Area News | Home | Marketplace | Community

Return to Archived Stories

Paynesville Press - July 17, 2002

Condemnation filed for airport

By Michael Jacobson

A condemnation petition on behalf of the city of Paynesville and Paynesville Township - to acquire the 186 acres of property needed for the proposed airport - was filed on Friday, July 5, in Stearns County District Court.

Named in the condemnation petition are five local landowners: Loren and Jeraldine Meyer; Dennis and Catherine Rothstein; Jason and Angela Mages; Andrew and Beverly Winstrom; and Patrick and Lorie Meagher. These landowners were to be served papers last week.

Attorneys for the Paynesville Regional Airport Commission had notified the landowners 90 days before filing the condemnation proceedings, with the intention of reaching negotiated settlements, but none were consummated. "During that period of time, we hoped that negotiated settlements would be filed with each and every one," John Martin, a St. Paul attorney who is handling the condemnation proceedings, told the airport commission last week, "and there were none."

The airport commission also heard an update from land negotiator Dave Oleson, who noted that several of the landowners were cooperative, but no signed agreements had been reached.

One discrepancy seems to be over the value of the land. Under the updated appraisals, the airport commission now values the land at $1,600 per acre, up from its previous appraised value of $1,300 per acre. Counsel for one landowner asked a price twice the appraised amount, and the appraisal done for another landowner was twice that amount, too. "Very far apart on value," noted Oleson, in his summary to the airport commission last week.

The airport commission is planning to use a quick take process in condemnation, which could give them title to the land as soon as August, though the court proceedings to determine the ultimate price would continue, explained Martin.

A hearing in St. Cloud is scheduled for Thursday, Aug. 1, at 1:30 p.m. At that hearing, Martin hopes the court will approve the taking of land (giving the city and township title to the property and allowing the airport commission to move forward with its construction plans) and will assign three commissioners, who will be knowledgeable about real estate, to hear evidence on the value of the property and to make a decision as to its worth.

The benefit of the quick take process is the early granting of title to the land. The drawback is that the ultimate price of the land is not known when the land is acquired.

Consequently, the city and township will need to deposit money to purchase land, based on the $1,600 per acre price in its latest appraisals, to the court on Aug. 1. For any award above that price, the difference, plus interest, would have to be paid when a judgment on the price is issued, which Martin expects in late August or September.

Airport commission member Ed McIntee, an opponent of the current airport plan, asked Martin if any urgency needed to be shown to use the quick take process.

Martin responded that just a public purpose needed to be shown, with the judge awarding title if convinced of the public purpose. Should the judge need to be convinced of the public purpose, added Martin, the judge could change the condemnation proceedings to a regular take process, where the purpose and price would be argued in court before title would be given to the city and township.

To build the airport, 50.08 acres need to be purchased, as well as 21.29 acres taken in a permanent easement, from the Winstroms; 6.97 acres need to be purchased from the Meyers; 0.08 acres need to be acquired by permanent easement from the Meaghers; 59.89 acres need to be purchased from the Mageses (who also own 22 acres that will be separated from the parcels that the airport commission needs to buy); and 47.33 acres need to be purchased from the Rothsteins as well as 9.9 acres acquired by permanent easement.

The current estimate by the airport commission's appraiser calls for a total value of $291,500 for all the land needed to be acquired for the new airport, with permanent easements valued at half the $1,600 per acre figure, or $800 per acre.

Zoning compensation
Meagher, who also is a township supervisor, also approached the airport commission at their meeting last week on Wednesday, July 10, about how to obtain compensation for land that loses value due to the airport zoning. At the zoning hearing, Meagher recalled, landowners were told that anyone who loses property value will be compensated.

To get compensation, Martin and city attorney Bill Spooner agreed, the landowner would need to demonstrate a "taking" of the property, in essence showing that the property was useless, something that is difficult to do, but could be done in a case-by-case basis.

The place to start, they said, was the airport commission, which could pay them compensation if the commission was convinced that property was devalued by the zoning. Or approach the city council or township board. A final option was to hire an attorney to seek damages.

Meagher said he was particularly concerned about property at the end of the runway, where the strictest zoning restrictions will be in effect, especially the school, where the school board has passed a resolution opposing the airport zoning because of building restrictions on the southern portion of its property.

"To me, they did lose value," he said.

He wanted to address this issue with the airport commission because people were asking him what to do, he said. People might be waiting for someone to bring a check to their door, he noted, when that wasn't going to happen.

Contact the author at   •   Return to News Menu

Home | Marketplace | Community