WALKER -- Over the next four years, Cass County will sell 538 lots in the Wilderness Park Estates plat at public auctions.
Approval to proceed with the sales came on a split vote Tuesday, because Commissioners Jim Demgen, Robert Kangas and Rusty Lilyquist voted to include two deed covenants from the original plat when deeds transfer ownership through county sales. Commissioners Jim Dowson and Dick Downham voted against it, because they oppose including the covenants.
Assistant County Attorney Chris Strandlie had recommended the board not include the deed covenants on titles transferred in these sales.
These deed restrictions established a Wilderness Park Property Owners Association and established a board of association members to manage roads and a lake association building in the plat.
Gary Phleger, current association board president, told the county board Tuesday there has been an historic problem getting property owners to pay annual dues to the association, which currently are at $148 per parcel.
While the deed restrictions were registered when the expansive plat overlapping five sections in Meadowbrook Township was recorded in the 1970s, Phleger said an "Exhibit A" referred to in the restrictions, which was a list of all properties in the plat, was not registered.
Linda Wannebo, Wilderness Park resident, told the county board the 33 miles of association-maintained roads in the plat represent more than 50 percent of the existing roads inside Meadowbrook Township. She expressed concern association funds will not keep pace with increased road use and improvement needs.
While Phleger admitted the problem of enforcing property owner participation in the association and payments to it toward maintaining roads will continue, he said having the previously recorded deed covenants continue at least will make new owners aware they exist.
Chief Deputy Auditor Larry Wolfe suggested to Phleger that the association consider forming a subordinate district for the plat area, thereby creating a legal authority to enforce payments for road or sewer services.
Lots originally platted in the massive Wilderness Park were relatively small, with some including only marshland. For this reason, many have gone tax forfeit through the years.
Cass County Land Department has undertaken a massive effort to trade lots the last decade to consolidate private and county ownerships into blocks of land rather than scattered, small parcels.
On the land sales beginning this winter, properties will be offered largely in units of two or more of the original lots. Each will have a buildable site.
Minnesota DNR has identified five lots to be held in public ownership as accesses to the adjacent Meadowbrook Wildlife Management Area and has asked the county to donate them to DNR wildlife division.
The county also plans to reserve a 21-lot area for green space or a future community sewer system.
Each sale will be a public auction and, by law, cannot give preference to existing property owners in Wilderness Park.
On the first sale this winter, 23 sites will be offered, composed of 70 of the original lots.
Land Commissioner Norm Moody said each will be offered at a minimum bid of current appraised value. When a sale date is set, lots and appraised values will be listed on the county Web site, www.co.cass.mn.us, and available from the land department in Backus.
Appraisals for lots on future sales will be prepared just prior to each sale, Moody said. A total of 538 of the original lots will be sold by 2006.
The board set Nov. 18 during the regular board meeting to hold a public hearing on the proposed Cass County Forest Management Plan.
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