Supreme Court will not rule on
bike trail eminent domain case
Wednesday, April 24, 2013 4:58 AM
In a decision handed down on Tuesday, April 16, by the Minnesota Supreme Court, which would have allowed the court to rule on the question of whether the Forestville-to-Preston bike trail segment is authorized under statutory law, was denied. The decision is the latest development in the ongoing eminent domain dispute between the City of Preston and the Vernon Ristau and John Snyder families.
The dispute officially began on March 2, 2009, when the Preston City Council passed a resolution to exercise eminent domain upon properties along the proposed bike trail segment which had not been purchased. The Ristau and Snyder families sued the city that same year.
At the Fillmore County Third District Court on April 4, 2012, Judge Jeffrey Thompson ruled in favor of the city and the appellants appealed to the Minnesota Court of Appeals. After hearing arguments from both sides, the court released an unpublished opinion on Feb. 11, 2013, which remanded the case back to the district court for further clarification on their decision based on the case's facts and findings.
Within the unpublished opinion paper, appeals court Judge Larry Collins addressed the statutes in question, Minn. Stat. 86A.05, subd. 4 and Minn. Stat. 85.015, subd. 7(b), and stated that they did not authorize the Preston-to-Forestville segment of trail.
The appellants' lawyer Larry J. Peterson of Peterson, Logren & Kilbury, P.A., in St. Paul, filed the petition on Feb. 22 to the Minnesota Supreme Court. In a statement at that time, Peterson said, "We are optimistic that the case can end at this point instead of forcing it back down to the trial court." The court would have been able to rule on the case once and for all, send it back to the appeals court for a final decision, or deny the petition all together and send it back to the district court. The latter was the outcome.
"We were disappointed. We wanted to end the case at this stage," shared Peterson. He said the appellants still feel good about their chances to see the case turn in their favor since he felt the court of appeals narrowed the scope of the remand back to the district court.
"The court of appeals has already ruled that it (the trail) is not lawful under legislation," he stated. The appeals court interpretation of the statutes was not considered, since the district court did not provide a full explanation for its ruling.
City of Preston attorney Dwight Luhmann shared, "We are back to where we were before. It's what we wanted."
The city had also filed a conditional cross-review petition to the Minnesota Supreme Court, which would have been considered had the appellant's petition been accepted. The cross-review petition would have raised issues with the appeal.
It is not known when the district court will give their clarification on why the statutory law can be used to establish the Preston-to-Forestville trail. Depending on what the district court comes forth with, the case will then revert back to the appeals court for a possible final decision.