Tom Ruether bought the waterfront cabin on Grand Lake, about 15 miles southwest of St. Cloud, a lifetime ago, during his bachelor days.
Time passed. Tom fell in love, got married. Tom and Holly Ruether remodeled the structure, with the thought that the cozy split-level would be their tranquil retirement home.
"It was their idea this was going to be their happily ever after," says the couple's attorney, Harry Burns.
And so it was, until about 2015.
The property next door on Agate Beach Road had been in the Mimbach family since the 1930s. The original cabin, built circa 1950 on a lot that measures only 50 feet wide, would eventually fall into disrepair.
In April 2015 Kathleen Mimbach and her grandson Matthew applied to the city of Rockville for four building permits. According to court records, the remodel and addition project included adding a new fireplace and plumbing for three bathrooms, with a total cost of "$75,000."
Around November 2016, the Ruethers grew concerned. Their neighbors, with Matthew serving as the project's general contractor, had razed the entirety of the existing cabin, leaving only its footings.
The new foundation that was soon underway appeared to encroach on the Ruethers' property line, and also looked to be in violation of building code setbacks. The couple made their concerns known to Matthew.
According to court documents, he blew them off because "he had floor trusses coming… [so] he would keep going with the construction."
The city of Rockville pretty much did the same. After the Ruethers threatened the municipality (population 2,526) with legal action because it had done nothing about the alleged code violations, the Mimbachs were forced to apply for an after-the-fact setback variance. It was eventually granted by a 3-to-2 city council vote, with Mayor Jeff Hagen casting the deciding vote.
Minutes from the December 2016 meeting show Hagen was allowed to vote, despite disclosing the fact that he was the nephew of Kathleen Mimbach.
The Ruethers sued their neighbors, asking a court to slap an injunction on the lakefront McMansion, which, by that time, was almost complete. Here's what the Mimbach family home looked like before construction started:
And here's what it looked like after:
Does that look like a "$75,000" remodeling job to you?
"It was looming. It was a monstrosity," says Burns, the attorney. "It was a cabin next door to [the Ruethers], but the Mimbachs expanded it every which way. Towards the lake. They expanded towards the road. They encroached on setbacks on neighbors on both sides. They expanded the footprint, and they expanded the footprint that's allowed by ordinance."
In May, it was the Ruethers who got a setback: District Court Judge Vicki Landwehr ruled against their attempt to seek an injunction, though she did warn the Mimbachs that the plaintiffs could one day "prevail at trial." If they did, Landwehr said, "any additional expenses [the Mimbachs] incur to complete the construction project may only serve to increase their economic loss," if her ruling determined that the home would have to be torn down.
That's exactly what's happened.
Landwehr ruled last week that the Mimbachs' structure must be destroyed. In her order, the judge criticized the city for addressing the Ruethers' concerns with "indifference and neglect."
In reference to "the illegal Mimbach structure," Landwehr determined the situation can only be remedied by "the removal of the unlawful structure."
Matthew Mimbach did not return messages seeking comment, and the Mimbachs' lawyer Thomas Jovanovich was unavailable. However, in other news reports about the case, Jovanovich has said the Mimbachs are reviewing Landwehr's ruling, and intend to appeal the tear-down order.