Grand Lake looks to settle encroachment issue with land sale
Grand Lake is considering selling a small parcel of land to a local family in an effort to settle 65 years’ worth of discussions.
Discussions center on a cabin, known as the Heckendorf cabin, that was built on .075 acres of a town owned right-of-way in 1955 with the town’s permission. The Heckendorfs asked the town to vacate the right-of-way in 2008, kicking off a series of conversations regarding the best way to handle the land.
After looking into a number of solutions, town staff were directed last year to get an appraisal on the land so that it could be sold to the Heckendorfs. However, staff has been unable to get an appraisal because the land can’t be developed and isn’t currently zoned.
On Monday, Grand Lake board members faced the unusual challenge of trying to value the land without an appraisal, coming to a price of $10,000.
“Truthfully, a sale of land is the only solution,” Town Manager John Crone said. “(The land) is just incomparable. There’s nothing to compare it to.”
Kristen Heckendorf explained that the family wants ownership of the land to fully insure it. the easement and the fact that the Heckendorfs don’t own the land has made it difficult for the family to fully insure the cabin.
“I can get a fraction of what I need to cover just the cabin itself,” she said.
The situation is made even more complicated because of an encroachment easement the town approved for the cabin in 2011, which includes a 45-day repeal provision. The easement allows the Heckendorfs to block the sale of the property to another person because they have the right to the land unless the town takes it for a public use.
Trustee Cindy Southway was hesitant to come up with a number for the sale without an appraisal, adding she was unsure about the sale in general.
“I know that me, myself, I’m not qualified to even guess what the value of the property would be and I don’t know the board really is,” Southway said.
Southway suggested vacating the right-of-way, looking into a land exchange or auctioning the land.
Vacating the right-of-way would result in the land going to a neighboring property of the Heckendorf cabin and Crone said the Heckendorfs could block the vacation because of the easement terms. An auction is also not feasible for the same reason.
“Technically, the Heckendorfs could block the sale of the property to a different family,” Crone said.
Crone noted the sale could include provisions from the town about how the land could be used so as to protect that parcel from being developed and prevent the cabin from getting larger.
“We could still put in the sales contract that no new development can happen on this portion of the lot,” he said.
Trustee Michael Arnston suggested $6 per square foot, which would amount to around $22,000 for the land. Arnston based his suggestions on Zillow information but other trustees felt it was too high of a price for unusable land.
The Heckendorfs have also been paying for liability insurance the town and for the property’s water tap since they bought the property in 1957.
Ultimately, the board voted 5-2 to direct staff to move forward with creating a sales contract with the Heckendorfs for $10,000. Trustees Southway and Tom Bruton voted against the motion.
The sale would not completely work out the issues with the land, since the town would still need to rezone the parcel through the planning commission and record an Xcel easement. Staff is also still checking to see if the land was ever used for government purposes and the valuation is appropriate.
If the land was used for governmental reasons, the sale of the land would have to be approved by the voters.
In other business:
• Trustees approved an annual contract for Town Manager John Crone with a raise to $116,000 in a 5-2 vote. Trustees Cindy Southway and Tom Bruton voted against the contract. Previously Crone was paid $92,000.
• A contract with the Grand Lake Chamber was approved, as well as a liquor license for the chamber’s upcoming Pond Hockey Tournament on Feb. 26.
• Trustees approved an agreement with the Grand Lake Fire Department allowing the town to plow snow at the fire department while protecting both parties from liability in the instance of damage.
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