County sets public sale for many tax forfeited lots; most in Cambridge

An unusual amount of tax forfeited lots, most in unfinished housing developments in Cambridge, may soon be bid on at public auction.

The Isanti County Board on Aug. 21 approved a public sale for the parcels at 9:30 a.m. Thursday, Oct. 24, in the board room at the government center. Registration starts at 8:30 a.m. Also approved were the terms of the sale and the appraised, basic price of each lot that is on file with the county auditor-treasurer.

Auditor-treasurer Terry Treichel and chief deputy auditor Angela Larson discussed the issue with commissioners who were all ears. Listening with interest, too, were Cambridge’s City Administrator Lynda Woulfe and Economic Development Director Stan Gustafson who sat in the audience.

While an average of five to 10 lots has been the trend at past auctions, which are typically held on need, 97 parcels or 63 individual pieces

including lots for townhouse groups are expected at this year’s sale, Treichel said when he and Larson were asked to elaborate on the issue after the meeting.

“It’s a lot of work to do this,” Larson continued. “It was much easier in the past, when there were more bidders who would compete for less lots. Every county is going through this to some degree.”

And some local residents are paying attention. This was evident at the public comment period of the board meeting, when a Cambridge resident urged the board to consider buyers “like us” before approving a tax forfeit public sale.

Still, all appears good from the city’s perspective, as most of the parcels at issue are located in the Parkwood, Bridgewater and Yerigan Farms housing developments in Cambridge.

“We are very grateful to the county auditor’s office and county board for continuing to work with the city on getting the tax forfeited lots sold and back on the tax rolls,” Woulfe said in a statement to the Isanti County News after the board meeting. “The city will work diligently to attract developers and builders to build homes on these lots to complete these developments.”

Background, more about the lots

Tax forfeited property often is vacant land, sometimes even swamp land, usually without a lot of value. Now there’s a lot of buildable lots, Treichel explained.

In the housing boom, lots were going for premium prices anywhere from $30,000 to $40,000. Then the value wasn’t there, and the taxes were not being paid, he said.

One development that had a lot of tax forfeiture was Yerigan Farms, where lots have been priced at $12,000 or $12,140 with a special assessment.

“We didn’t want to set the price too low,“ Treichel noted, “because we didn’t want to compete with banks and private land owners and end up letting their properties forfeit.”

Also available are lots platted for townhouses and detached townhomes at the Bridgewater housing development, while banks own the single family homes there. At Parkwood, single family lots are going for $10,000, and some have already sold with houses since constructed, Treichel said.

But it’s been a slow process without a lot of demand, particularly for empty yet buildable lots. “People are buying lots when they’re ready to build,” he added. As for the sizes of the lots, they vary, though many are less than an acre.

Another factor is what occurred at the end of the housing boom. As was the case at Parkwood, developments were not finished, which left gaps in infrastructure. As a result, builders were charged a special assessment with interest per lot.

“The assessed price did not come down as fast as the market price,” Treichel explained.

The builder then went to its finance company and ultimately faced foreclosure — due to not paying the necessary taxes, interest and special assessments tied to the development. The tax forfeiture process followed.

Today, 56 single family lots are available at Parkwood, while two apartment complexes are in the works there, too, along Opportunity Boulevard.

At Bridgewater, located near Paul’s Lake, there are lots platted for 13 detached townhomes, with each offered at a base price of $6,000. Also available are lots platted for eight groups of attached townhouses, offered at $4,000 a lot or $16,000 or more depending on the number of units in a group. Treichel clarified that it is just the lots that are for sale, as no buildings are constructed there yet.

At Yerigan Farms, each of the 29 single family lots available is going for a base price of $12,000.

“There are lots that have already been auctioned, and it will continue until the properties are reappraised,” Larson said. “People can come to our office (to learn more).”

For more information on the public sale or issue of local tax forfeited lots, call the Isanti County Auditor’s Office at 763-689-1644.

In other action, the board:

• Approved, with regret, the resignation of Jennifer Psyck, fraud investigator for family services, due to her taking a position with the state Department of Human Services’ Child Care Assistance Program.