On May 30, 2018 Governor Mark Dayton signed a public works bill into law. The bill will fund three projects, including the Minnesota Highway 23 “gap” from Paynesville to Richmond and New London to Paynesville. As property owners, you may be wondering what exactly will take place in the coming months as the highway will be expanded from two lanes to four lanes on a seven mile stretch of road between New London and Paynesville, as well as a nine mile stretch of road between Paynesville and Richmond.
While there is no concrete start date, the project is estimated to begin between 2020 and 2022. Right of way will have to be acquired from property prior to construction.
First you should know that the government may only condemn private property if just compensation is aid to impacted property owners. You may be wondering, what is “just compensation?” In the vast majority of condemnation cases, “just compensation” is determined by an appraisal. Importantly, landowners who have been the subject of a government taking are entitled to monetary damages. In other words, the landowner is not required to accept a replacement property as part of a compensation package. Nor will the landowner ever be forced to accept the return of all or part of the property taken. Courts in Minnesota look to what the landowner has lost, rather than what the government has gained. With this in mind, partial takings are common.
Compensation is determined by appraising the market value of the property before the project and after the project, the difference in values is the amount of damages that must be paid as just compensation. In Minnesota, if the government intends to take a piece of your land, rather than the land in its entirety, the landowner will receive payment for the market value of the land taken, as well as “severance damages.”
In Minnesota, the applicable jury instruction is as follows: “To find just compensation to an owner when part of his or her property is taken, calculate the difference between: (1) the fair market value of the entire property immediately before the part was taken; and (2) the fair market value of what is left afterwards. The result is the just compensation for the part taken as well as for severance damages for the part not taken.”
Another important facet of condemnation law in Minnesota is that property owners that are forced to move from their property as a result of a public project are entitled to significant relocation benefits and services. These benefits are intended to ensure that property owners don’t carry the burden of public projects and are in no worse position once the project is done. Often times thoughtfully administered relocation benefits as, if not more, important to displaced people than the value paid for the property.
You may be concerned about the impact this project may have on your property. The Highway 23 Coalition’s website is an excellent resource. It provides a plethora of information on many aspects of the project. Additionally, the Minnesota Department of Transportation’s website provides layout maps that thoroughly highlight the route of the “gap” as well as the land areas affected by its construction. That website notes more information will provided as it becomes available.
The foregoing information may seem a little daunting, but our lawyers are experienced in representing homeowners and business in condemnation projects. Igor, Nick and Adam have represented property owners who were impacted by the previous Highway 23 Bypass Project and over 100 property owners across the state against the CapX power line project in addition to MinnCan pipelines, the Wilmar airport and sewer expansion projects, and numerous other projects throughout the State.
Being from St. Cloud we know your community, its land values and the market. Should you ever receive notice of the government’s intention to condemn your property as part of the Highway 23 “gap” project, we strongly recommend you contact an attorney to ensure your rights are protected. Before you sign anything, you should be sure that MnDOT’s offer is fair and they have considered the full value of your particular property. Rinke Noonan has extensive experience with eminent domain, the condemnation process, and relocation benefits – especially with MnDOT matters. We understand the impacts this Project will have on the value of your property.
By Adam Ripple & Luke Belflower
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