Swanville uses eminent domain to obtain property

Mayor Sandy Lange informed the Swanville City Council, Tuesday, that she had talked to City Attorney Joe Krueger regarding the sale of an empty lot owned by Cory DeFoe.

At its meeting last month, the Council learned that DeFoe had said he wanted to sell the lot to the city. The city was interested in the lot as it adjoins city lots 103, 105 and 107 on Berkey Avenue, allowing the city to maintain the lot.

The Council then asked Council Member Jim Molitor to research the value of the property for a better understanding of what offer to make DeFoe.

Lots in that area are currently sold at the $1,500 range.

Lange told the Council that since DeFoe allegedly refused to sell the lot to the city, Krueger had said the city can take the lot by eminent domain.

“I really don’t want to do it this way, but he kind of leaves us no choice,” Lange told the Council.

Eminent domain allows the government to take private property for public use. According to the Minnesota Legislative Reference Library, “The Takings Clause of the U.S. Constitution says that private property may not be taken for public use without just compensation.”

The next step for the city is to have DeFoe’s lot surveyed, which will cost the city about $400.

In addition to that cost in order to proceed with using its eminent domain power, the city will need to have the lot appraised, as well. Exactly how much that will cost the city is unknown.

The Council has not yet determined when it will seek eminent domain, but is considering waiting until spring of 2018.

Molitor told the Council that he had contacted DeFoe and had repeatedly asked him how much he was asking for the property.

“He kept telling me to just throw him an offer. When I did, he just kept telling me to give another. He wouldn’t even give me an idea of what he’s actually looking to get,” Molitor said.

From the conversation Molitor had with DeFoe, he said DeFoe may be looking to get more money for the lot than what it’s actually worth.

“With the cost of having it surveyed and appraised, along with legal fees, it will probably end up costing the city more than the lot is worth,” Lange said.

Swanville City Council Briefs

In other business Tuesday, the Swanville City Council:

  • Heard from Swanville resident Bea Golombecki that a strip 15 feet long, 1-1.5 feet wide and 4 inches deep had been torn up when Second Street was tarred. The Council decided that Maintenance Man Lonnie Hutchins will clean it up, fill in the strip with dirt and seed it to grass in the spring;
  • Heard from City Engineer Mark Hallen that he had examined the city’s invoice. The city was questioning whether or not it was overbilled by about $7,000, since the amount exceeded the estimate Hallen had previously given them. Hallen told the Council that the increased amount was for the additional work that had been completed on the 250 feet extension the Council had decided to do. Hallen offered to absorb that expense, since he had not presented the Council with an updated estimate. The Council decided to review the memo Hallen had submitted to City Hall a week before the Council meeting. The Council will make a decision on the invoice at the next meeting;
  • Approved raising the 2018 proposed levy by 13.6 percent ($10,000) to $83,500. The city’s levy has been set at $73,500 for the last four years. Lange said that it is just a proposal and that once they set a proposed levy they cannot raise it again, but they can lower it; and
  • Approved permits for Joshua Landowski to build a 24-foot by 32-foot garage; and for Tim Dally to put up a 4-foot by 8-foot sign by the North Berkey Avenue apartments.

The next meeting of the Swanville City Council is Tuesday, Oct. 3, at 7 p.m. in the Swanville Center.