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Property owner questions Ottertail condemnation

OTTERTAIL -- "I'm not coming here with anger or frustration, other than that I was left out," said Verle Blaha, addressing the Ottertail City Council at the Nov. 5 meeting.

Blaha owns a piece of property containing an access road off of Highway 78 to the Thumper Pond properties in Ottertail city. Blaha was a co-developer of Thumper Pond.

At a September 24 special meeting, the Ottertail City Council voted unanimously to proceed with the condemnation process for the strip of property owned by Blaha. This came after a request from the law firm of Leonard, Street, and Deinard (representing Madison Hospitality Group/Thumper Pond) to consider condemnation of the property through what is known as the "quick-take" procedure.

According to the Sept. 24 meeting minutes, the "quick-take" procedure allows the city to acquire the property upon deposit or payment of the approved appraisal amount.

Although Blaha owns more land than just the portion where the access road is, the city of Ottertail is only looking at acquiring the paved portion of the land. At the time of the Nov. 5 meeting, the city was still waiting for the certified appraisal and survey of the section of land.

"We are following statute. There has been no commencement of the proceeding," said Ottertail's city attorney Terry Karkela.

"I'm not angry," insisted Blaha before the council. "I just want to work with you." Blaha contended that Karkela had informed him previously that the members of the council couldn't negotiate with him.

"If someone is represented by an attorney, you cannot negotiate with them directly," Karkela advised the council. However, Karkela did say that he learned Blaha's attorney will not be representing him in this particular matter.

"Any proposal you'd like to make, we're more than willing to listen to," continued Karkela. He also mentioned to the council that he had sent a letter to Blaha's attorney expressing the council's willingness to negotiate a price on the property in question.

Blaha did not submit an offer to the city to either sell or convey the property. Once the appraisal is complete, the next step is for the city to send Blaha a copy of the appraisal and an offer for the property.

"If the negotiations are unsuccessful then, and only then, do we proceed with the condemnation process," Karkela reminded all parties.