County Board cites comp plan changes as solution
By Robert Williams
Residents of Little Floyd Lake spoke during the open forum relating multiple complaints about a rundown, occupied house known colloquially as the House of Agape or Agape Schoolhouse near the intersection of Husby Road and Little Floyd Lake Road.
“It’s been neglected for a period of time,” Kasey Klemm said. “The home is in need of repair. It was condemned years ago. It has no indoor plumbing, the septic is not certified. The last certification we can find is ‘74 and it was a septic hooked up to a purple trailer and that’s long gone.”
Klemm reported there is a foul smell coming from the property that is 1,000 feet from the lake and the Pelican River watershed.
“We’re here to ask you to take a look at this property and what can we do about it?” Klemm said.
He further noted the property has garbage three-feet deep around the building and inoperable vehicles on the property, along with police reports from people who are living there, loud parties and in the past two months neighbors have reported people from the property have been bothering other residents in the area, knocking on windows and other harassing acts.
“We just want to get something started,” Klemm said. “This has been 30 to 40 years in the making. It’s an eyesore; it’s becoming a detriment to our properties out there and we need to do something about it.”
Chairman Barry Nelson stated it is not the first time the board has heard about the property and noted there have been discussions about upcoming changes in ordinance penalty process.
“We don’t have many resources when it comes to that penalty stage,” Nelson said. “So, we’re looking at rewriting it to have some more teeth behind what we can do. That’s not a very short-term fix.”
Nelson also noted that these types of issues are things that are going to be addressed in the new 10-year comprehensive plan that is in the early stages of development.
Klemm said he and his neighbors are going to keep after the issue until something is done about it.
Nelson responded by stating if the property was in the city limits the problem would have been handled a long time ago.
“This property, just looking at the pictures, is probably uninhabitable,” said Nelson. “It’s not a safe property to be living in.”
Vice chair John Okeson reported a similar issue had been raised a fortnight ago about a dilapidated property near Lake Melissa.
“It’s a big issue, not only there, but other places too,” Okeson said.
Fellow neighbor Mark Demay reminded the board that a group of neighbors made similar complaints about the property prior to the pandemic and were now back after the house had deteriorated even more over that timeframe.
The house had been condemned in the past but there is no record of that action.
“It’s a fine line, government overreach and property rights; it’s a tough line for groups like us to travel, but I think when you get to this point it’s getting to the extreme, just by the history and looking at it,” said Nelson.
Al Lunde related his interactions with the resident and having encouraged him to clean up the property to no avail.
Eric Lunde spoke about the environmental impacts of the garbage, lack of running water and a septic system and multiple vehicles.
As much as the neighbor’s are concerned about the state of the property, they were equally concerned about an improved and proper living space for the resident elsewhere.
“It’s nothing against the guy who lives there,” said Klemm. “He needs a better place to live.”
Nelson commended the community spirit of the speakers in their desire for an improved living situation and noted the problem is multifaceted in regards to both the property and the resident.
Commissioners encouraged the group to continue to make reports, even if they feel nothing is happening, in hopes of a future change.
Nelson summarized at the conclusion of the open forum that a solution will take time due to necessary changes to an ordinance condemning unlivable spaces and properties. He encouraged the neighborhood group to attend planning meetings later this year to voice their concerns during the year-long process of the county updating its comprehensive plan.
Department of Corrections
District supervisor Brian Rubenstein reported on talks he had with county administrator Pat Oman on moving the probation office from the third floor of the courthouse to the DOC felony office at 1135 Washington Avenue.
Rubenstein noted confusion reported from clients on where they are supposed to go, along with most of the senior staff already working at the Washington Avenue location as reasons for the move, along with freeing up needed space in the courthouse.
Two part-time county employees would also be part of the move in April, which the board approved.
“Space is a premium here,” said Oman, who recommended the board be involved on how to repurpose the space in the future.
The board passed a resolution for $35,000 to fund the early care and development foundation. The resolution was sent to the board with approvals by the Economic Development Authority and Finance Committees. County childcare project manager Tammy Anderson and Kelsey Varty, Chair of the Early Care and Development Foundation (ECDF) of Becker County, thanked the board while discussing the urgent need for more child care options throughout the county.