Baxter City Council denies appeal for 'neighborhood eyesore'
BAXTER — Neighbors say it’s an eyesore.
The building owner didn’t disagree but said he is underwater on the property and can’t put money into repairs.
In the mix is an adjacent public right-of-way long used by the neighborhood and community to access White Sand Lake. Once reportedly a motel, the house in question on Maplewood Drive in Baxter has long been a duplex, although no one has lived there for a year.
When property owner Floyd Jensen came to the city for a building permit he learned the grandfather status for the duplex, a non-conforming use in the residential district, was lost because the home was vacant for more than a year. The planning and zoning commission agreed, denying Jensen’s appeal.
Jensen took his appeal to the city council Tuesday. He said while the house hasn’t been occupied it wasn’t abandoned. Jensen said he knew nothing of a city ordinance disallowing the duplex after a year’s time and staff members didn’t mention it until the year expired.
The small structure sits on a pie-shaped piece of property that would likely require a variance for redevelopment, Josh Doty, community development director reported.
Jensen reported he had 15 to 20 people interested in the property and one willing buyer who wanted to live on one side and rent the other. But, he said turning the house — with two kitchens and two stairways — would cost three times the estimated $40,000 in needed repairs. Jensen said he lost the potential buyer with the idea the duplex would need to be returned to a single family home.
“Actually we all lost that buyer,” Jensen said, adding the house now may sit vacant for years to come until he can find a buyer willing to take on a nonconforming lot and apply for a variance to build a house on it.
The siding, deck, ceiling, windows and drywall all need to be replaced, Jensen reported. When the planning commission asked Jensen why he waited on repairs, he replied the loan on the property was $230,000 and the property is now worth $120,000. Jensen said he could no longer put money into a property that is already losing money.
“It just wasn’t feasible,” Jensen said.
A neighbor said in the beginning the land was one lot and later somehow split into two but his biggest objection was the property hasn’t been kept up for the last decade. The building, he said, has gone downhill and should probably be torn down.
Scott Hangge, Maplewood Drive resident, said it didn’t fit the area and is an eyesore for the neighborhood. Neighbors were also concerned how this and a petition to vacate or surrender the property could affect the public lake access. Some were concerned the lake access would be used to give Jensen’s property more room for building. The city confirmed it had received an incomplete application at this time. Neighbors would be notified if such an application goes forward.
Jensen noted the home has to be repaired before it anyone can move into it.
Jensen said he hasn’t been a great landlord but he also hasn’t had the greatest tenants.
After the official meeting, neighbors and Jensen spoke in the lobby outside the council chambers. Neighbors noted one option may be tearing the house down and using the land, with 170 to 180 feet of shoreline as a park with parking then available by the access.
In an earlier meeting, Council member Todd Holman noted the community use of the right-of-way to access the lake. It hasn’t been maintained by the city, but Holman said if it is used as a public access maybe it should be maintained as one.
In the end, the council agreed with the planning commission and staff. Council member Jim Klein said the property was an eyesore and hasn’t been kept up. The council denied Jensen’s appeal to keep the duplex.