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Mall owner fails to respond to city inquiries

WORTHINGTON — City officials are still waiting to hear from the owner of the Northland Mall.

As of Friday afternoon, Directory of Community and Economic Development Brad Chapulis said the most recent deadline for addressing multiple issues associated with the property has passed.

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“The time for him to respond has expired,” Chapulis said. “We plan on filing with the court. I’m meeting with the attorney (today) to commence that process.”

The city sent Mike Kohan of Northland Mall Realty Management LLC an official letter on June 24stating he had 30 days to reply with a plan to address the issues related to the building.

On Aug. 12, at the regular meeting, the Worthington city council declared the Kmart building hazardous. The owner was sent another letter as a follow-up from that meeting.

“Because the company which owns the property, which is Northland Mall Management LLC, is a defunct LLC with the state of Minnesota, statute requires to have the state department serve the notification,” Chapulis said. “We’ve done that.”

However, there has been limited contact after each letter.

“Other than a phone call he had with our building official asking for clarification on the initial letter, then no,” Chapulis said.

The city will take the next steps to address the issues.

“Now we file with the courts so we can take the legal action to be able to do something on our own,” Chapulis said. “We file with the courts, and the court will give them time to respond. There will be a date set – as I understand it – to be in front of a judge, and the judge would rule if we are given the authority to take action or not.”

The options for the city, Chapulis said, are to either fix or demolish the building.

Issues with the building stem from a search warrant following an arrest of two individuals on charges of drug possession. Despite those issues, Chapulis said there are specific guidelines on how the city handles situations like these.

“Regardless of the pattern, there is a due process we have to go through to take action,” he said. “It doesn’t get expedited because of a track record or anything of that nature. We have to stay the course, regardless if it’s an outstanding citizen or an individual who has trouble with the law.”

Chapulis said he hasn’t had to take any complaints this far, but statutes dictate how to proceed.

“Yes, it’s uncharted, but there is a blueprint outlined by statute that we have to follow,” he said. “There are decisions that the council will have to make along the way, but we’re not at that point yet.

“If it does get to the point of the court giving authority — which I hope it doesn’t get to, but it does seem to be on that track — it would be, ‘What do we do with the building and how do we seek compensation back from the ownership?’ Those are two of the things that the council is going to have to have conversation on.”

With the council, Chapulis said decisions will have to be made.

“The statute is very straight-forward on how to seek compensation if the public sector has to take the leadership on addressing the issue,” he said. “There’s primarily two methods — doing it and sending the bill. If the bill’s not paid, you put it on as an assessment, similar to what we do with a lot of nuisance cases where we have to go out and mow the lawn or shovel the show in the winter if it wasn’t done in a timely fashion.

“Obviously, this is a much larger price tag,” Chapulis continued. “The other course is we could go after the individual personally. We haven’t gone to the point to explore either of those options, but that’s something we’ll have to have done before we decide to move forward in the long run.”