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Serving Northern St. Louis County, Minnesota

Developer faces hurdles on cartway request

Marshall Helmberger
Posted 11/23/22

TOWER— Developer Dave Rose is facing pushback for his latest request to the city— this time for approval of a cartway that would provide road access to land he owns along Pike Bay on the …

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Developer faces hurdles on cartway request


TOWER— Developer Dave Rose is facing pushback for his latest request to the city— this time for approval of a cartway that would provide road access to land he owns along Pike Bay on the west side of the East Two River.
The roughly five acres includes mostly wetland, but Rose says there’s about a half-acre of higher ground right near the mouth of the river, and he’s hoping to provide access to the site for an as-yet-unspecified residence.
The city’s understanding of the request, known as a cartway petition, is somewhat clarified after an initial review of the application left city officials assuming they could be on the hook for hundreds of thousands of dollars in costs associated with the request.
The law in question, however, puts the financial burden of a cartway onto the petitioner and city attorney Joel Lewicki offered some eye-opening estimates just for the administrative efforts, including $5,000 in attorneys’ fees for processing the petition, $4,000 for surveying costs, if needed, $1,000 in appraiser fees, and $8,000 in compensation to be paid to the land owner or owners impacted by his cartway.
The total of $19,500 estimated by Lewicki did not include the cost of construction. Lewicki incorporated his estimates into a resolution for the council to consider that would require Rose to post a bond of the $19,500 prior to the city moving forward to a public hearing on his request.
Rose, in an email sent to city officials after the meeting, said he had already received estimates for much of the work outlined by Lewicki. “What your city attorney presented last night was ten times the estimates I have received,” he said. “I am willing to work with the city on the home development project there but it is not getting off to a good start with your attorney throwing up major road blocks already,” he added.
Lewicki noted that the petition, once completed, will effectively be taking private land through eminent domain for the purpose of providing access to a neighbor and that taking such a step does require due process. State law, specifically, Minn. Stat. 435.37, requires a city council to establish a cartway at least two rods (approximately 33 feet) wide to access at least five acres of private property not otherwise accessible by road.
The statute does require that the petitioner— Rose in this case— pay all expenses associated with professional services, administrative costs, public hearing costs, as well as damages for the taking of land from any affected landowners. The cost of construction of the road is currently unknown since the route has yet to be established and may impact a significant amount of wetlands. The cost of construction and subsequent maintenance of the road, which would most likely be considered a private driveway, would typically fall on the petitioner under the statute, although a portion of the cost of maintenance could fall on the impacted landowner if the council finds that to be appropriate under the circumstances.
Lewicki said the next step would be for the council to sit down with Rose at their next meeting and discuss his request in further detail before establishing the amount of the bond he’ll need to post to cover city expenses related to his request. Lewicki recommended that the city keep any funds deposited by Rose in a separate account to more accurately record all money in and out associated with the petition.
The council agreed to meet with Rose at their next regular meeting, currently set for Monday, Dec. 12.
In other action, the council discussed ongoing work and future plans around the harbor and riverfront. Clerk-treasurer Michael Schultz noted that the work on the public access for the canoe and kayak route on the East Two River had gone substantially overbudget due to a much larger amount of soft peat soils in the area than engineers had anticipated. Schultz said the city opted to reduce the size of the parking lot and eliminate one of two lights at the site. Schultz said the lights were $30,000 each, so the savings from eliminating one was considerable.
But council member Robert Anderson said he had concerns about the decision. “I live right next to it and I’m concerned about lighting. I don’t want it to become a drug dealing spot,” he said.
He questioned how the estimates for soft soils had been off by so much. “Were there soil tests done?” he asked.
Schultz said there would have to be some re-examination of the work that went into the engineer’s estimates once the project is completed.
Anderson also questioned the need for an outside toilet near the civic center, when the city had been making the civic center bathrooms available for public use. “Maybe we could spruce up the civic center bathrooms a bit,” he said.
Schultz noted that IRRR grant funds for improvements around the civic center had included the proposed toilet and he wasn’t sure if the funds could be redirected to another use.
In other business, the council:
• Heard that the police contract with Breitung is likely to see a substantial increase in cost for next year. Setterberg asked council members to be prepared to review the police contract and come ready with any changes or suggestions at the December meeting. “We don’t want there to be a lapse in coverage, so let’s be ready to deal with it,” he said.
• Directed the clerk-treasurer to develop potential changes in the seasonal maintenance worker position to encourage more interest in the job, particularly in winter. The city had found no takers for the position, which mostly entails helping to clear snow during the winter months, so the hours are erratic depending on the weather. A recent advertisement for the opening had attracted no interest.
• Heard a request from students and other admirers of the late teacher Carol Ahlstrom, who wished to place a memorial, known as a Love Lock, in Ahlstrom’s honor near the Tower-Soudan School. The council directed Schultz to get more information on the proposal and bring it back to the council. “I think it would be super cool,” said council member Joe Morin.