The Free Press, Mankato, MN

April 19, 2013

City of Waldorf, building owner disagree over razing plan

By Brian Ojanpa
Free Press Staff Writer

WALDORF — Lawsuits have been exchanged between the city of Waldorf, which wants an eyesore building razed, and its owner, who claims he’s been unfairly harassed.

Geoff Thornes’ recent lawsuit attempting to stop city plans for demolition of the downtown building countered the city’s action filed in Waseca County District Court in October.

“He said we abused his civil rights,” Waldorf City Clerk Judy Kohout said of the situation that’s been going on since 2010 when the city informed Thornes that the building’s roof would have to be dealt with. The roof collapsed under snow in 2009.

“But he’s done absolutely nothing to try to put a roof back on it,” Kohout said. “It doesn’t have a roof, but in his world it does.”

Thornes of St. Clair could not be reached for comment.

He bought the decrepit century-old building in 2010 for $1. His stated goal was to eventually to turn the structure into a local-history museum or some type of business.

The building over time has accommodated a furniture and hardware store, a veterinarian’s office, a butcher shop and the Waldorf Produce Company.

Thornes, who is representing himself in the lawsuit, has said his intent was to develop community support for building renovation and to apply for grant funding.

But Kohout said the building’s deteriorated state makes it a public health and safety hazard and, therefore, within the city’s rights to raze it. She said the city had even offered to buy it from Thornes for $5,000.

“The City Council has told him it looks terrible, and the city surveyed people in town and most said they want it down.”

Kohout said the city is delaying demolition of the building because  Thornes has begun to dismantle it on his own.

She said the city will hold back on its own tear-down work as long as he continues to be “productive” in doing so himself.