An Underwater Hotel & More: Far-fetched tourism ideas stir controversy in Two Harbors

An Underwater Hotel & More: Far-fetched tourism ideas stir controversy in Two Harbors
Published: Jan. 20, 2022 at 11:48 PM CST
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TWO HARBORS, MN (KBJR) - A mayor with big ideas, a reclusive billionaire investor, and a social media scandal.

It may sound like the plot of a fictional TV series, but it was actually the reason the Two Harbors City Council met Thursday night.

Two Harbors Mayor Chris Swanson has big plans for his city.

He’s trying to attract investors to turn the small town into a must-visit tourist destination.

According to Mayor Swanson, some of the possible future tourist attractions for the city include passenger submarine travel, a marina concept, and an underwater hotel.

Mayor Swanson said there are not any other underwater hotels in Lake Superior, but they are starting to pop up around the world.

Swanson acknowledges an underwater hotel may seem like a far-fetched idea, but he said other Northland industries like Taconite could have also had their doubters in the early stages.

He said the reason for the push to make Two Harbors a vacation destination is the potential economic impact.

“Experiences are economic drivers for a community,” said Mayor Swanson.

Those are the mayor’s plans for the future of the city, but there was a city council meeting on this topic Thursday night because some people don’t like the way he’s promoting and sharing his ideas.

The meeting was called to discuss three main areas of concern:

1. Mayor Swanson shared these ideas with a potential investor on a podcast called “Ask A Billionaire”

2. The mayor’s use of the website to recruit investors for the projects

3. Postings on mayor’s official Twitter feed, @mayorswanson.

The council discussed whether these social media publications violate city code, charter, or state statute.

The council had two choices Thursday: either determine that the mayor’s behavior does not violate any city or state codes, and close the matter, or move the matter to the Minnesota Attorney General to render a written opinion.

The mayor himself entered the motion to move the matter to Minnesota’s Attorney General.

“So, I understand the rules and I know that I haven’t broken any rules, so I very much would love to see the Attorney General review that and make sure that the air is cleared. I don’t want anybody saying that it wasn’t reviewed and there was something that was done wrong and it was brushed underneath the carpet,” said Mayor Swanson.

The motion will now go to Minnesota’s Attorney General to render a written opinion.

One aspect that’s brought intense scrutiny is the mayor’s alleged relationship with what he called a reclusive billionaire investor named Mr. O.

The mayor said Mr. O, through his connection with Swanson, is now working with the Two Harbors Economic Development Authority and city planning officials to possibly invest in Swanson’s ideas.

Mayor Swanson said it’s possible Mr. O could invest $400 million in future tourism attractions in Two Harbors.

An internet search turned up a similar situation in Flint, Michigan.

Back in 2017, Mr. O claimed to be willing to invest in that city.

In that instance, instead of a podcast, Mr. O went on a local radio show.

It appears none of those claims came to fruition.

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