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Letter to the Editor: City Failing to Manage Downtown Property

Following a fire at an abandoned city-owned building at 303 Water St. S. on Tuesday night, an adjacent property owner writes that it's time the city takes care of the building.

To the Editor:

The fire call to the city’s derelict property last night (the former Key building at 303 Water St. S.) compels me to take action to protect my property, if the city fails to secure the building.  A fire in the building on or the open deck would do substantial smoke damage to our building. 

I don’t believe the city is immune from the city’s ordinance and state statutes (M.S. 561.01 et seq.) on abandoned and dangerous properties.  I drafted a nuisance complaint against the city over 10 years ago.   I will redraft it and serve and file next week if the city does not take adequate action to secure the property and abate the nuisance by the end of the day on Friday.  I believe the city’s intentional failure to care for and manage its property may also constitute a private nuisance under M.S.561.02, as well as a public nuisance under M.S. 561.01.  I have a file going back 15 years with photos detailing the vandalism to my building from the city’s invitees, the frequent accumulations of garbage on the river side of the building, and the complete lack of maintenance by the city. 

As I have indicated in previous emails and conversations with the city officials, dozens of juveniles have keys to the building.  My tenants and I have noted an increase in graffiti in the interior of the building and frequent use by juveniles for drinking parties in the past few months.  The evidence is visible through the windows and spread around the deck. A closer inspection would likely find evidence of hard drug use, as we have found needles and other paraphernalia on the city property many times over the years.

Please secure all openings (doors and windows) with ¾” exterior grade plywood, fastened with one way fasteners.  The open pits on the back deck, one of which may lead to a basement window, should be likewise secured.  The gutter on the back side is full of leaves and falling off the building.  When it backs up, it dumps water against our building which leaks into Froggy Bottoms Pub through the limestone wall.  The ground along the river walk always accumulates garbage from the kids who hang out behind the bushes, so I would recommend removing the bushes in that area.    

The deck should also be regularly cleaned, since it is visible from our river suites.  We get tired of explaining to our out-of-town guests that the derelict building is owned by the city and the city has had an official policy of total neglect.  Perhaps the city could accept responsibility for its lack of maintenance by spray painting on the plywood, “Owned and maintained by the city of Northfield.”

David Hvistendahl
Owner of the adjacent building that houses Froggy Bottoms River Pub and Suites 

Benito Daniel Figueroa November 08, 2012 at 05:34 AM
Is there any possibility that young people in the community such as myself can help around our community to make a better and safe living? Such as helping or volunteering time to clean up or anything similar and related to such?

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