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City given OK to clear 'illegal flea market'

The 'illegal flea market' property on Pine Street in Brainerd,

Brainerd city leaders were given a judge’s OK this week to go in and clean an “illegal flea market” for the owner.

Pine Street property owner Chad Ross was given a final deadline of April 11 to clean the yard during a hearing about a month ago, or the city would have the authority to move in and do it for him.

At the hearing, a city committee voted to affirm the city’s nuisance abatement order, which was given to Ross after he put off clearing his yard since the back-and-forth with the city started in August.

Since Ross didn’t appeal the vote, and because his property isn’t completely clear of debris, the city has authority to come in and do the work for him.

A judge granted the court order Tuesday.

Now, City Planner Mark Ostgarden will find a contractor to do the work.

The yard could be completely cleared by the end of the month, Ostgarden estimated.

The cost of the removal would be charged against the property via an assessment. The property is currently in foreclosure.

Ross is still working on cleaning the property, though it’s still not up to compliance, said City Administrator Patrick Wussow.


Attention was first brought to the cluttered yard in August. 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 make the collection an “illegal flea market,” he said.

Since the story was first reported in September, the density of items accumulated on Ross’ property ballooned, even being blanketed by several layers of snow.

Ross was first given until Dec. 20 to clear his yard after he pleaded guilty in November to three misdemeanor counts of storage of junk and debris in Crow Wing District Court. In turn, two misdemeanor charges of operating a business in a residential zone were dismissed.

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 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 Crow Wing County 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’ month-long stay in jail was completed March 28.

JESSIE PERRINE may be reached at or 855-5859. Follow me on Twitter at