Buy the Farm cases on St. Cloud to Monticello line

Filed under:Fargo-St Cloud,St.Cloud-Monticello — posted by admin on October 26, 2011 @ 9:04 am

Remember not too long ago that landowners challenged the utilities’ attempt to limit their compensation if they chose the Buy the Farm option?  Buy the Farm is Minn. Stat. 216E.12, Subd. 4:

Subd. 4. Contiguous land.

When private real property that is an agricultural or nonagricultural homestead, nonhomestead agricultural land, rental residential property, and both commercial and noncommercial seasonal residential recreational property, as those terms are defined in section 273.13 is proposed to be acquired for the construction of a site or route for a high-voltage transmission line with a capacity of 200 kilovolts or more by eminent domain proceedings, the fee owner, or when applicable, the fee owner with the written consent of the contract for deed vendee, or the contract for deed vendee with the written consent of the fee owner, shall have the option to require the utility to condemn a fee interest in any amount of contiguous, commercially viable land which the owner or vendee wholly owns or has contracted to own in undivided fee and elects in writing to transfer to the utility within 60 days after receipt of the notice of the objects of the petition filed pursuant to section 117.055. Commercial viability shall be determined without regard to the presence of the utility route or site. The owner or, when applicable, the contract vendee shall have only one such option and may not expand or otherwise modify an election without the consent of the utility. The required acquisition of land pursuant to this subdivision shall be considered an acquisition for a public purpose and for use in the utility’s business, for purposes of chapter 117 and section 500.24, respectively; provided that a utility shall divest itself completely of all such lands used for farming or capable of being used for farming not later than the time it can receive the market value paid at the time of acquisition of lands less any diminution in value by reason of the presence of the utility route or site. Upon the owner’s election made under this subdivision, the easement interest over and adjacent to the lands designated by the owner to be acquired in fee, sought in the condemnation petition for a right-of-way for a high-voltage transmission line with a capacity of 200 kilovolts or more shall automatically be converted into a fee taking.

AND LANDOWNERS WON!!!!  The court’s opinion is at this link:

Buy the Farm – a landowner win in District Court!

So now that Xcel’s been slapped down by the court, the landowners are challenging the offers and Commissioners have been appointed by the Court to determine compensation (that’s how eminent domain works under Minn. Stat. ch. 117).

From the St. Cloud Times:

CapX hearings over land payment begin in Stearns

11:17 PM, Oct. 24, 2011

Written by David Unze

The first contested hearings on compensation for property owners whose land was taken for the CapX 2020 high-voltage transmission lines begin today in Stearns County.

Cases will go before a panel of commissioners who will decide what the landowners should get, and two of them will use for the first time a Minnesota statute that was created after the bitter power-line disputes of the 1970s.

The “Buy the Farm” statute was created in response to the controversy that resulted when farmers were served with condemnation notices in preparation for a power line that was to be built through Central Minnesota.

That high-voltage power line was the most controversial energy project in state history and was built despite political, legal and physical challenges from nearby farmers.

The Buy the Farm statute allows certain landowners to force a power company to purchase the landowner’s entire home or farm rather than buy an easement over the property.

Because the law is specific to high-voltage, power-line land takings, and because there haven’t been any such takings since the law was enacted, this is the first chance for a landowner to use the statute, said James E. Dorsey, the attorney who represents Xcel Energy, one of the energy companies behind the CapX project.

There are about 34 contested cases in Wright and Stearns counties from the condemnation cases involving the Monticello-to-St. Cloud segment of the CapX line.

A handful of those involve the Buy the Farm statute.

There are more condemnation cases expected to be filed soon involving the segment that runs from St. Cloud to Alexandria.

Contested hearings on compensation go to a three-person panel appointed by a district court judge. Those panel members meet with the property owners, view the parcels of land and set a value based on the market.

The utility and the landowner have the right to appeal the commissioners’ decision back to the district court judge.

If no resolution is reached, the case could go to trial.

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