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Developer seeks condemnation of private road for public use

KANDIYOHI -- Owners of a new housing development near Swan Lake are asking the Kandiyohi Township supervisors to condemn a privately owned road and turn it into a township road.

A majority of the owners of the road object.

The township supervisors will hold a hearing on the proposal at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the township meeting hall in Kandiyohi.

The road leads to Swan Lake Estates, a new housing development owned by Ricky and Angee Whitcomb of Lake Lillian. The plat for the six-lot development was given final approval in February of 2006 but so far no homes have been built on the land.

The Whitcombs share in the ownership and easement rights to the private road.

All the other owners, including Larry Peart and the Swan Lake Hunting Club, are objecting to the proposal. They are in the process of obtaining signatures on a petition to oppose the plan.

Peart said the Whitcombs want the public to pay to improve and maintain the road so that it will make their housing development more marketable.

When contacted Friday afternoon by the West Central Tribune, Angee Whitcomb said the family does not want to comment.

The road

The road was a major point of contention when the plat for Swan Lake Estates was being considered by the Kandiyohi County Planning Commission and County Board of Commissioners.

When the Planning Commission first heard the proposal in 2004, members were told the narrow dirt road that extends from the existing Township Road 169 was owned by Kandiyohi Township. That meant it could be improved to create a safe road for future residents of Swan Lake Estates.

Following court action that was initiated by the Swan Lake Hunting Club, it was ruled in June of 2005 that the 1,150-foot section of contested road was not an unimproved township road but was, in fact, privately owned.

Judge Gerald Seibel gave the adjoining landowners a three-rod easement to the road.

The plat

During debate in 2006 about the plat for the development, it was asked how a housing development could be approved when it could only be accessed on a poorly kept, privately owned road that could be difficult for emergency vehicles to use.

That issue was raised not only by Peart, the other hunting club members and another landowner, Andrew Lindquist, but also by two Kandiyohi County Commissioners who voted against the plat.

The Whitcombs' attorney, Wally Gustafson, said at the time that the condition of the road was not a problem and could actually enhance the experience of people who wanted to live in a quiet environment.

Under county planning rules for residential plats, a public road is not required to extend to a housing development. However, this is believed to be the only situation of its kind in Kandiyohi County.

The planning rules did require the Whitcombs to build a new road, called Swan Lake Drive, within the housing development. Swan Lake Drive is now classified as a township road.

But the road that links Swan Lake Drive to County Road 8 is still a roughly kept private road.

Last month the Whitcombs filed a petition asking the Kandiyohi Township supervisors to obtain additional land on either side of the private road from the neighboring landowners to create a new township road that would link Swan Lake Drive to County Road 8.

This will be the second time the Whitcombs have made such a request. It was denied in October of 2005 on 2-1 vote.

Peart, who is a member of the Swan Lake Hunting Club that owns land by the housing development, said if the request is approved this time, the club and other landowners will have their land taken from them to build a new 4-rod road for the Whitcombs. He said a large number of trees would also have to be removed.

He said it doesn't make sense to take private land away from some people in order to benefit someone else.

Carolyn Lange

A reporter for more than 30 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.

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