Crow Wing County Council on Tuesday, Nov. 22, unanimously agreed to transfer ownership of five tax-exempt properties to the Town of Baxter for various public works purposes.
A parcel on Evergreen Drive at the intersection with Hastings Road is expected to be used as part of an extension to nearby Douglas Fir Drive as well as for stormwater management. One at the corner of Memorywood Drive and Cedar Scenic Road will house a sanitary lift station. Two others – one on Inglewood Drive and one on Highland Scenic Road – feature existing stormwater retention ponds. One parcel is already part of an existing public street, located at the dead end of Marohn Road in West Baxter.
The town of Baxter will pay nothing for the land except for any closing costs, while the county will cover the deed registration fee. State law allows tax forfeited property to be transferred at no cost to local governments as long as the land is for any public use.
County Administrator Tim Houle told commissioners’ staff that the application is in line with county land asset management policy and that commissioners Rosemary Franzen and Steve Barrows – who represent the districts in which the plots are located – did not raise any objections.
While the county acts as a steward for forfeited parcels, the state of Minnesota claims ownership when owners fail to pay property taxes over a period of time. Last winter, the county’s land asset management policy, as written, was more restrictive than state law, prompting reconsideration when the City of Nisswa requested the no-cost transfer. of a number of tax-exempt plots with the aim of creating a new nature park. . Other than for purposes of blight correction or the creation of affordable housing, county policy has discouraged the sale of land below market value for any other reason, including the creation or preservation of wetlands, the management storm water, a school forest or land restoration.
Recommending the most restrictive approach, Lands Services staff said it would ease the burden of tracking transferred properties for three decades – as required by law – to ensure they continue to be used for good. public. Council ultimately approved Nisswa’s application by a 3-2 vote, and a majority of commissioners indicated they would prefer to give cities and townships the ability to apply for land on a case-by-case basis.
This summer, the town of Baxter agreed to purchase the 84 acres that make up the Camp Vanasek property on Whipple Lake from the county for $347,471. The county held title to Baxter—meaning they owned it—and accepted a counteroffer from the city in the purchase. The property’s future was uncertain after Crow Wing County told the city it was considering dissolving its interest in the property in the winter of 2019.
In a council report, the acquisition was described as giving the city the opportunity to achieve one of its goals of expanding the Whipple Beach recreation area into a community park with a variety of facilities similar to the city’s Oscar Kristofferson Park.
In August, Baxter Mayor Darrel Olson said he appreciated all the negotiations on both sides, but it felt like a double-edged sword.
Olson said he doesn’t understand why the county didn’t understand it was about preserving this property for community use. He noted that the county had previously transferred properties to other cities and entities in the past for a dollar or nothing and added that Baxter ratepayers are county ratepayers.
Baxter City Council agreed to the surprise purchase for which the city had no funds set aside in a 3-1 vote, with Olson citing the county’s potential to move forward with a sale at a promoter as less desirable.
Community Editor CHELSEY PERKINS can be reached at 218-855-5874 or [email protected] Follow on Twitter at