Complaint spurs City to take action on two parcels

Mike Christopherson
Crookston Times

    There’s a fair amount of hoop-jumping, red-tape cutting and overall government bureaucracy to navigate in order to convey a property. So imagine how complicated it might be to reconvey and parcel of land back to the party involved in the original conveyance?

    That’s the process the City of Crookston is currently involved in, with Polk County and the State of Minnesota. The city council has approved a resolution reconveying two parcels of tax-forfeited land, once home to the old Otter Tail Power coal-fired plant along Crescent Avenue going down toward the Red Lake River and approaching South Main, back to the State. Eventually, Polk County officials will assess its “fair market value” and offer it for sale back to the City, City Attorney Corky Reynolds explained, and at that point the City can decide whether to buy the parcels or not.

    Public Works Director Pat Kelly hopes the council buys the land because he says his crews need it to dump snow removed from elsewhere in town during the winter months.

Not using as a right-of-way

    There’s a state program where tax-forfeited land can be conveyed to a municipality to be used in any one of eight ways, Reynolds explained. One of those uses is as a right-of-way, and in February of 2018 when the parcels were conveyed to the City, that’s how the City indicated it would use the land. But, in reality, that hasn’t been the case. Instead, it’s been a spot for Public Works crews to dump a lot of snow.

    Eventually, a complaint was made by a residential property owner living immediately to the east of the parcels where the snow has been dumped, and it was brought to the attention of Polk County officials. During the spring melt, the property owner said, various pieces of debris in the snow were left on his property after the runoff. Photos were provided showing the debris. That was in 2019, Reynolds said, and since then crews have been dumping snow from west to east on the parcels instead of east to west, so that the runoff goes toward the river instead of toward the complainant’s property.

    Asked about what the property’s “fair market value” might end up being, Reynolds said he wouldn’t hazard to guess, but that he didn’t think the price would be outlandish. “The county, in my opinion, desires to get it back to the City for its use,” he explained. “…Their thinking is, let’s get this back to the City but let’s do it right.”

    Assuming the City ends up buying the land, it will no longer be restricted in how it utilizes the land, Reynolds said, because it will own it and no longer be subject to limitations included in the State land conveyance program.

    The City Planning Commission at a recent meeting reviewed the matter and recommended that the council take the action it did.