Landowners seeking state Supreme
Court ruling on eminent domain case
Wednesday, March 06, 2013 4:57 AM
Judgment from the Minnesota Supreme Court is now being sought by the Snyder and Ristau parties over the disputed use of their land for the DNR-proposed Preston-to-Forestville recreational trail.
The recent Feb. 11 decision by the Minnesota Court of Appeals remanded the case back to the Fillmore County Third District Court to "ensure that the parties will have had the merits of their arguments fully considered by the district court and to enable effective future appellate review . . ." The unpublished opinion produced by the Court of Appeals addressed a lack of explanation rendered by District Court Judge Thompson on the issue of why the court ruled in the favor of the city of Preston. Minnesota Statutes 85.015, subdivision 7 (b) and 86A.05, subdivision 4 were given as evidence that the proposed recreational trail was authorized under statutory law.
Statute 85.015 subd., 7(b) states the authorized locations for a recreational trail and does not include Forestville. The appellants view the proposed trail as a violation of this statute, while the city of Preston considers the Preston-Forestville trail segment as just one part of a future trail that may lead to an authorized location like Ostrander. According to the opinion paper, the appeals court declined to consider that evidence since it was not considered in the district court.
Statute 86A.05, subd. 4 is part of a 1975 legislation called the Minnesota Outdoor Recreation Act. It includes criteria for recreational trails. According to the opinion paper, this statute is cited within Minn. Stat. 85.015 subd., 7(b) in addition to an a criterion which says, " '[the trails authorized by this section] must utilize abandoned railroad rights-of-way where possible.'" In a footnote in the opinion, the appeals court judge states that the placement of 86A.05, subd. 4 within the other statute makes clear "its intent is to place conditions on any expansions authorized by the section." It then goes on to state the court does not think the Preston-to-Forestville segment of the trail is authorized.
Although the court remanded the case back to the district court for clearer explanation on why it felt the trail should be authorized, the appellants felt the appeals court had already indicated its judgment on the case. It is because of this indication that the appellants are appealing the appeals court's decision to remand the case back to the district court.
According to the appellants' lawyer Larry J. Peterson of Peterson, Logren & Kilbury, P.A., in St. Paul, the appellants are appealing to the Minnesota Supreme Court to receive a final decision on the case, filing the request on Friday, Feb. 22.
Peterson maintains the case is purely a legal issue. "The trail has to be authorized under legislation," he stated. He maintained the trail was not while adding, "we are optimistic that the case can end at this point instead of forcing it back down to the trial court."
In a case that has been ongoing since the Preston City Council passed a resolution in 2009, which allowed the use of eminent domain, the appealing parties are looking forward to the case coming to an end, and in their favor.
"It would mean someone is finally paying attention," shared John Snyder. "I'm kind of disappointed in the system because it shouldn't have been a problem in the first place."
Snyder also stated that it's not right for a city to take land from landowners who cannot vote for Preston-elected officials.
The "recreational" label on the trail also upsets the appellants. "If it was a road, a school, or something necessary that the state was doing, that would be another thing," explained Snyder.
In appealing the remand to the Minnesota Supreme Court, the appellants have filed a petition for the court to receive their case. If accepted, the court will then be able to make a final decision on the case or deny the remand and send it back for a final decision from the appeals court.
Peterson feels it will be a more efficient use of the court system for the Supreme Court to accept the petition and then make a final decision.
If the petition is accepted, the appellants will have 30 days to file a brief stating their argument. The city of Preston will then have 20 days from the appellants' filing to file its own brief. This means a final ruling on this case may be in hand before 2013 is over.
City of Preston officials did not have a comment on the appellant's decision to petition the case to the Minnesota Supreme Court.