Crow Wing County reaches settlement agreement with Little Yukon
“The parties recognize and agree that this resolution of the lawsuit represents a compromise of disputed claims,” the agreement stated, adding its not an admission of wrongdoing of either party.
BRAINERD — A settlement agreement was reached Tuesday, Feb. 14, in a lawsuit that started nearly three years ago.
Crow Wing County filed the lawsuit against Adam and Deloren Anderson, Little Yukon Companies, an assumed name of Natural Escapes Inc., with a 4800 block of Ojibwa Road address just off Highway 371, on March 10, 2020. The Andersons were operating the Little Yukon landscaping and nursery business. Adam Anderson was named as the CEO of Natural Escapes and Crow Wing County stated at a 2019 meeting, his father Deloren Anderson described himself as a co-owner of the business, something the Andersons would later dispute.
According to the court document filed in the case, the Andersons displayed a sign advertising the Little Yukon business on a lot in the shoreland district with a primary use for single family homes where commercial use was highly limited and regulated. The property is between Round Lake and North Long Lake’s Highway 371 Bay. The sign violated the county’s land use ordinance, which prohibited new off premises signs and those in the shoreland district. The sign was removed after repeated contacts from the county.
Then, the court document stated the Andersons moved a semitrailer on that lot without obtaining the required permit or following setbacks. The county stated the semitrailer was removed in 2019 after repeated interactions. The court document filed in district court stated the defendants were engaged in commercial activity on the lot in question, including storage for the Little Yukon business, in violation of the land use ordinance while abutting residential property.
According to the court document, the defendants put up three structures and a greenhouse on a second lot that were built in violation of the land use ordinance, were built without the required permits, didn’t meet setback requirements and had stormwater management and screening violations. Signs were also set up that violated the county ordinance. The issues grew from one lot now to cover several lots.
The complaint stated the defendants were given steps for changes to meet the ordinances with a set time to avoid an enforcement action.
In the following months and years, there were a number of court filings and hearings between the attorney’s representing both parties. The defendants asserted Deloren Anderson had no ownership interest.
On Sept. 21, 2020, 9th District Court Judge Patricia Aanes released the court’s findings of fact.
The court found Adam Anderson owed the five parcels of property and was listed as CEO of Natural Escapes, the name holder of the Little Yukon Companies. His father Deloren Anderson represented in a 2019 meeting that he was a co-owner.
“As to relief, in general terms Plaintiff seeks an Order for Defendants to remove noncompliant structures and signage; cease using the land for commercial activity; bring the land into compliance with storm water management requirements and screening requirements; and to comply with Crow Wing County Land Use Ordinances,” the court stated in its findings.
The defendants argued Del Anderson be dismissed from the case and to have the case dismissed, which the court denied. In a Dec. 30, 2022, letter to the court, attorneys representing the Andersons stated the “parties reached several difficult compromises in a recent meeting and are, we all hope, finalizing the wording of a final settlement agreement.”
The Crow Wing County Board met in a closed session Tuesday, Feb. 14, before reopening and announcing the settlement agreement.
The agreement states
The defendants put all or some of their parcels to commercial use to further a landscaping and nursery business and many of the properties abutting are in residential use.
In a resolution of the lawsuit, the county agreed to begin the process to rezone the largest parcel at the northern intersection of Ojibwa Road and Highway 371 as commercial district 2, allowing the commercial use of the property. The Lane Services Department would recommend the approval of the rezoning as needed. The lot in question would not be used for dumping or storing demolition debris or other waste without proper advanced approval. The Andersons are required to comply with stormwater management plan.
Existing wood chips on the west side of the access road will be replaced with a permanent berm about 1 foot high and 2 feet wide.
Parties agree Lot 2, which is the parcel on along Highway 371 just to the southside of the Ojibwa Road intersection, is zoned commercial district 2. A hoop house on this lot will be removed. A sign on the semitrailer will be removed or brought into compliance. A greenhouse will be brought into compliance by June 1, with the setback and an after-the-fact user permit by July 1. Lot 2 will also need to have screening from the adjacent residential property and have a stormwater management plan with county approval by Oct. 31.
Parties agree lot 3, which is farther inside on Ojibwa Road is zoned commercial district 2 and will have a 6-foot fence screening the lot from the neighboring property and be set back from the roadway by Oct. 1. The lot will also need an approved stormwater management plan by Oct. 31.
For lot 4, which is south of lot 2 along Highway 371 and north of Noka Trail. Adam Anderson will submit an application for an after-the-fact variance for a shed-like structure. The Land Department agrees to recommend its approval noting there is no guarantee as it goes before the Board of Adjustment. Another two storage units and small shed were placed without a permit and one may remain without a permit if it meets the setback. After-the-fact permits will be submitted for the other two. There must be an approved stormwater management plan. The east side of the lot must be screened with conifers at least 6 feet high and no more than 10 feet apart by Oct. 31.
For the final and fifth lot, both parties agree it is zoned commercial district 2, must have an approved stormwater management plan by Oct. 31.
With the agreement, the pending lawsuit is dismissed with prejudice — meaning it will not be brought up again, with dismissal of all claims and counterclaims and with each side paying their own attorneys fees, costs and expenses.
“The parties recognize and agree that this resolution of the lawsuit represents a compromise of disputed claims,” the agreement stated, adding it shall not be construed as an admission of wrongdoing or liability of either party but represents a reasonable compromise allowing each side to avoid further expenses or prolonged legal action.
This isn’t the first legal action Little Yukon has been involved with. In 2010, a legal dispute between the city of Baxter and the Little Yukon Greenhouse ended after the business vacated the corner of Excelsior and Golf Course Drive. Delorean Anderson was also before the county board in previous years seeking hardship extensions on paying property tax money owed on several parcels of land.
Renee Richardson, managing editor, may be reached at 218-855-5852 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/DispatchBizBuzz.