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Illegal flea market cleared, issue resolved

Almost one year after the "illegal flea market" issue first came to light for the city of Brainerd, it is now resolved.

As of 3 p.m. Friday, city officials said owner Chad Ross cleared his property, and he was released from jail.

The successful final cleanup is thanks two factors, City Planner Mark Ostgarden said:

1. Ross was back in jail, which prompted him to want to get it done.

2. His mother, a cousin, a family friend and others worked for about a week cleaning up the site, including inside the house.

The back and forth between Ross and the city started in August of last year. Ostgarden said. Ross was in violation of a city zoning ordinance since he was operating a large sale out of his yard. It's the duration and the size of the sale that made the collection an "illegal flea market," he said.

Months passed as deadlines to clear the yard came and went, and zoning violations fines stacked up.

Ross pleaded guilty in November to three misdemeanor counts of storage of junk and debris in Crow Wing District Court.

By pleading guilty, all fines racked up from the city for the zoning violation — about $6,000 — were dismissed.

The catch, however, was that Ross was required by the court to clean his yard to the city's satisfaction by Dec. 20, and to keep it that way throughout his three-year probation.

A violation could mean being sent to jail for 90 days for each count consecutively.

When that deadline came and went, he was offered another deadline of Feb. 12. When that deadline was missed as well, that meant jail time for Ross.

Ross initially spent 45 days in jail.

The city was given the OK to clean the yard for Ross in May, with the cost being charged against the property via an assessment.

But the city never took action on it.

"It was so close to being what we consider satisfactory and he continued to work on it," Ostgarden said in a previous interview. "And then it got worse again."

This time in the form of a 18-foot by 12-foot tent in his yard, where many items were stored. The garage roof and main yard also accumulated more things.

At a hearing this month, the judge ruled Ross must return to jail and stay there until he finishes the job, or until the 270-day sentence is complete (minus the 45 days already served).

Ross finished the job Friday.

The house was bought in a foreclosure sale, which goes through Aug. 4.

Jessie Perrine
Jessie covers the Brainerd City Council and the Brainerd School Board. Born and raised in southern Minnesota, Jessie attended Winona State University, where she majored in journalism with a minor in women and gender studies. She worked at the Winona Daily News, Tomah Journal and the La Crosse Tribune before starting at the Dispatch in 2012.
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