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Council discusses private use of public lands

Web posted August 19, 2014
By Kate Perkins, Northland Press Correspondent

The Crosslake City Council met Monday, Aug. 11, and discussed the issue of private improvements made on public land, and what to do about it.

Across the city are areas of public right of way or public land, many of which are being used by private landowners.

One such instance the council discussed was a 70-foot driveway that crosses public land to reach a private residence. The owner of the residence wishes to pave the driveway. The piece of public land in question stretches down to lake shore that’s owned by the city.

City attorney Brad Person drafted a limited use agreement for the driveway, but clarified that it didn’t mean he agreed or disagreed with allowing the 70-foot paved driveway across public land.

He said that this isn’t the only green space down to a lake, and the majority of such green spaces have private improvements. One concern about those private improvements is liability. One council member also pointed out that because the paved driveway is on public land, it could be confused by residents for a public road.

Council members also realized that any time a driveway extends to the road, it covers a portion of public right of way between the road and the private property line. Mayor Darrell Schneider pointed out that it is somewhat abnormal for that distance to be 70 feet.

Person said that four or five public improvements on public land have come to his attention, whether the improvements are driveways, sidewalks, retaining walls or structures.

“I think one by one we need to tackle these, clarify what’s there, what’s allowed and what should be removed,” Person said. “We should have a limited use agreement on every one of them.”

Council member Mark Wessels said that the council had visited this issue in the ‘90s, and decided that the right of ways should be green space, and no further private developments should be allowed.

Person said that if that’s the council’s policy, the city should document what is on the right of way so it knows what developments are existing and knows what developments are made in the future.

Person also said that across the city, right of way plats don’t match with the actual use of the land. Roads may be much smaller or larger than their platted area. He suggested that when work slows, perhaps in the winter, the city update plats to match actual use.

The council plans to discuss budgeting money for the city attorney to draft limited use agreements for any private use on public land that the council deems acceptable. The council set its budget meetings for 2 p.m. on Aug. 21, 28 and Sept. 3. The council tabled its decision on whether or not to allow the 70-foot driveway to be paved.

Another such issue of private use on public property is the Wilder property, which is adjacent to public right of way on Manhattan Point. A structure and staircase belonging to the Wilders sits on what is believed to be public property. Complicating matters, the plat for the area does not extend to the edge of the water, but is cut short more than 60 feet from the ordinary high water mark. Some structures exist in the area between the plat’s edge and the water’s edge, where there are no lot lines to divide properties.

The matter is further complicated by the high value of shoreline in that area. The 66-foot public right of way where the Wilder’s building sits is worth several hundred thousand dollars, Wessels said.

Resolving the issue could be costly, Person said, adding that he wouldn’t be shocked if it cost $30,000. Council member John Moengen questioned how much money the city wanted to spend to preserve green space it doesn’t really use.

The council chose to hire a surveying company to take a look at the public right of way and adjacent properties, and to send the findings to the neighboring landowners.

Public Safety:
The Crosslake Police Department reported 226 calls to service for the month of July. Those included, most notably, 51 traffic warnings. four traffic citations, five traffic arrests, 27 alarms, 23 EMS calls, nine animal complaints and 15 agency assists.

For Mission Township, the department reported 36 calls in July, most notably including 22 traffic warnings, three traffic citations, two traffic arrests, three EMS calls and three agency assists.

The Crosslake Fire Department reported 29 calls in July. Of those, 20 were medical, one was a building fire, four hazardous conditions, two good intent calls and two false alarms.

In other business Monday, Aug. 11, the council:
- Learned the Economic Development Authority plans to spend $5,000 to hire a consultant to review the commercial zoning ordinances, similar to how the planning and zoning ordinances were reviewed recently. Calls have been made to find a consultant for the review.

- Approved the celebration of Crosslake Days, which is celebrating the passing of the Chili Bill. The Chili Bill will allow more lenient regulations for the city’s annual chili cook-off.

- Heard that the area’s senator, Carrie Ruud, was named a senator of distinction by the League of Minnesota Cities.

- Heard information regarding committee and commission meetings. Consulting city administrator Dan Vogt told council members that if they attend a committee or commission meeting where two or more other council members are present, they may observe but not participate. Three or more participating council members constitutes a quorum, which requires the announcement of a full council meeting.

- Simplified the road vacation policy. Road vacation requests will now follow state statute, being handled by planning and zoning and reviewed by public works and parks and recreation committees, with final approval by the city council. Roe voted against the measure.

- Accepted the resignation of Crosslake Communications operations manager Jared Johnson.

- Decided to provide longevity pay for non-unionized staff in the same way it does for unionized staff. Staff will receive a 1 percent increase after 15 years of service and another 1 percent increase after 20 years of service.

Council will hear report on Crosslake Communications Wed., Sept. 3

A special Crosslake City Council meeting has been scheduled for 6 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 3, to hear the findings of the Charlesmead company, which has been evaluating Crosslake Communications. The meeting will be at Crosslake City Hall.

The council hired Charlesmead last May, spending $40,000 for the Boston-based consultant to take a look at Crosslake Communications’ operations, staffing and more.

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