Bike Path Trumps Property Rights In Minnesota Eminent Domain Case

Dakota County, Minnesota wants to build a bike trail on a Mississippi River property and is wiling to rebuke property rights and seize the land by eminent domain. Two Minnesota sisters lost their father, and then they had to stand by an watch as the land he loved yanked away as well. Apparently, property rights are far less important than a bike path to the Hastings elected officials. The 10-acre Mississippi River property has been in Bill Sorg's family since 1896 and was willed to the sisters upon their father's death.

The county refused to accept a property easement offer by the sisters which would have permitted the completion of the bike path. Exactly why the Minnesota lawmakers would have created a bike path plan involving land not already owned by the county remains to be seen. Local residents are fighting back against the county's quest to acquire a total of 120-acres of land inside the Spring Lake Park Reserve. Most of the land and homes have been owned by a single family for generations.

Sisters Joni Sargent and Nancy Drews offered to sell just over one acre of land to the county for the bike path, even though they did not want to part with any of their father's property. According to statements by the sisters, the county opted against the offer and voted during a closed door session to take the entire 10-acres via eminent domain statutes.

Sargent and Drews are appealing the decision for the yet unfunded bike path. "Our father meant to leave this property to us and our children," Sargent said. Drews noted during multiple media interview that the sisters had spent their entire lives on the Mississippi River property, which also includes a marina. Drews also said she is feeling "Totally overwhelmed. I have heart issues and may heart have been fighting this since November 5. It's horrible. It just means way too much to us. We can't lose it."

Dakota County Park Director Steve Sullivan had this to say about the Mississippi River eminent domain controversy:

"That riverfront is important to protecting the shoreline, protecting the Mississippi River water quality, and also providing opportunity for public access."
eminent doman

Dakota County officials offered the sisters $370,000 for the property, considering the real estate appraisal their father had completed several years ago, it is easy to understand why they were insulted. It is not logical to think the $1.3 million price tag the appraiser placed on the Mississippi Riverfront property would have decreased so significantly in such a short period of time.The county reportedly has until March 31 to garner a $3 million federal grant to build the bike path, camper cabins, and picnic area.

Eminent domain was once rarely used and reserved only for major public works projects. Although when you buy a piece of land it should be yours forever, perhaps the projects which brought electricity to very remote areas at least offered a true benefit to the region and negatively impacted homeowners. Fighting to keep your land despite what worthy goal would be accomplished by its governmental seizure would be an uphill battle, but one worth waging. If a bike path and public access to an enjoyable outdoor area is all the government needs to claim your property, millions of homeowners across the United States are at risk.


Why do you think eminent domain cases are becoming more prevalent in the United States?

[Featured Image Via:]