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Ontonagon discusses abandoning property

What looked to be one of the few non-controversial issues addressing the Ontonagon Village Council lit the fuse of an Ontonagon County Commissioner. The issue began at the Oct. 28 meeting when Don Kullis asked the council to abandon an undeveloped portion of Balsam Street.

Kullis purchased multiple lots on both sides of the undeveloped road and plans to build a home. An adjoining property owner, Bruce Ruutila owned property and had no objection to abandoning the street. A local contractor even offered to put in a road for Ruutila to have access to his property.

Village Manager Joe Erickson has been in contact with various utility companies as the village has an agreement with UPPCO, and Spectrum for access on developed and undeveloped roads.

While the issue looked like it was a slam dunk, especially with the village having a glut on homes that are not being lived in and up for sale, the issue of one home being foreclosed on and an adjoining lot possibly being obtained by the village was discussed at Monday night’s meeting.

None of this matters to village resident and County Commissioner Marlene Broemer.

“I have two concerns I hope you will consider as I ask you to delay the decision on this matter till spring,” she said.

Broemer wants decision makers to see the property.

“So you could see the impact this decision will have,” she said.

Broemer states she is a friend of the Ruutila family, which she attests has been in Ontonagon for 100 years.

“It’s quite stunning that a move can be made to change the nature of the property by a simple request from a new landowner,” Broemer said. “Surely re-drawing village maps is not that simple.”

She also thinks the decision to abandon the property will have an impact on village residents “now and in the future.”

“When we looked at this property, we were fully aware that the road had never been developed,” said Kullis.

He stated that it took him a long time to determine where the boundaries were, “due to the fact that there are other streets that have never been put in.” He was referring to Tamarack and Cedar.

The property he purchased has four lots on one side of the undeveloped Balsam, and a half lot on the other side. He affirmed that there had been no development of this portion of Balsam.

“Other than on a map for a previous sub-division,” he said. “I believe Mr. (Joe) Erickson has followed all the procedures of contacting all the property owners in the area. A local businessman has offered to open up a road to Mr. Ruutila’s property if he needed access.”

Kullis stated that he is looking at a pretty substantial donation to the tax fund by building a new home on the property.

“I understand there could be questions on this,” said Kullis. “I don’t like the insinuation that a new guy is coming to town and pushing his weight around.”

Broemer stated that she knows there is monument corner markers depicting the property lines for future development.

“How much is this abandonment going to cost the village? Is this really how village planning is going? The village manager has apprised the public and the council, and the utility companies,” she said. “We have heard nothing of what he has done to find out how the landowners and current neighbors might feel about this. Not to mention future village residents who have no idea that there was once a road there that was abandoned before they arrived.”

She feels that more consideration should be given to life-long residents so that “they can control access to their property.”

As brought up and addressed at the Oct. 28 meeting, Kullis and Ruutila followed the procedure and policy dealing with undeveloped road abandonment.

“I’ve followed the procedure that has been developed by this council dealing with how an abandonment goes,” said Kullis.

While President Tony Smydra has stated numerous times after assuming the position that he, nor the council, will comment or answer anything brought up during public comment, Smydra changed his policy. He asked Erickson the status of this issue since it has been six weeks since Kullis addressed the council.

“I have to get my rear in gear if I’m going to have a house put up this spring,” Kullis said.

It is whether the road is abandoned that determines how Kullis would position his home on the property and how he pays for the sewer line to the property.

Erickson stated that the time frame for UPPCO, Ontonagon Telephone Company, SEMCO, and Charter (Spectrum) was the end of November.

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