Couple feels cheated after city lease agreement endsDoing business with the city of Superior left a bad taste in the mouths of the former owners of the Nemadji Trailer Court and Campground. When Dick and Cindy Larson went into business more than 30 years ago, the deal came with two parts.
By: Shelley Nelson, Superior Telegram
Doing business with the city of Superior left a bad taste in the mouths of the former owners of the Nemadji Trailer Court and Campground.
When Dick and Cindy Larson went into business more than 30 years ago, the deal came with two parts.
First the couple had to purchase the business from Roger and Evelyn Hanson; then they had to secure a lease with the city for the land on which it stood.
The Larsons were the third owners of the business that got its start in 1950 on leased city land.
Now the couple, who now lives in Duluth — a home purchased before the sale of their business went south — feels cheated by the deal that allowed them to retire.
“They basically took the business,” Cindy Larson said.
The Larsons say they were compensated by the city for the infrastructure they built over the last 30 years, but say the city never bought the ready-made business they built over that time.
The business included the tenants and campers who come to the park, the leases and other tangible assets that made it a thriving enterprise for the last 30+ years.
While the city paid $185,000 to the couple in September, Dick Larson said the couple could have gotten twice that amount if they had been allowed to sell the business.
“We had two people that were interest and the price was $375,000,” he said. “They appraised just our personal property that’s there — nothing for the business, of course, at all.”
The city paid what the building and other improvements to the property were worth according to an appraisal by F.I. Salter Real Estate Services.
It’s a business the couple paid more than $72,000 when they bought it in 1981, Cindy Larson said.
That sale was contingent on securing a land lease from the city.
For most of those years, the couple ran the business without any interference from the city. However, as the 30-year lease neared its end, Cindy Larson said that’s when problems began.
While the city continued to own the land, and the Larsons leased it from the city, Dick Larson said when the couple was working with former Mayor Dave Ross toward a transition of ownership, Ross was supportive of the effort to sell the business, which was confirmed by the former mayor.
However, the road got rocky from there.
From city interference in running the business — the city forced a tenant in who the couple had denied access to because the tenant had not met the couple’s standards for operation — to a high appraisal of the land value that made purchasing the land to pursue the sale cost-prohibitive, Dick Larson said. He said the tenant he and Cindy rejected never paid a dime in rent.
“We’re getting a raw deal,” Dick Larson said.
After all, when the mobile home park was going through its transition a year ago, Adam Lozon had identified himself as someone interested in running the business.
In fact, he was one of the two people interested in buying the business, although he said the price hadn’t been discussed really.
However, to prepare for owning the mobile home park and running it, Lozon had gone to seminars to learn about the legal requirements for operating the business.
Running a mobile home park is different than other landlord-tenant relationships, Cindy Larson said.
And Lozon had worked side-by-side with Dick Larson to learn the ropes.
In the end, Lozon ended up walking away without an opportunity to take over the business.
And the Larson’s who would have extended the lease, if necessary, to run the business until it was sold, walked away feeling cheated.
“We bought the business 30 years ago,” Cindy Larson said. “We’ve been there ever since and our intention was to sell the business as had been done several years prior … if we had been the park managers as we had been portrayed, we wouldn’t have paid taxes and they would have gotten the bills” for infrastructure improvements the couple made.
“We had a buyer, everything was going to go, and they put a kabash on it,” she said.