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Land ownership to change as special use deeds expire

Sixty-one special use deeds will expire at year’s end in Crow Wing County.

The deeds are for public land across the county — the fairgrounds, landfills, airport, playgrounds, city parks, baseball diamonds and Brainerd School District’s athletic fields.

The deeds allowed public use of tax-forfeited land, in some cases for a long time. A 2010 state law put an expiration date on special use deeds. On Jan. 1, 2015, those deeds 30 years or older will expire. That means the land will become the property of the special use deed holder if it’s been used for the public purpose it was designed for, if not, it will go back to tax-forfeited status.

The county issued 99 special use deeds on tax-forfeited lands. About two-thirds, of those special use deeds are set to expire. Those 61 special use deeds are on 199 parcels. The land is in Pequot Lakes, Riverton, Jenkins, Ironton, Crosby, Cuyuna, Baxter, Breezy Point, Brainerd, Trommald and townships of Deerwood, Fairfield, Ideal, Irondale, Lake Edward, Platte Lake and in the county itself.

With this state action, the athletic fields will become the property of the school district.

“Where is the Legislature coming from, I don’t get it,” said Commissioner Paul Thiede.

“It doesn’t make sense to me either,” said Commissioner Rosemary Franzen. The county will be sending out letters to the affected special use deed holders. If the deed holder wanted to continue, there is a possibility the special use deed could be reissued, but the state’s goal is to get away from the practice.

Administrator Tim Houle said he was speculating the lease holders, who are the ones paying for site improvements, wanted clarity for the property and sought the action with the state.

Kirk Titus, Land Services supervisor, said the vast majority of special use deeds are being used for the intended public purpose.

“I see it as a positive,” Titus said of the change. “I don’t see a lot of negative here. It helps clean up our records.”

Crow Wing County issued the first special use deed in 1944 to Brainerd for the airport expansion. The county manages forest on the land and it covers the French Rapids access to the Mississippi River and the cross country ski trail.

Commissioner Paul Koering asked how this could affect Payment in Lieu of Taxes or PILT. The state makes PILT payments to offset the cost of maintaining and loss of tax base for natural resource lands.

In 2013, the state PILT payment to Crow Wing County was $527,858. Houle said the reasonable presumption is the county will lose payment on 3,000 acres.

RENEE RICHARDSON may be reached at 855-5852 or Follow on Twitter at

Renee Richardson
Richardson is a Pacelli High School graduate from Austin, Minn., who earned an applied science degree from the University of Minnesota, Waseca, with an emphasis in horse management. She worked extensively in the resort industry. She received an associate’s degree from Central Lakes College, where she was editor of the Westbank Journal student newspaper, as well as a summer intern at the Dispatch. She graduated from St. Cloud State University summa cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in mass communications and interned at the St. Cloud Times covering business while attending SCSU. She's been with the Brainerd Dispatch since 1996.
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