PIPESTONE — Historic Calumet Inn owner Tammy Grubbs is disputing a recent action by the city of Pipestone to close and condemn the Calumet, and explained her position at a special city council meeting Monday night.
The March 10 condemnation stemmed from a building inspection done by the State Fire Marshal and Pipestone Building and Zoning Official Doug Fortune. A November inspection by the state fire marshal revealed a number of fire code violations that would need to be fixed, and a March 9 follow-up inspection showed that some of them had not yet been remediated.
Grubbs explained Monday that the November inspection results were not sent to her, but to Hermann Bauer, the Calumet's previous owner, who lives in Texas. Grubbs has owned the hotel since 2018.
Grubbs said that she finally received the city's report on March 6 and had most of the required repairs done by March 9. Her attorney, Greg Erickson, explained their position that the condemning the building was unlawful, as the city did not follow the process outlined in state statutes and in city code.
"You didn't follow the law," Erickson told the council. In order to close and condemn a building, he said, the city is required to issue a written order specifying needed repairs and providing a reasonable time to get them done. This order must be personally served to the property owner.
"The only thing that was personally served on the owner was two (business) days before her property was shut down," Erickson said. That is not a reasonable amount of time for her to accomplish what the city asked, he noted.
The method of enforcing a condemnation order was also unlawful, Erickson added. The city stuck closure notices on every door of the Calumet and sent police in to clear the building, he said.
"There's something called the 'due process clause' in our state Constitution and in the federal Constitution," Erickson said. Due process entitled Grubbs to a hearing during which she could explain the status of the repairs, and the city didn't give her that, Erickson told the council.
Erickson demanded that the city take steps to reverse the condemnation order in the Minnesota Court of Appeals.
"It needs to be undone right away, or we're going to sue you in federal court," he said. "Every day that we're shut down, the damages to the city increase."
Mayor Myron Koets wanted to confirm that Erickson and Grubbs disputed the process, not the fire hazards themselves, and Erickson clarified that the fire hazards noted were not sufficient to prompt condemnation of the building.
"This is not a situation where the hotel is some fire trap," Erickson said. "These are minor fixes. Nothing is wrong with the hotel."
Grubbs produced copies of every tag, inspection and license for all the fire equipment in the building. Although the city cited the sprinklers as its main concern, Grubbs showed documentation that the sprinkler system had passed inspection just five months previously.
"Why aren't you calling the fire marshal back to re-inspect?" Koets asked.
"Because the fire marshal didn't shut us down," Erickson responded.
The city may not simply vote to reverse the building's condemnation, Erickson explained. The appeals process must be followed.
"Everything you did was wrong," Erickson told the council. "This is not the time to get proud and try to defend your decision."
Council member Dan Delaney noted that every council member is motivated to to see the Calumet reopen.
Grubbs and Erickson will take their case to the Court of Appeals, but due to the novel coronavirus outbreak, the courts are currently limited to essential cases. It may be quite some time before the case is heard in court and resolved.