Parks on the Chopping Block in Waite Park, Elbow Lake, and Winona

Tri County / Waite Park, MN—In the center of Waite Park's commercial district, a development group wants to put in a 27,000-square-foot convention center with two hotels. The proposed $28 million development requires removing businesses and the city’s only park, Tri-County Mobile Home Park.

In January, the Waite Park City Council approved a $623,000 Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development grant application for the project. The developer, Silver Leaf Group, is also asking Waite Park for $4.26 million in tax-increment financing. TIF allows a developer to capture, for a set time, the increased tax revenue generated by the climbing market value of a redeveloped property.

The park owner has attempted to convince residents to sign a waiver of their rights under the state’s park closing law, in order to speed up redevelopment. However, the law clearly prohibits “any attempt to waive or circumscribe any privilege or right guaranteed by law” (MN Statute 327C.02, Subd. 4).

Red Top / Winona, MN—A mobile home park on the west side of Winona is on its way to closing. Red Top Estates, a six-acre property that shares a border with Goodview, is the city’s only park. Currently it has five manufactured homes left in a community that once had dozens.

Residents were informed of the owner’s intent to close the park in summer 2014, and have begun to make the transition. This follows several years of growing problems and increasing vacancies. According to the closure notice, property owner Steve Kohner intends to close the park and cease use of it as a manufactured home park by June 1. A public hearing about the closure is scheduled for March 16.

Edgetown Mobile Court / Elbow Lake, MN—Prairie Lake Hospital in Elbow Lake
contacted residents of Edgetown Mobile Court to announce the hospital was acquiring their park for a hospital expansion, and to negotiate relocation with the residents.

Initially, the hospital attempted an illegal end run around the nine-month closure notice requirement and was also shortchanging residents on relocation payments. Because the hospital was using federal funding for its expansion, this triggered the Uniform Relocation Act, which provides much more generous financial payments to relocating residents.

Eventually, residents received benefits in excess of $30,000, rather than the $4,000 that was initially offered. The hospital has also tracked down the residents who had already moved and they are also being processed for these higher benefits.