A 32-acre tax-forfeited property near Star Lake in Ideal Township will remain off the tax rolls, for now.

The Crow Wing County Board Tuesday, July 13, agreed to remove the parcel from the tax-forfeited public land auction set for July 23 at the request of the Ideal Town Board. Township supervisors passed a resolution recommending the county delay the sale of the property for one year, allowing township residents time to study options for the property’s future.

One option for the land, which is kitty-corner to the 110-acre Uppgaard Wildlife Management Area, is for it to become a park, said Dave Peterson, town board chairperson.

“Ideal Township is 44% water and we do not even have a park that’s adjacent to water, and so this would be an opportunity to do that, if it works out that way,” Peterson said during a phone interview Wednesday. “It could be a natural park area with some trails in it, and also access for kayaking, canoeing and paddleboarding.”

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Peterson emphasized planning is in its infancy and is driven primarily by the property’s neighbors, who presented a petition to delay the sale to county Commissioner Bill Brekken and the town board.

During Tuesday’s meeting, Commissioner Paul Koering said granting the township’s request would fall in line with previous decisions of the board.

“Ideal Township is 44% water and we do not even have a park that’s adjacent to water, and so this would be an opportunity to do that, if it works out that way."

— Dave Peterson, Ideal Township chairperson

“I think it’s been the practice of the county board that if a city or a township … wants us to pull something off the tax-forfeit auction, we have done that,” Koering said. “ … This is nothing out of the ordinary. If the supervisors are requesting that, I’m all in favor of it. We can hold off a year on selling this.”

Brekken, who participated in Tuesday’s meeting virtually and represents the area on the county board, said he felt residents had short notice of the impending sale and the opportunity for them to provide input is important. During a phone interview Thursday, Brekken further explained he thinks the situation revealed a gap in notice practices of the county. While township officials received information several months ago concerning the county’s plan to divest itself of scattered, smaller tax-forfeited parcels in favor of consolidation, Brekken said neighbors to these properties only learn of the potential sale 30 days in advance.

“It really shows that we’ve got to work a little bit and make sure we let the residents know when these things are going to come up with better lead time,” Brekken said.

Allowing time to formulate a plan could result in a proposal for public use from the township, or it could give residents time to pool resources to purchase a tax-forfeited property for themselves, Brekken noted.

A third possibility is acquisition by the Northern Waters Land Trust, a nonprofit organization working in the counties of Cass, Crow Wing, Hubbard and Aitkin to preserve land in the name of water quality and environmental preservation. Ryan Simonson, environmental services supervisor, said the organization is considering seeking grant dollars to purchase the property, in turn gifting it to either the township or the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

Before the board agreed to remove the 31.97-acre property from the auction, the starting bid price was set for $138,300. It’s zoned as rural residential 5, meaning residential lots must be no smaller than 5 acres, and it carries a timber value of $6,500. The property is described by the county as featuring all high ground and approximately 200 feet of water frontage on Little Round Lake. It’s been tax-forfeited since 1937, according to Simonson.

Simonson said the county asked the township’s permission to sell the property in 2020 and was granted it because the board offered no response within the required time frame. Still, the parcel was withheld from the 2020 public land auction at the request of the DNR, which sought a public easement along an existing trail. The county sold timber from the property 10 years ago, but otherwise, it’s been largely untouched and acts much like other county land — open to the public, mostly for hunting purposes, Simonson said.

“It’s a classic example of, it’s tough for us to manage,” Simonson said during a phone interview Friday. “There are roads cutting through it and all those neighbors. Timber harvests are disruptive. … We like to get rid of these parcels because we think they’re better off in private ownership.”

Simonson estimated there are approximately 50 more 30-plus-acre parcels — ones that are not adjacent to other county-owned lands — the county intends to sell in future land sales.

“It’s a classic example of, it’s tough for us to manage. There are roads cutting through it and all those neighbors. Timber harvests are disruptive."

— Ryan Simonson, Crow Wing County environmental services supervisor

A similar situation came before the board in 2019, when the city of Nisswa sought removal of several tax-forfeited properties from the auction for potential conversion to a nature park. In a 3-2 decision, the board voted against removing the properties from the sale, pointing to a missed chance to participate in a public hearing specifically established for such requests.

The Nisswa property did not sell and earlier this year, Nisswa City Administrator Jenny Max asked the board to convey the property to the city at no cost. Another split decision resulted in approval of Max’s request, but there remained disagreement among commissioners on whether giving away the land for the purpose of a park was consistent with an internal land asset management policy.

Should the Ideal Town Board approach the county with a park plan for the Little Round Lake property, it could provide another opportunity for the board to discuss the application of that policy, which is more restrictive than the state statute governing land conveyance for a public purpose.

Nearly 300 properties will be offered for sale beginning 10 a.m. July 23 on the front lawn of the Crow Wing County Land Services Building, 322 Laurel St., Brainerd. Information about properties offered for sale can be found at taxforfeit.crowwing.us. View the complete list at bit.ly/36GkZ3O.

CHELSEY PERKINS may be reached at 218-855-5874 or chelsey.perkins@brainerddispatch.com. Follow on Twitter at twitter.com/DispatchChelsey.