The City of Prior Lake, Minnesota is paving the way for eminent domain abuse. The city wants to move a road that goes through the middle of downtown to a new location – wiping out 34 homes and one business in the process. City officials cite a traffic study to justify the need to raze those homes to improve traffic flow. The neighborhood, however, contends the city’s plan is merely a pretext to transfer property from one owner to another for private economic development.
Wes Mader, one of those impacted homeowners and former mayor of Prior Lake, argues that the city has already met the study’s recommendation and has built more roads to accommodate increased traffic. It appears city officials are not being forthright in their ultimate goals for the project.
The homes in Mader’s neighborhood are well-kept, yet modest. They go for an average of $175,000 – less than half the average listing price for other homes in Prior Lake. The property owners fear the goal is to bulldoze the neighborhood’s modest homes and replace them with more upscale houses and glitzy stores.
However, Minnesota was one of the first states to pass meaningful eminent reform after Kelo, explicitly prohibiting municipalities from using eminent domain for private economic development. While there are currently no plans for residential or commercial development in the neighborhood, Mr. Mader and his neighbors are convinced that this is the ultimate goal behind this project.
A community meeting will be held on August 31, to discuss the project. Lee McGrath, Executive Director of IJ’s Minnesota Chapter, plans to talk with concerned home and business owners about what they can do to save their homes.