For the last several years, Wright County has made a concerted effort to clear its tax rolls of hundreds of small stubs of property too small to be developed that were part of the housing boom that weren’t included in individual homeowner properties.
At the Nov. 5 meeting of the Wright County Board of Commissioners, the board was able to pare away some more of these small, largely useless to the general public parcels of the shrinking list.
Every year, the county offers to sell tax-forfeit properties or convey them to cities and townships in which they lie for some form of public. At the Nov. 5 meeting, they were able to drop the number by six.
Three of them were 60-foot wide strips leading down to access Maple Lake in the Sherwood Forest development in Maple Lake Township. Assistant County Attorney Brian Asleson said that it has been a long time coming that these small pieces of “Those three (parcels) are lake accesses in Sherwood Forest and they’ve been on and off my desk for maybe up to 10 years,” Asleson said. “There was an attempt to try to get them back into the hands of the homeowner’s association which was the owner prior to them going tax forfeit. That never panned out. It’s a voluntary homeowner’s association. They rely on donations from their members. The township finally decided to step up and accept them and maintain them as a lake access for the public, but mainly for people in Sherwood Forest. There are a number of landowners who live off the lake and some of them have in their chain of title deeded access to Maple Lake.”
Commissioner Mike Potter said that he and Commissioner Charlie Borrell, who sit on the tax forfeiture committee, have dealt with anomalies in the Sherwood Forest development the entirety of their time on the county board and thanked Maple Lake Township officials for stepping up and taking the properties off the tac-forfeit list. The fourth parcel is almost completely located on a township road with a small strip in the adjacent right of way.
The other two parcels are located in the Preserve East Commercial and Preserve East 8th Addition properties within the city limits of St. Michael. Like the parcels in Maple Lake Township, the two parcels were small, irregular shaped parcels too small to develop and were accepted by St. Michael to take them off the books. One of the parcels will be used for open space and storm water management, while the other will be used for street/trail right-of-way.
Potter said that every time tax-forfeit properties come up and need to be dealt with, it results in a lot of time being spent in the county’s attorney’s and auditor/treasurer’s office that could be used elsewhere and getting the parcels off the tax-forfeit list saves the county money in staff time that is essentially being wasted dealing with properties that have very minimal if any value.
The hope is to eventually get the all removed from the list and keep a tighter control on future developments to prevent adding new property slivers to the list.
“We’ve been going through a bunch of these tax forfeit (strips) – these holding ponds and out-lots in different sub-divisions within different towns,” Potter said. “Hopefully, we’re getting close to the end of these. There was a whole slug of these for a while. When development was going crazy, things weren’t recorded properly and dealt with. Those cities that I’ve been talking to – St. Michael in particular – (I’ve told them) let’s just clean these up. You’re going to need these anyway because if need to do any storm water improvement and you don’t have ownership, you can’t do a darn thing until you go through the process. Own these things and be done with them. I’m really happy that these are now getting cleaned up. Hopefully, instead of 50 pages of (tax forfeit parcels) we’re now down to maybe five.”
John Holler covers government and the Wright County Board of Commissioners.