Minnesota Courts Strengthen Pre-Condemnation Notice Rights of Property Owners
In May 1999, Douglas County authorized condemnation of a 2.5-acre parcel owned by Dennis Rapp for reconstruction and improvement of County Road 61. Shortly thereafter, the County proceeded with the condemnation and awarded Rapp $6,000 in compensation. Rapp filed suit challenging the condemnation, and the trial court ruled that the taking violated the Minnesota Constitution because the authorizing statute prevented judicial review of the public purpose of the condemnation prior to the actual taking. The Minnesota Court of Appeals agreed, and voided the condemnation.1 The result of this decision is that owners must be allowed to contest public use before they lose possession of their property.
When the City of St. Paul commenced eminent domain proceedings pursuant to the City charter seeking temporary and permanent easements over property owned by Sinclair Oil Corp., the company took the City to court. The City wanted the land for a street improvement, and Sinclair operates a gas station there. The trial court overturned the condemnation because the procedures set forth in the City charter do not allow for judicial review of the public purpose or necessity of a condemnation until after the condemnation and actual taking have occurred. In August 2002, the Minnesota Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s ruling and voided the taking.2 This case confirms the holding in the Rapp case, discussed above, that owners must be given an opportunity to challenge public use before they lose their property.
1 See In re Rapp, 621 N.W. 2d 781, 787 (Minn. App. 2001).
2 See Sinclair Oil Corp. v. City of St. Paul, 2002 Minn. App. LEXIS 966, at *1-*2 (Aug. 20, 2002), rev. denied, 2002 Minn. LEXIS 649 (Minn. Oct. 15, 2002).