City, homeowner open talks
Actions taken to both initiate, avoid eviction
Even while the Minot City Council approved eviction proceedings Monday, the city initiated talks with a homeowner that are designed to avoid an eviction.
Deborah Luetzen spoke to the council Monday to address her concerns over a buyout of her house for the flood protection project. The court awarded the property to the city for $167,000 in an eminent domain case last fall, but Luetzen continues to live in the home.
Luetzen, who said she was unaware of the court hearing, objected to the price because she believes it will not cover the cost of replacing her home with a comparable property.
“You’re offering me less than I paid for it in 1985,” she said. “There is no place I can move to for that amount of money.”
John Zakian, city resilience program manager, said the city was unable to establish and maintain contact with Luetzen, which would have allowed for negotiations and a suitable resolution in the buyout process. The city had made a counter offer of $187,000 to which no response was received.
The court’s decision cannot be changed at this point as the appeal period has passed. However, Zakian said Luetzen still has options through the relocation process and Resilient Homebuyers Program to receive additional funds that could help her acquire a property to meet her needs.
Luetzen voiced reluctance to meet with city staff, given what she described as unsatisfactory correspondence in the past. At the urging of Mayor Shaun Sipma, Luetzen and Zakian met Monday evening to finally open discussions.
Zakian noted afterwards that progress is being made. Although the council approved hiring outside counsel to begin legal action, Zakian said the city’s intent is not to evict Luetzen but to reach a resolution to allow her to move on her own.
“This is never an easy process. It is an extremely difficult process,” Zakian said of the buyouts taking place for flood protection. “We have completed 174 of these acquisitions, and none of them have been easy. Many have been in similar situations to the one that Ms. Luetzen is confronting. We have been able to work through all of them. Again, we are required to follow the federal law. We are stewards of taxpayer money. We need to protect it and make sure that it is appropriately spent.”