WORTHINGTON — A cryptic note in an auditor’s file fails to explain how or why Nobles County owns a chunk of Worthington’s Second Avenue, known as Parcel 31-3973-500, but its text is pretty clear: “This property is part of 2nd Ave. It can not be sold at this time.”

The Nobles County Board of Commissioners decided the fates of 21 forfeited parcels during a public meeting Tuesday, including the .06-acre slice of street and a piece of land underneath the Worthington Post Office.

“I don’t have anything on this one,” said Joyce Jacobs, auditor-treasurer for Nobles County, and read the note regarding Second Avenue to the commissioners.

After some bemused jokes about ripping up Second Avenue, the board unanimously agreed to give its tiny bit of city infrastructure — not even shown on county property data maps — back to the city of Worthington.

Image from the Nobles County presentation during the 2021 Land Classification Public Meeting. Submitted photo.
Image from the Nobles County presentation during the 2021 Land Classification Public Meeting. Submitted photo.

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Tidying up

While some of the 21 properties the board dealt with Tuesday were tax-forfeited recently, and could easily serve as lots for homes or businesses, others seemed more like leftovers from the property equivalent of a junk drawer.

Perhaps property had been set aside for an alleyway or a street, but the alley or street was never built, or maybe the railway owned a skinny corridor of land at one point before laying down track somewhere else. Or maybe a regulation or ordinance just made the property difficult to use, and therefore hard to sell.

Over time, those odd parcels may have gone before the county board multiple times without their status ever being totally resolved.

Image from the Nobles County presentation during the 2021 Land Classification Public Meeting. Submitted photo.
Image from the Nobles County presentation during the 2021 Land Classification Public Meeting. Submitted photo.

“When I started this position, we had a number of parcels that have been on and off the list,” Jacobs said. “... there were several on there that had not really been addressed or talked about for several years.”

And in some cases, the rules for handling the properties had changed, allowing them to be reclassified.

Properties being put up for auction will begin at an opening bid of $1, and the public sale will begin at 9 a.m. Nov. 9 in the Farmers Room, commissioners decided. The sealed bids will be opened at 9 a.m. on Nov. 23.

The complete list of parcels, minus Second Avenue, follows.

  • 07-0113-000: Located in Hersey Township, this property includes a house and shop building that may or may not be sound, and several abandoned vehicles are there as well. The property’s owner has died. Several people had expressed interest in the land, and on Tuesday, a representative of Hersey Township expressed the township’s desire to see it cleaned up and sold. The board opted to put the land up for public auction.

  • 17-0267-000: A parcel of land in Read’s subdivision in Summit Lake Township has already drawn some interest from the neighbors who have been mowing and caring for the land. They hope to put a water line through the parcel. An initial motion made by Commissioner Justin Ahlers to sell the land with a sealed bidding process open to the owners of the adjoining land failed, and then commissioners unanimously voted to put the land up for public auction.

  • 23-0275-000: A 2-acre triangle of land near the entrance of Brewster has nothing but a sign on it, and the sign company couldn’t figure out who owned the land. Initially there were concerns about potential gas contamination, but the state of Minnesota said the site is acceptable, according to Joseph Sanow, Nobles County Attorney. Commissioners voted to put the land up for public auction.

  • 24-0039-000, 24-0040-000 and 24-0114-000: Three parcels within its limits were sold to the city of Dundee for $1 each, with the third separated out because it has a long-vacant mobile home on it that could potentially complicate the selling process.

  • 26-0048-500, 26-0049-000, 26-0055-000, and 26-0055-500: Four parcels were sold to the city of Kinbrae for $1 each. However, the county’s property software seems to indicate that part of a building owned by Glen and Bonnie Grunewald may sit on one of the parcels, Jacobs said. Bonnie Grunewald said the building was there when they purchased the land, that her family had maintained it and that the Grunewalds had tried to buy the parcel but the Minnesota DNR had taken it. Jacobs said her records indicated the last owner was Virginia Casey. Bonnie said the parcel should be re-surveyed, and Ahlers moved to sell it to Kinbrae and let the city and the Grunewald family settle the issue. The commissioners unanimously agreed.

  • 29-0024-000: A parcel in the city of Rushmore, adjoined by two other parcels owned by the city, was sold to the city for $2,000, the estimated value of the land. Rushmore hopes to market the land, which is on Main Street, as a business opportunity.

  • 29-0131-000: A home in Rushmore that’s been vacant for a few years was put up for public auction. There was some discussion of whether it could be rehabilitated or whether it should be torn down as an eyesore, and there is still a $582 special assessment on the property that will have to be paid as part of the sale.

  • 30-0091-000: Initially crossed off the list, this odd snippet of land runs across three other people’s lawns and may once have been owned by the railroad. Commissioners opted to have it surveyed to be potentially split into three separate parcels.

  • 30-0201-000: Commissioners opted to keep a narrow strip of land in the city of Wilmont in order to maintain it as right-of-way.

  • 31-0486-500: Located on Eighth Avenue within the city of Worthington, this oddly-shaped property includes sidewalks on two sides, meaning that Nobles County pays about $1,800 a year for snow removal and lawn care. According to Jacobs, city policies would not allow someone to store a trailer or build a garage on the property. Ahlers wondered what would happen if the county simply stopped mowing, and Commissioner Donald Linssen said the city would do it and then bill the county for the mowing. The commissioners agreed to put the property up for public auction.

  • 31-1214-500: A strip of land between homes may have been left off one of the surveys of one of the property owners, Jacobs said, and it’s hard to tell who should or shouldn’t own it. Commissioners opted to put the property up for a sealed bidding process between owners of the adjacent properties.

  • 31-1218-500: A triangle piece of land at the intersection of Pershing Boulevard and Grandview Avenue was put up for a public auction.

  • 31-1761-700: A small rectangular parcel not even visible on the county’s property mapping software was once planned to become an alley between two rows of houses, and as it is being maintained and cared for, the board opted to void the parcel entirely.

  • 31-1873-500: Another vacated alley is being mowed by neighbor Richard Schlichte, but because it has a $2,000 assessment on it, the property could be difficult to sell. Commissioners decided to put it up for a sealed bidding process between owners of adjacent property.

  • 31-3270-000: The long, thin piece of land that's partially under the U.S. Post Office will be put up for a sealed bidding process between owners of the adjacent properties.