LUTSEN — Findings from the most recent State Fire Marshal inspection at
were released following the Tuesday fire that destroyed the building.
According to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety SFM division, statute required the 32-room lodge to be inspected for fire safety once every three years.
conducted by State Inspector Tony Clafton on July 6, 2023, found seven violations at the resort, 5700 W. 61 Highway. Four of the violations had since been repaired by the property owner Bryce Campbell, the report states.
The three remaining unresolved violations were for failure to provide the most recent inspection reports by a licensed contractor on the sprinkler system, as well as reports for the resort’s fire alarm systems and equipment. Repair/replacement of an emergency light was also unresolved.
Although the resort was initially flagged for not maintaining the proper clearance surrounding the water heater, the violation was listed as “repaired” in the report.
According to a news release, it is too early in the investigation to determine if the three outstanding violations played a role in the fire. Details of the active investigation are not yet available as the case remains open.
The SFM is partnering with the Lutsen Fire Department to investigate the fire.
As crews continued to extinguish hot spots on the scene, SFM investigators are also sifting through debris and ashes to review any physical evidence. They will also review paperwork, such as business and financial reports, and conduct a multitude of interviews.
“We understand the public wants answers,” said State Fire Marshal Chief Investigator Jim Iammatteo in the news release. “However, it would be irresponsible to offer any insights until the conclusion of this investigation.”
Before the fire Tuesday, the News Tribune found there were a handful of financial and legal discrepancies tied to Lutsen Lodge and Campbell.
Several cabin owners have recently filed lawsuits against Lutsen Resort and/or its parent company North Shore Resort Co., both owned by Campbell.
Each of these conciliation cases filed with Minnesota’s Sixth Judicial District Court were for unpaid rental income and fees for their properties managed and rented out through the resort.
On Feb. 1, Robert and Karin Nagel, both of Eden Prairie, Minnesota, claimed they are owed $12,935.
“Lutsen Resort and their management company has not paid us the rental income owed to us for our cabin for the months of September, October, November and December of 2023,” the Nagels reported.
The Nagels also claimed the agreed-upon electric bills were unpaid, and cleaning did not occur which left their property “in total disarray.”
On Feb. 5, Joanne Stohl, of Dundas, Minnesota, claimed she is owed $11,050.
“I was paid my rental money through July. After that nothing was paid to me,” Stohl reported.
On Feb. 6, Jay and Peggy Halvorson, both of Edina, Minnesota, claimed they are owed $15,075.
“We have not been paid for any business past July 31 even as the townhouse has continued to be marketed and rented,” Jay Halvorson reported.
On Feb. 7, Cliffhouse Townhome owners Lee and Helen Brudvig, both of Andover, Minnesota, claimed they are owed $14,293.30.
The Brudvigs reported the resort acknowledged an amount due on a September statement and it “could not be paid because of financial shortfalls.”
“Please note that I and other homeowners (of) our HOA reached agreement to terminate the Rental Management Agreement on Jan. 7, 2024,” the Brudvigs reported.
On Feb. 16, 2023, Minnesota’s Sixth Judicial District Court found that Donald Holm Construction Inc., a Duluth-based construction company, filed a claim for breach of contract and unjust enrichment against Campbell and his companies (Superior Shores Resort, North Shore Resort Co. and Shores Resort Co.) in November 2022.
Superior Shores hired the construction company in fall 2019 to perform remediation and reconstruction work. The work took place from February 2020 to January 2021 and was billed at $309,918. According to court records, Campbell paid $125,963.
Donald Holm Construction began taking action by filing claims for unpaid work at the resort July 15, 2021. Superior Shores filed a counterclaim Sept. 3, 2021, for slander of title.
The construction company was awarded $146,000.
Bridge over troubled waters
The flooding of the Poplar River from late April 2022 through late June 2022 damaged bridges on the resort property. Although Lutsen Resort had not initially applied for the proper permit from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources to repair the damages, it had already begun unauthorized work on them, according to DNR Director of Communications Gail Nosek.
DNR Officer Kylan Hill issued a cease-and-desist order Sept. 7, 2022, to halt the unpermitted work.
Nosek said Lutsen Resort then requested permission to operate machinery in the river to access one of the bridge decks to address safety issues. To address the immediate public safety issue, the Minnesota DNR provided a limited-term emergency authorization (not a permit) for the sole purpose of operating equipment necessary to reach the damaged, unsafe bridge.
A six-day authorization was issued Sept. 9, 2022, to protect important fall fish spawning in the riverbed beyond that date, Nosek explained.
Officer Hill returned to the Poplar River location Sept. 15 and found the work was beyond the scope of what was allowed under the emergency authorization and ordered all work stopped at that time.
In June 2023, Lutsen Resort applied for an after-the-fact authorization to replace one of the covered bridges destroyed by flooding, which it was granted by the DNR that October. Lutsen Resort paid the increased fee.
Following the resolution of the cease-and-desist order, no other fees and no fines have been associated with this project, Nosek said.
Lutsen Resort contracted a consultant to design repair of the unauthorized excavation conducted in the Poplar River, but has not yet applied for a permit to perform the repair work.
“It’s Minnesota DNR’s understanding that Lutsen Resort decided not to replace the second damaged bridge,” Nosek said.