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Safety versus aesthetics:

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news Detroit Lakes, 56501
Detroit Lakes Minnesota 511 Washington Avenue 56501

What may be an eyesore for neighbors is strictly a health and safety issue for the city of Detroit Lakes.

Last month the city council voted to abate a hazard at 1941 Long Bridge Road because an unfinished house was becoming a safety hazard as the cap was rotting on the foundation.

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City Administrator Bob Louiseau said Tuesday evening that he had several conversations with property owner Rick Kalinoski, and determined that since there are water and sewer lines into the crawl space under the cap, it would be better for the city to abate the hazard by replacing the cap rather than filling in the foundation. By recapping the foundation, it would solve the safety issue and yet not damage any of the infrastructure.

Several neighbors spoke at the city council meting, asking the city to instead get rid of the foundation, consider taking action against the property owner for possibly being in violation of the conditional use permit that was granted in 1999 or the building permit that was granted in 2001, and simply listen to 18 upset neighbors rather than one future homeowner as the property is up for sale and possibly in foreclosure.

"As long as the property is safe and there is no nuisance, we can abate, and it can sit there indefinitely," Lousieau said.

He added that legally the city can't remove the foundation just because the neighbors don't like the looks of it. The green snow fence and overgrown weeds are another story -- something the city could enforce to keep cleaned up.

"First, we'll make the area safe. Second, we'll take a look at what's there," Mayor Larry Buboltz said of the fence, weeds, etc. "We will do it as quickly as we can," he added of the abatement and replacement of the cap.

Louiseau said since the house is in foreclosure, the city has to be careful about the assessments against the property as well.

Neighbor Linda Wiedmann asked the council, "Why has the city not taken care of this matter and left it to the neighbors? Why has this been allowed to go on for years?"

City officials had no ready answer, but were ready to take action on Tuesday.

City Building Inspector Cal Mayfield Jr. said he has talked to city staff in numerous cities, thinking this was a rare situation, and instead found all the cities he talked with are having the same issue with unfinished houses. The problem is, none of the city leaders have a solution.

Buboltz requested city staff to look into writing an ordinance to deal with unfinished properties. Next month the issue will be discussed at the Community Development Committee meeting, Thursday, Sept. 4, at 3:30 p.m. in City Hall.

"I believe that removing the foundation would be the only reasonable conclusion which would satisfy both the nuisance and safety issues," Wiedmann said.

After about half an hour of talk on the subject, and visible irritation from all involved, the mayor clarified four things regarding the project: the building permit has expired, the conditional use permit has expired, the city will be abating the nuisance by recapping the foundation and assessing the cost to the property, and the city will look into drafting an ordinance dealing with this situation and future situations to deal with unfinished properties.

Also at the city council meeting:

n The Capri Motel issue has been deferred since property owners aren't certain about keeping it as residential or resort property. "There is other research we'd like to do," said Mitch Wimmer, who stated he is involved in the property.

n Positions up for election include mayor and one from each ward and at large. Those holding those positions are Larry Buboltz, mayor; Ron Zeman, first ward; James Hannon, second ward; James Anderson, third ward, and Bruce Imholte, at large. All are four-year terms.

First Ward precinct is Grace Lutheran Church; second ward precinct is Trinity Lutheran Church; third ward precinct is First Lutheran Church.

n Thursday, Sept. 1, the city will be conducting an auction at the Becker County Fairgrounds, beginning at noon. For a list of items on the sale, visit www.ci.detroit-lakes.mn.us, public safety, police department, new announcements.

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