Recording blunder set straight for Ramaley Park neighbors

This city graphic shows the northern and southern portions of Fifth Avenue and the properties claiming ownership. Addresses noted as 0 are city-owned.  

WHITE BEAR LAKE — A recording snafu in 1977 was brought to light recently when a member of the Tice family wanted to subdivide property at 1788 Hwy. 96 for four twin homes. 

The family member, Craig Tice, with Tice-Haus Design Build LLC, hopes to plat six lots called Rose’s Park View Addition, located just west of Fifth Avenue. The proposed access to the development is from Clarence Street. 

Nearby property owners object to the development and claim the portion of the street that will be crossed was vacated in 1977 by the city and thus cannot serve as access. 

City Attorney Troy Gilchrist got involved to research the legal status of the street to clarify the vacation issue, both for City Council and the surrounding property owners.

As a brief history, Gilchrist found that Fifth Avenue was dedicated to the public in 1883 as part of the Ramaley Park plat. The city received easements for all of the streets and alleys shown on the plat upon its recording with the county. In 1977, the council was presented two petitions requesting vacation of the north and south portion of the street (Clarence to Whitaker Street). 

The council at the time voted to vacate the northern portion, but did not approve vacation of the southern portion. However — and this is where the snafu occurred — an unnumbered resolution was mistakenly recorded saying the southern portion was vacated. The city’s attorney quickly recorded an affidavit shortly after correcting the error. 

The erroneous recording surfaced last October before the Planning Commission, which held a public hearing on the proposed Tice development. Neighbors to the late Rose Tice claimed the access was their property and referenced the unnumbered resolution. 

Last month, council held a public hearing to consider vacation of the southern portion, with the exception of the end of Clarence, Park and Hinckley Streets to allow access to properties to the west. But because of legal questions, the matter was held over to its Dec. 14 meeting. 

In a memo to council, Gilchrist noted that property owners along Fifth Avenue claiming an interest in the southern portion are doing so based on the mistakenly recorded unnumbered resolution. 

"They ignore, or attempt to disregard, the affidavit making it clear the council never actually vacated the southern portion and that the resolution was recorded in error," Gilchrist wrote. "Owners adjacent to the street cannot claim the city’s easement no longer exists based on a vacation that never occurred."

The city attorney added that utilities run through the portion that serve Clarence Street properties, which likely explains why the 1977 council refused to vacate it. Furthermore, his office searched titles of the properties along the southern portion and found nothing to support a claim their title includes the claimed vacation.

One owner, in fact, built a garage on public right of way, thinking the property was his. Another property owner closest to the development got an attorney involved, claiming an unconstitutional taking of her property. 

Karin Doyle, 1801 Clarence St., told Planning Commission members at the first hearing her view of nature will be gone and she will only be able to see the side of a townhome. The neighborhood, she said, does not support multifamily housing. Another neighbor, Nathan Friend, fears townhomes will reduce the value of his home and encouraged commissioners to "keep White Bear Lake the way it is and leave the condos for Hugo."

"It is clear from comments made at the public hearings the issue regarding the status of the street is being raised primarily to stop the development," Gilchrist wrote in his memo. "I encourage council to view the proposed vacation separately from the approvals requested for the development." 

Council Member Bill Walsh urged council not to take further action on something that was already decided in 1977. "I don’t think a resolution is necessary. We don’t need to do anything," he said, adding that street ends are not normally vacated in the city and used Whitaker Street as an example. Council Member Dan Jones agreed to taking no action, noting the decision was already made. 

Although Gilchrist recommended council act on the vacation, in the end, it was tabled indefinitely. That means the city continues to hold a right of way easement over the southern portion with authority to retain street ends.

In a letter to Doyle’s attorney, Peter Frank, and included in the council packet, Gilchrist agreed the issue was made more complicated by actions of Ramsey County when they included a part of the southern portion of right of way as part of his client’s property for tax purposes. "But errors in the county’s tax records or mapping system are not binding on the city," he wrote. 

Gilchrist also reprimanded the attorney, Peter Frank, for representing a client against the city. He told Frank there appeared to be a conflict of interest since his firm, GDO Law, serves as the city prosecutor. According to Gilchrist, such representation in a matter adverse to the city was contrary to Rule 1.7 of the Minnesota Rules of Professional Conduct. 

The Planning Commission is tentatively scheduled to consider the twin home development application at its Jan. 31 meeting.

(1) comment

Michele Haider-Markel

There are errors in the article that should be brought to your readers attention. Not all areas marked with a 0 are city owned. That information misleads the readers in thinking that there is a larger buffer area between the proposed duplexes that do not fit the existing residential area.

Please be more proactive about what the Ramaley Park neighborhood wants: If building must happen then please make sure that makes it sense and fits the community and not just building that gives the contractors a large profit.

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