by Logan Gruber
An alley that runs from Sixth to Seventh Street N., between Second and Third Avenue N., was the subject of some debate at the July 27 Sauk Rapids City Council meeting. The alley was never developed. It consists of granite slabs running in a single file about one-foot wide. Some of the slabs are loose and at one point run around a large tree.
According to Laure Rosty, a property owner adjacent to the alley, people walk through the alley and her and her neighbors’ backyards to look at the granite structures and granite home on 3rd Street N.
“People used to sit under our apple trees and eat apples . . . We finally just tore them down,” Rosty said in an exclusive Newsleader interview.
Rosty also said she and her husband, Jeff Spychala, had seen drug users in the alley.
Rosty and Spychala, along with all but one property owner adjacent to the alley, signed a petition and paid a fee to have the city consider reverting the alley from city ownership back to private ownership to prevent people from using it.
The property owners who haven’t signed the petition, Rick and Mary Haakonson, have no issue with turning the alley into private property as long as they will still be able to access their garage. The Haakonsons’ garage and driveway are nearly on the property line with their neighbor, and they fear losing access to the backyard if the neighbor were to put up a fence along their driveway and garage.
City staff has looked at the issue, and they suggested to the council to return the alley to private ownership. A report prepared for the council stated the granite structures at places stick out into the alley, and there are many loose granite pieces that could hurt someone. Staff also noted there are no city utilities in the alley and there shouldn’t be any future need for utilities. However there are private utilities in place so an easement would need to remain.
During the meeting, Sauk Rapids Director of Community Development Todd Schultz said in order to return the property to private ownership, the city only needs to prove the property serves no purpose for the city.
“It is a very low standard the city needs to meet to vacate the property,” Schultz noted.
There are a number of undeveloped alleyways in the city, Schultz said, and if the city hasn’t developed them already, it probably won’t.
The city published the hearing date and time two weeks prior, but there was a feeling more time was needed for residents, such as the Haakonsons, to talk over their options.
The city council chose to keep the hearing open and resume public comment on the issue at its Aug. 24 meeting. The regular Aug. 10 city council meeting will not be held.