By Jean Doran Matua, Editor
In an issue that has been in process for 11 months already, the City of Watkins must await further legal work before a vote can be taken on vacating an alley that adjoins five properties in town.
At this point, the city plans to vacate its easements on an alley behind the home of David Hokanson in Watkins. The city has never owned the property in question, but has had easements for an alley for about 50-60 years, the best anyone can tell.
Once vacated, the alley property will revert to the previous owners (before the city easements were in place 50-60 or so years ago). If those property owners cannot be found, then the alley property will be split evenly among the five adjoining property owners.
The issue arose when one of those property owners, Hokanson, wanted to develop a piece of property he owns that is only accessible by that alley. Once vacated, he would lose that access.
Meanwhile, another property owner has planted raspberry bushes and, just last week, a tree within the disputed alley land.
As the issue between these two property owners seems to be escalating toward a civil issue, the council agrees at least in principal that no changes should be made to that land until it is finally resolved.
The council was unable to vote on vacating the alley at its July 8 meeting because they are waiting for more legal details from Meeker County and from the city’s attorney.
After extensive discussion at the July 8 meeting, it is clear that the city does not intend to change its plan to vacate the alley. Once accomplished, the city’s role in what happens next is done. The county will oversee the allocation of that land to the proper owners.
Because of rising contention between the two property owners, the city will request their attorney and the county auditor to act expeditiously on this process. They hope to vote to vacate the alley at their August meeting.
The city is anxious to have the issue off their hands. Although his preference would be for the alley to remain a city accessible alley, he too would like the issue to be resolved so that he and his attorney can move on to their next step.
Hokanson has filed a formal complaint to have the city bring all alleys in the city into compliance with the city’s ordinances. That complaint will be forwarded to the city’s attorney.