Noise at Oaks Apartments stirs dispute

In a classic example of he-said, she-said, a resident of a

Oaks Apartments resident Kathy Larsin, in front of the apartment building last week.

Princeton housing development is going head-to-head with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development over alleged alcohol consumption at the Oaks Apartments.

Oaks resident Kathy Larsin filed a grievance with the Princeton Housing and Redevelopment Authority, alleging problems with alcohol consumption, smoking, cleanliness and the means in which resident complaints are handled.

The grievance was heard before hearing officer Michelle Twitt of the St. Cloud HRA on August 22. Twitt will make a recommendation within the next few weeks whether a policy should be changed on alcohol consumption at the Oaks Apartments property in Princeton.

Larsin, doesn’t believe residents’ complaints, overall, were getting resolved, said attorneys who negotiated an agreement to change the way complaints are handled at the Oaks.

The new policy will be that when an Oaks resident has a complaint, they will fill out a form with an explanation of the complaint, the Oaks manager will sign and time stamp it, and the form will go to the HRA board. That board will then have 14 days to respond to the complainant.

When the hearing took place, Larsin said, the discussion never went into smoking and cleanliness issues. She said the understanding became that anyone having complaints about those issues can use the new complaint process.

Oaks Apartments manager Katherine “Kat” Kleinbaum, in an interview, said that having a policy of no alcohol out on the grounds of the Oaks Apartments would be impractical to enforce. Should she have to go around looking into every cup or container someone has out on the apartment grounds, Kleinbaum asked.

Police Chief Brian Payne said it is difficult to assess the whole truth of what has happened because it is a lot of “he said, she said.”

The way to handle this, Payne recommended, is if someone feels anyone is disorderly or disturbing the peace, they should call the police. It is perfectly legal to drink outside on the grounds of that residential property, just as it is for anyone else at their residence, Payne added.

Kathy Reineccius, who is a resident at the Oaks and on the HRA board, worries that the grievances that led to the hearing will be portrayed in a way that gives the Oaks Apartments an unnecessary black eye.

What Larsin has talked about is “out of the norm” for the Oaks Apartments, Reineccius said, praising the Oaks for its long tradition of providing a home for those who cannot afford other lodging.

Kleinbaum characterized any apartment building with 40 units being like a family of 40, in which some aren’t going to get along with each other. The way to deal with that is to avoid the person that you can’t get along with, Kleinbaum said.