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City worries about hazardous properties

Three owners of properties intended as potential rental units received orders from the Wadena City Council to improve their lots by the end of September after a public nuisance violations hearing Tuesday night.

Fred Kern, Staples, Neil Lown, Sebeka, and Peter Gebert, Sebeka, were all notified in August that properties they owned in Wadena would be discussed during the hearing.

The council ordered Gebert to put a fence around the old church basement he owns at 226 King Ave. S.W. Council members also want the city attorney to find out if there is any way to have the property condemned. The roof is rotting and the stairwell is caving in.

"This has been a problem for 30 years," City Administrator Brad Swenson said. "Until we actually get serious, nothing's going to change."

City Economic Developer Dean Uselman said the same thing should be done with Lown's property at 211 Harry and Rich Drive, which holds the beginning of a basement for an apartment building.

"They've either got to do something with it, build on it, sell it, or return it to the original state," Dean Uselman said.

The council decided to require Lown to level the large dirt piles on the property, move the fence closer to the building and fill in the holes built for elevator shafts. The council also wants the city attorney to look into other options to deal with the property.

Mayor Wayne Wolden suggested requiring substantial liability insurance, but Swenson wasn't sure if the city could require a property owner to purchase that.

Council members asked Kern to take deteriorating decking off his property at 406 Sunnybrook Road N.E. He must also fill in a crawl space up to surrounding ground level for mowing and safety. The city is allowing the brick foundation to remain at this time, according to Swenson. The snow fence can be removed, which will make the property more presentable.

The city has been mowing the property for three years and charging Kern, Public Works Director Ron Bucholz said.

Wolden said it is ridiculous that the city is mowing private property.

Bucholz said Kern had good intentions when he bought the property and at one time planned to build a rental.

Police Chief Bruce Uselman said Kern told him he needed to get financing before he could build.

All three properties have either delays in construction or the owner intends to do something with the property, Bruce Uselman said. Kern, Lown and Gebert received first notices citing specific violations along with 50 other locations after the city's first inspection in June. The properties were reinspected in July and these three were still not in compliance.

Lown started building a 24-unit apartment building with underground parking in July 2007 by the camping grounds at Sunnybrook Park. His building permit has expired since then.

Gebert intends to eventually build an apartment building at the site of the old church basement, Bruce Uselman said. The building is locked and secure, although there is a small hole in one of the hollow core doors. Gebert plans to replace the doors, he said.

Planning and Zoning Director Byron Larson told Gebert city ordinance requires parking spaces for apartments, he said. He also told Gebert the Wadena Housing and Redevelopment Authority was interested in buying the property at one time and still might be interested.

No one representing any of the properties attended the hearing.