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Wall Question Referred To Public Properties

By Staff | Aug 31, 2010

It isn’t what you’d call “stonewalling” a decision, as the Emmetsburg City Council agreed there needed to be more study on a question regarding a brick wall on city-owned land. The matter was referred to the council’s Public Properties Committee after a discussion during the August 23 meeting of the Emmetsburg City Council.

Mike Gabor, an attorney representing Norlyn Stowell, began the discussion with the council about a request from Stowell to the city for funding to repair a common wall on his building, located at 2109 Main Street. The west wall of the building, which is a common wall between Stowell’s building and the former Gambles building, actually lies on city-owned property.

“Our position is that the wall that is there now is the city’s wall, and my client is asking the city develop a plan for the repairs of that wall,” Gabor explained.

City Attorney Brian Thul asked for sure if it was Stowell’s position that the wall lies 1.4 feet to the west on the city property, to which Gabor replied that was so.

“That’s a party wall and we have a right to maintain and attach to the wall and since it gives us extra support, we would like to leave it that way,” Gabor added.

“It appears that the bricks are almost in there like you stack hay bales on a rack, aren’t they – intertwined,” observe City Administrator John Bird.

Gabor answered that was so, as the interior bricks were used as a support device for the interior rafters of the old Gambles store that existed on the lot.

“What would happen if we just go in as a city would go in there and remove those two layers of brick there on our property? asked Council member Brian Campbell.

“We have the right to attach to those for support, and that goes back to 1876,” Thul answered, citing original abstracts of the property.

“I think the idea would be to perhaps for the city, if it so desires, to begin looking at a process by which it can come up with something that is acceptable to the council members and the community at large,” Gabor continued. “Whatever that may be, whether it’s metal or something other than metal, metal is probably the cheapest alternative but it may not be the most attractive and/or appealing for that matter.”

Thul noted that as part of a common wall structure, there are common benefits and responsibilities. “Is you client willing to incur any expenses at all?

“I think he’s willing to incur some, especially when it comes to the parapet,” Gabor answered. “The answer is yes, it’s just a question of discussing that when it comes to that.”

Council member Steve Finer asked Stowell if there would be a possibility that if the city were to assist in repairs, if Stowell would accept the wall being deeded to him for his responsibility in the future.

Stowell replied that would have to depend on the type of repairs that were made, but it was something he could take a look at.

“This isn’t the first time we’ve taken a look at this issue,” noted Campbell, “We have made some offers in the past with some restrictions to address this issue.”

“I’ve watched this situation deteriorate over the years, and I think the city needs to do something,” observed Mayor John Schad. “However, I’m not sure it’s to put up a metal wall along there. That might be to the detriment of the appearance of the whole city. I’m hopeful whatever action the council takes, we don’t tie the precise type of repair into the action.”

“I agree, we need to look at options for it,” noted Council member Pat Degen.

Bird noted that a few years back, an estimate of about $18,000 had been made for a masonry covering of the wall.

“The city needs to come together either with planning and zoning, or put together a working group and figure out what they want to do, put together some alternatives, come up with a price and then come back and talk with us and we’ll figure out what we’re willing to participate in and then go to the public,” Gabor suggested.

“Public Properties is where I think it ought to go,” Schad suggested.

Council member Sandy Pelzer offered a motion to have the Public Properties Committee take up the issue and work with Stowell to develop an acceptable plan. The motion was carried unanimously to bring the discussion to a close.