Vacation requests get mixed results with Park Rapids Council
A vacation of an unimproved right-of-way at 8th Street and Central Avenue was denied to keep options open for future development.
The Park Rapids City Council approved one street vacation request Tuesday, May 23, but denied another.
8th St./Central Ave.
The council held a hearing about resident Larry Benham’s request to vacate the platted right-of-way for portions of 8th Street and Central Avenue that have never been built.
Larry and Bonnie Benham reside at 700 Middle Ave. S., where the south and west sides of their property are bounded by unimproved portions of the two streets, with a bend in the Fish Hook River cutting across the southwest corner of the parcel.
The northern portion of the Central Avenue right-of-way, to the west of their property, has already been vacated. However, the city’s plat map shows short sections of the unimproved 8th St. right-of-way on both sides of the river, intersecting at the west end with a very short segment of still-active Central Ave. right-of-way.
Oleson said the recommended action on this request was to deny it. He said the planning commission found that the vacation would conflict with the comprehensive plan.
“It is an area that could be used in the future, for future subdivisions or extensions of roads, and might be necessary,” said Oleson.
He acknowledged a concern by the Benhams’ daughter-in-law, Nicole Lueth, that the legal description of the right-of-way was not complete enough. Oleson said that could be corrected.
Lueth requested more information about the reason denial was recommended. Oleson said vacating right-of-way is generally done with caution, because it’s public-accessible land that could be used in the future.
Oleson added that if currently undeveloped property along the corridor is ever subdivided, the public right-of-way would have to be rededicated.
“There was also a little bit of discussion about a future crossing on the river,” he said. “Whether this would be the location or not, who knows? But we’re concerned about shutting the door on that by vacating this.”
He added that when land abuts a waterway, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources must also be involved in the decision. “There was concern about cutting off public access,” said Oleson, adding that vacating the right-of-way could affect future roadway extensions.
Asked for their reason to want the right-of-way vacated, Larry Benham initially said, “My property is adjoining that.”
Mayor Ryan Leckner clarified his question, asking whether the presence of the right-of-way was causing any harm or nuisance.
“We’d rather have that proper than have everybody and his brother heading for the river,” said Benham.
Asked whether people are using the right of way to access the river, Lueth said they are not aware of anyone using it now. “We’re just not wanting to leave a hole for the public to go through there,” she said. “And the statute reads, if it’s not being used for the purpose intended, that you can apply to vacate it. It was never built.
“It’s not being used. It was vacated on the north side. So, we were just thinking we could just clean it up (and) get rid of the unused road right-of-way.”
Stone’s motion to deny the vacation request passed unanimously.
There was also a hearing to discuss Hubbard County Sheriff Cory Aukes’s request to vacate the half-block of Front Avenue immediately north of 3rd Street, contingent on the county board’s approval of a proposal to expand the jail, with a new sally port extending into the street right-of-way behind the Law Enforcement Center.
There were no oral comments from the public during the hearing. However, City Planner Ben Oleson said the city’s planning commission recommended approval, noting no conflict with the city’s comprehensive plan and the presence of no city utilities under the affected roadway.
Regarding potential concerns about the street vacation disrupting traffic flow, Oleson said county vehicles would still be able to drive through the proposed sally port.
Council member Liz Stone made a motion to approve the vacation request, contingent on the county’s approval of the jail expansion. The motion passed unanimously.