Candidate faces lawsuit for sawing garage in half in ongoing property dispute
NASHWAUK TOWNSHIP -- The Republican candidate for Minnesota House District 6A on the Iron Range faces a civil trial in Itasca County this week after sawing his neighbor's garage in half.
NASHWAUK TOWNSHIP - The Republican candidate for Minnesota House District 6A on the Iron Range faces a civil trial in Itasca County this week after sawing his neighbor’s garage in half.
Roger Weber of rural Nashwauk is being sued by Mark Besemann of Iron after Weber used a power saw to bisect the building. Weber then removed half of the garage he insists was built, decades ago, on property that he now owns.
Besemann is suing Weber for $20,000 in damage to the garage and $20,000 in punitive damages. Besemann also is seeking a small portion of Weber’s land adjacent to the garage to act as a buffer to any additional actions Weber might take.
State District Court Judge Lois Lang is scheduled to hear the case Monday and Tuesday in Grand Rapids.
The dispute goes back to at least January 2012, when Weber’s father, Robert, died.
According to court documents filed in the lawsuit, Robert Weber had owned 40 acres along Itasca County Road 8 northwest of Nashwauk since 1953, including a house and the now-infamous garage. In 1978, he transferred the title to 39 acres to his son, Roger Weber, but kept the house, garage and an acre of land.
Roger Weber still owns that 39 acres of undeveloped land, which is a mix of woods and hayfields. He lives just down County Road 8 on different land.
When Robert Weber died, the house, garage and 1 acre passed to his daughter, Ann Anderson, who lives in Arizona. The property had, in fact, been in her name since 1996.
After his father’s death, Roger Weber said, he told his sister he was going to remove any structures that were on his side of the property line.
Meanwhile, on April 18, 2013, Besemann purchased the home from Anderson. The sale was recorded with the county on April 22.
On April 27, Besemann returned to the property he had just purchased to find the garage cut in half.
“I live a half-hour away, so I’m not over there every day. About a week after I closed on it, I drove in to see that half the garage was gone,” Besemann said. “I had a pretty good hunch who did it, but I waited a few days to call him. Someone who does something like that isn’t thinking properly. I didn’t want to get him any angrier. I didn’t know what else he might do. … It was a pretty rough way to greet your new neighbor.”
Besemann said he was aware there was some dispute over the exact property line between Anderson’s acre and Roger Weber’s 39 acres. But he said he assumed the old family dispute could be worked out in neighborly negotiations now that he owned the house.
“Apparently the property line problem, that the garage might be partially on his (39) acres, wasn’t a problem when his dad lived there. But after I bought it, it became a problem,” Besemann said.
Weber has said that he assumed the house still belonged to his sister when he sawed the garage in half, removing the half he says was on his side of the property line. And Weber says he clearly told his sister that he would take the garage down.
“He (Besemann) knew what he was getting into,” Weber told the News Tribune on Friday.
Weber declined to answer additional questions, saying it was a “private” matter not related to his running for public office. He referred calls to his attorney, Brian Bengtson of Grand Rapids. Bengtson did not immediately return a request to comment on the case.
“It’s a family thing,” Weber said of the garage dispute, before hanging up.
Besemann said he called Roger Weber on May 12, 2013, in an effort to resolve the issue, but the two could not reach an agreement. Besemann said he asked the Itasca County Sheriff’s Office to investigate, but they declined, Besemann said, because it was a property line dispute. Besemann said the Itasca County Attorney’s Office also declined to prosecute Weber.
“He never denied he did it; he just kept saying it was on his land,” Besemann said.
In an interview with the Grand Rapids Herald-Review shortly after the garage was cut in half, Weber said he would continue to remove structures connected to his father’s former house that he believed were on his side of the property line.
“Everything on my side of the line is going to go,” Weber told the paper. “I took it down like I told her (Anderson) I was going to.”
Besemann said everyone knows the garage was on the driveway to the house he purchased.
“It’s clear to anyone who drives by the house … The garage, the driveway, everything belongs together. It’s painted the same color. That was always his dad’s garage. His dad mowed the lawn around it for 50 years,” Besemann noted.
Moreover, county records show that Robert Weber had paid taxes on the garage and adjacent property for at least the previous five years - clearly showing, Besemann noted, that it belonged as part of Robert Weber’s property, not Roger Weber’s 39 undeveloped acres.
Besemann filed the initial suit in September 2013.
On Oct. 3, 2013, months after the garage had been halved, Roger Weber paid to have the land re-surveyed. Indeed, the correct property line between what had been Robert Weber’s land and Roger Weber’s land runs about halfway through the garage, almost exactly where the garage was cut.
But Besemann says that doesn’t justify destroying the garage. Since then, the property’s septic system, which also sits on the wrong side of the property line, has been tampered with, Besemann claims, rendering the house unlivable for renters because they can’t flush the toilet.
“They got the property line wrong years ago when his dad gave him the land, but now he’s taking it out on me,” Besemann said.
Since the initial garage incident, Weber has put up a fence and “No Trespassing” signs along the half of the garage that is now removed, splitting the concrete pad in half.
Efforts to reach a pretrial settlement through arbitration failed in recent weeks.
Weber, the Republican-endorsed candidate for the District 6A House seat, faces incumbent DFLer Carly Melin in the Nov. 4 general election. Weber lost to Melin for the same seat in 2012. He also has run unsuccessfully for the Itasca County Board.