smaller land option has come with a cost, Hoiseth adds, in the form of a “relationship issue we had to navigate through.”

But more than anything at this point, Egan and those who are leading the Epitome Energy equity drive need to have a document in hand – the land-option agreement – to show potential investors that the initiative continues to progress.

The equity drive hit some bumps during and after the historically bad 2019 farm harvest in the region, and the timeline for breaking ground on the facility has been stretched further into the future.

“The process is slowing down and (Egan) is unable to hold large-scale equity meetings,” Hoiseth said. “He needs (the land option) in his hand.”

It’s anticipated that if things continue to move forward, the City would sell 60 acres of the parcel to Egan so Epitome Energy could be constructed. Also on the 100 acres, Vertical Malt is looking to build a new facility on around six acres, and a proposed soy innovation campus would take up another 10 acres.

Mayor Dale Stainbrook said the council didn’t want a land option that would give Egan control over the entire 100 acres. “As a council, we wanted input on (the remaining 40 acres),” he said. “We will work (with Egan) on the other 40 acres; we won’t put something non-ag related in there and we won’t put something in there that Egan doesn’t want.”

In order to keep things moving, Hoiseth said a legal description of the property needs to be done, which involves a survey. He figures it’ll cost around $10,000, a cost the council and CHEDA Board can figure out together how to cover.

“We can wrestle with (the cost), but we need to start drawing some lines out there,” Hoiseth said. “It doesn’t matter if CHEDA or the City writes the check, we need this done.”

The council last year allocated $350,000 to CHEDA for various economic development initiatives. It’s possible the cost to survey the land and complete a legal description will come from those dollars.

The land option agreement is expected to be on the council’s March 23 meeting agenda.