West St. Paul will buy a house that city officials allege has been a public nuisance, ending a legal threat that could have banned the owner and her family from their home for a year.
West St. Paul’s Economic Development Authority — made up of the City Council — voted unanimously Monday night to enter into a purchase agreement with Leann Broadbent, the owner of the house at 210 Logan Av. W. in West St. Paul.
Police have responded to more than 157 calls to the home over five years, and the city was in the process of taking the Broadbents to court in an effort to remove them from the home for a year for what they said is public nuisance activity — reports of loose dogs, junk cars, guns, parking violations and marijuana possession.
In January, shots were fired into the home, wounding one of Broadbent’s sons.
Neighbors have said they’re frustrated and frightened by actions on the suburban street.
Broadbent tells a different story. She said in a recent interview that the police have harassed her and her children, who are in their 20s and biracial, since the family arrived. Interracial families should reconsider moving to West St. Paul, Broadbent said.
West St. Paul Police Chief Bud Shaver denied any racial bias and said his officers simply responded to neighborhood complaints. The purchase agreement between the family and the city will likely remedy the situation, Shaver said.
Broadbent could not be reached for comment about the pending purchase agreement.
“If the homeowner is willing to vacate the house and agrees to it, I suppose that solves the problem,” Shaver said. In these situations, usually “the person causing the problem needs to go away, because they just don’t change their behavior often.”
A letter from the city attorney to the Broadbents dated March 1 alleges “more than 50 incidents of public nuisance or controlled substance possession/use” occurring in the last year. It included 19 examples of Facebook live videos that police say show marijuana use. Some included the presence of young children.
That letter notified Broadbent of possible court action unless the nuisance behavior stopped or she entered into an abatement plan with the city.
Broadbent didn’t want to enter into an abatement agreement, Shaver said.
Since March 1 officers have responded to incidents at her house only a few times for what he called “minor” issues — “but nothing that would invoke the injunction notice.”
Broadbent paid $160,000 for the stone and stucco rambler in March 2012 and its taxable value has climbed to about $258,000 in 2018, according to Dakota County property records.
The city will buy the house and then likely sell it, said Ryan Schroeder, West St. Paul’s interim city manager.
Any time a property has a blighting influence on the neighborhood buying it is always an option for cities, Schroeder said.
Though the house isn’t literally a blight, Schroeder said, “it’s a neighborhood stability issue.”
Schroeder said that when members of the Economic Development Authority were deciding what to do on Monday night in closed session, they were likely weighing the costs of buying the house vs. going to court with Broadbent.
“Essentially any motion or action or deliberation like this one comes down to a decision of economics,” he said.
Korine Land, the city attorney, said she cannot share the purchase agreement the city made with the Broadbents, citing a Minnesota statute that says information related to “negotiations with property owners regarding the purchase of property” is nonpublic until the property changes hands. The closing date is June 15, 2017.
Schroeder said the deal won’t be final until then.
“We’re sort of in process — things could go left or right, up or down,” Schroeder said. “It’s a transaction that we’re not the only party to.”
Shaver called the action against Broadbent a “sad situation” — but one that the city had to address.
“A lot of people feel that the big, bad government is picking on the individual,” Shaver said. “Don’t lose [sight] that the Broadbents have … some accountability here, too.”