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Cloquet to demolish abandoned house

An abandoned house at 316 20th St. in Cloquet required the City Council to step in and arrange for its demolition. Jamey Malcomb / Pine Journal

The Cloquet City Council has voted to remove an abandoned house in Cloquet's Ward 2.

The city plans to contract with Land Logic Inc. in Carlton to remove the structure for $5,980 and will file a special assessment on the property for the cost.

Councilors unanimously approved the decision during a meeting Nov. 20.

The house, at 316 20th St., has been in deteriorating condition for many years, according to Cloquet Community Development Director Holly Hansen. The gas meter was removed in 2003 and other utilities were shut off in 2014.

The structure was condemned the following year and the city worked with the former owner to sell the property and bring the taxes up to date in 2016.

High Mark Management purchased the property in 2016 for $3,000. In the purchase contract, the new owner agreed to demolish the house and begin a new home construction project on the property.

High Mark Management, however, went out of business shortly after the purchase and never removed the building, Hansen said. Subsequent attempts by city officials to contact the company have been unsuccessful.

The company has also fallen behind on taxes for the building since the purchase.

The roof and walls of the house have visible holes and Hansen described it as as "marginally upright." Inside, the floor is unstable, with much of the surface stripped away and the subflooring visibly rotting.

Hansen said the property is secure, but it's a "drag" on property values in the neighborhood and is attractive to potential vandals.

She said the situation is unique — most houses in such poor condition are much closer to forfeiture to Carlton County, so the county would deal with the issue. With the taxes being brought up to date in 2016, though, the property will not forfeit to the county until at least 2021.

Residents have contacted Ward 2 Councilor David Bjerkness to voice concerns about the property. He asked city staff to re-evaluate the property due to the severity of the building's deterioration and potential hazards to neighborhood children.

"It's in incredibly bad shape," Bjerkness said. "It's a safety issue as well as it drives down property values, which is unfair to neighbors who have no power to do anything about it."

Bjerkness agreed with Hanson, saying there is rarely a need for the city to be involved. In his 17 years on the City Council, he could only recall the city stepping in three other times to remove an abandoned home.

Jamey Malcomb

Jamey Malcomb has been a reporter for the Pine Journal since October 2018. He previously worked as a reporter for the Lake County News-Chronicle from 2015-2018. Malcomb is a native of North Carolina and holds a bachelor's degree in English and history from the George Washington University and a master's degree in education from George Mason University in Fairfax, Va. Malcomb moved to Minnesota in July 2012 and worked as a sports clerk and news assistant at the Duluth News Tribune. 

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