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Judge orders against Helga Township farmer in excavation case

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news Bemidji, 56619

Bemidji Minnesota P.O. Box 455 56619

PARK RAPIDS -- A Hubbard County judge on Monday ordered a Laporte man to stop removing dirt and rocks from his property without a permit, possibly putting an end to a civil suit that has occupied Helga Township's attention since July 2012.

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The case has its origins in the fall of 2011, when Doug Crosby hired co-defendant Reierson Construction of Bemidji to remove rocks and dirt from his property in preparation for grazing cattle. After Crosby's neighbors' complained, Helga Township officials said he needed a permit to remove the rocks. Crosby kept on trucking out rocks and dirt in defiance of the township since he applied for a permit but didn't pay the additional fees he owed for getting his permit after-the-fact.

The township served him with a cease-and-desist order in 2012, but when Crosby threatened to violate the order to stop dredging on the property, the township countered with an injunctive lawsuit.

Crosby said he didn't need a permit because the primary use of his land was agriculture, not excavation.

He fought on even though District Judge Robert Tiffany questioned whether Crosby was straining the definition of an agricultural operation. Tiffany also on Monday dismissed Crosby's countersuit in the order.

"Doesn't taking hundreds, thousands of acres of soil strain the reasonable interpretation of farming?" the judge asked during one hearing.

Crosby's attorney Zenas Baer had argued the township was using "bootstrap logic" to bolster its case.

Tillage equipment is necessary to prepare the land for custom grazing paddocks. To do that, some excavation and truck activity must occur, he said. It is unclear if Baer will pursue the case further. A call to his office Tuesday was not returned. Crosby could not be reached for comment.

A jury trial for the case was scheduled for Feb. 13 but was later postponed until March and then canceled altogether.

Forum Communications reporter Sarah Smith contributed to this report.

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