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Positive housing trends seen in Cass County

BACKUS — There were 23 percent more Cass County homes sold during 2012 than 2011. There were 23 percent fewer homes foreclosed upon in 2012 than 2011.

Assessor Mark Peterson gave this report to the Cass County Board Tuesday.

Not only is it encouraging that 796 homes sold in 2012 compared with the 644 sold in 2011, but in every month the second half of the year, 2012 sales outstripped 2011 sales. Some months earlier in the year showed higher sales in 2011.

Peterson said new home starts are down from historic levels and remain about even. He recorded 109 new home starts in 2011 and 113 in 2012.

Foreclosures were the lowest in four years at 90 in 2012. Prior years were 116 in 2011, 164 in 2010 and 107 in 2009. Also encouraging is the fact that foreclosures dropped 43 percent in the fourth quarter from 23 in 2011 to only 13 in 2012.

The fourth quarter foreclosure report also shows a shift away from homesteaded properties, with the largest foreclosures, seven, coming from seasonal cabins. None were worth more than $600,000, and 10 of the 13 were valued under $200,000.

Cass Environmental Services Director John Ringle also reported improved results for the number of zoning permits issued in 2012. Those increased 11 percent. Land use permits were up over 10 percent with 889 issued in 2012, compared with 807 in 2011.

There were 95 variances approved in 2012, compared with 75 in 2011 and 187 shoreland alteration permits compared with 114 in 2011. Only conditional use permits dropped from 22 to 18.

There still are few applications for subdividing land, with only two new plats each in 2011 and 2012 and four minor subdivisions in 2011 and three in 2012.

Construction remains strongest in southern Cass and around Outing and Hackensack, but the largest number of permits issued this year was the 70 issued for properties in Shingobee Township near Walker.

This is the first time new zoning permits have concentrated that far north.

Cass County Soil and Water Conservation District has been approved to receive a $111,725 grant from state Clean Water and Legacy Funds to facilitate a partnership to enable private owners of 20 or more acres to obtain funds to help them manage their forest resources in watersheds around lakes in the county. About 2,000 properties qualify to participate, Ringle said.

Anyone who wants to participate must complete a forest management plan for their property to qualify for either a $7 per acre payment or a lower property tax.

The board discussed measures that might be taken to help prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species.

“I don’t want to find out later we should have done more,” Commissioner Jeff Peterson said. The board decided to follow Commissioner Jim Dowson’s recommendation of waiting to set a plan of action until after the board attends a 5 to 7 p.m. Jan. 31 and 9 a.m. to noon Feb. 1 Minnesota DNR-sponsored seminar on the issue at Chase Hotel in Walker.

Ringle reported Ten Mile Lake residents placed a camera at their public landing in 2012 and recorded people moving boats in and out of that lake. Photos are being analyzed this winter to determine whether people took measures to check their boats and trailers before entering and leaving the lake.

Commissioner Bob Kangas said that sounded like a program that should be encouraged on other lakes, possibly with help lake association sponsorship. With about 100 DNR public lake accesses in the county, it would be too expensive for the county to monitor all lakes, the board concluded.

The county board voted to approve a resolution calling for the state to restore historic funding to the Mississippi Headwaters Board (MHB).

In prior years, MHB received enough money to hire a full-time director and administrative assistant. Currently, MHB can only pay for a part-time administrative assistant and has no director.

Cass’s annual contribution, like most member counties, is only $1,500.

MHB supervises zoning for the northern section of the Mississippi River shoreline as an alternative to making that portion of the river a wild and scenic river under federal control.