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City considering vacating land per neighbor's request

Council considered a petition to vacate the end portion of May Street and decided to weigh its options before voting.

May Street
An aerial view shows the piece of land petitioned for vacation.

WORTHINGTON — Following discussion, the Worthington City Council decided Monday to wait to vote on whether or not to vacate a section of May Street, as was requested in a petition filed by Bruce and Beverly Kness, who own the abutting property.

Director of Engineering Dwayne Haffield explained that when May Street was first platted as part of the Olson Subdivision, the street itself and the lots on the west side of the street were dedicated, meaning they were available for public use. The city does not hold the title to the land. If any part of the street is vacated, Haffield added, ownership of that portion goes to the abutting property owner.

This petition for vacation is unique because it is not a directive of the city charter, as is the case with almost all other such actions. The state statute that allows for this petition has never been used before in Worthington.

Haffield said the Knesses submitted their petition on the grounds that they are dissatisfied with the land maintenance. They are also interested in restoring the stone retaining wall near the lake shore.

Attorney Mark Shepherd addressed the council on behalf of the Knesses. He reiterated that they would like to own the land and maintain it themselves, and are "quite interested in maintaining the historic and aesthetic retaining wall."

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May Street dead-ends into a public dock and boat landing. Haffield explained that if the city were to vacate this area, "the public loses a piece of right-of-way." However, a possible solution would be to write an easement allowing the public to continue to use the space, even though it would be owned by the Knesses.

May Street neighbor Brian Standafer spoke in opposition to the city vacating the area. When he was notified of the filed petition, he said, he researched the potential repercussions if council approved the vacation.

"The only person that I could see that had anything to gain was Bruce (Kness)," he said. Although he supports the idea of better maintenance of the land, he noted that the dock is well-used by the public.

"It would be a piece of public property that would be lost," said Standafer, who asked whether there might be another way to work out the Knesses' concerns without forfeiting public property.

Director of Public Works Todd Wietzema added that the end of May Street is one of the places where snowplow drivers pile snow in the winter, so the city needs use of that space. That's another concern that could be resolved by writing an easement, Haffield noted.

Council member Chad Cummings raised the point that in approving the Knesses' request, the city would essentially be giving 80 feet of lakefront property to a person at no charge.

"Do we see any reason why we should vacate it?" asked Cummings, suggesting the city agree to improve maintenance.

Council members asked that rather than vote immediately, they have time to consider the petition and revisit it at the next council meeting.

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"I'd like some sort of a recommendation from staff on this," said council member Mike Harmon. Council member Amy Ernst agreed.

Haffield noted that since the city had called a public hearing, it would be inappropriate for staff to recommend an outcome of the hearing. However, Mayor Mike Kuhle said it would be appropriate for staff to compile a pro/con list rather than a recommendation.

The discussion on the land vacation will continue at the Dec. 23 city council meeting.

Related Topics: GOVERNMENT AND POLITICS
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