- Associated Press - Tuesday, December 23, 2014

CLAREMONT, Minn. (AP) - A small southeastern Minnesota community is trying but failing to give away land for free.

Claremont, which has about 500 residents, has had no takers in the three years it has been offering free lots to anyone with a qualifying income who is willing to build a house, Minnesota Public Radio News reported (http://bit.ly/1AE46QS ). The city, which is located between Owatonna and Rochester, has three churches, three parks, a gas station and a bank - all within one square mile.

City officials hired a developer about a decade ago to build a 15-home subdivision on the city’s north end in the hopes of attracting workers from the neighboring cities to live there. Claremont issued $450,000 in bonds, but the developer defaulted by 2006 after building one home.

City Clerk and Treasurer Liz Sorg said the city reclaimed the land, but no one wanted to buy the lots.

“And then we said, ‘Well, they’re not going. Maybe we could just give ‘em away?’” she said.

Mayor Don Gray said people probably aren’t interested because they assume there’s a catch.

“If I were driving by and saw the free sign, I’d say, ‘Oh, yeah?’” he said.

Sorg said the transfer would require $1,000 in administrative fees but would otherwise be free for anyone who meets the income requirements, such as making no more than $74,200 for a family of two.

“First come, first served,” she said. “Fourteen choices. And some of them, they’re not all the same size lots. Some are a little bit bigger than the others.”

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Information from: Minnesota Public Radio News, http://www.mprnews.org

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