We see that you have javascript disabled. Please enable javascript and refresh the page to continue reading local news. If you feel you have received this message in error, please contact the customer support team at 1-833-248-7801.

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Defendants file counterclaim in dispute over western Minnesota land sought for a county park

The owners of a 40-acre property — which Chippewa County wishes to purchase for use as a park — charge in their counterclaim that a lawsuit against them is an attempt by the plaintiffs to muddy the title. The plaintiffs say they have been maintaining a road, camping area and farm field for more than 15 years and have an "adverse possession" claim to the land title.

This map filed as part of a civil lawsuit shows Chippewa County property involved in a land dispute.
This map filed as part of a civil lawsuit shows Chippewa County property involved in a land dispute.
Contributed
We are part of The Trust Project.

MONTEVIDEO — Defendants in a civil lawsuit over land that Chippewa County is seeking for a county park have refuted the claims made against them, and filed a counterclaim.

In their answer, property owners Mary and Dennis Gibson and Keith and Vicki Poier charge that the lawsuit by Robert W. and Phyllis Starbeck is an effort to muddy the title to their property to prevent its sale to Chippewa County.

The two couples seek damages of more than $10,000 in their countersuit. They ask the court to dismiss the lawsuit by the Starbecks against them and for clear title to their property.

The Starbecks filed the lawsuit claiming "adverse possession" of the 40-acre property jointly owned by Gibsons and Poiers. It is located near the Minnesota River south of Montevideo and adjacent to property owned by the state of Minnesota.

Chippewa County has a purchase agreement with the Gibsons and Poiers for their property and agreement with the state for its property. Both parcels are sought for the park.

ADVERTISEMENT

A landowner has filed a civil lawsuit claiming adverse possession of a property that Chippewa County is seeking to purchase for a new park near the Minnesota River, south of Montevideo.

Claims made under adverse possession laws are sometimes called squatters' rights.

In the lawsuit, the Starbecks charge that they have been maintaining a road, camping area and farm field for more than 15 years and have a claim to the land title. They also charge they farmed an area of encroached farmland “in a manner that was, for no less than 15 years, actual, open, hostile, continuous, and exclusive manner,” thus meeting the requirements for adverse possession under Minnesota law.

The Gibsons and Poiers refute the claims and make the point that they have paid the property taxes on the property. They stated that the Starbecks had approached them about purchasing the encroached farmland, but they declined to sell it.

More by Tom Cherveny:
Jill Abahsain, DFL-endorsed candidate for Congress, met with supporters in New London for a campaign rally on Tuesday.
A civil lawsuit involving three siblings over a decision by two of them to sell land near Sibley State Park for a destination golf course will be heard by a jury in Kandiyohi County.
A Minnesota Supreme Court public waters ruling issued Sept. 28 means an environmental assessment must be conducted before a proposed drainage project into the upper reaches of Limbo Creek can be approved.
A second community discussion hosted on changing the name of Sibley State Park in west central Minnesota brought together three dozen people with differing views on the proposal.

The answer and counterclaim by the Gibsons and Poiers state that their property includes some tillable farmland, a gravel pit referred to as Lake Louie, and an outdoor classroom they developed in partnership with the Montevideo School District.

Ag teachers and students built viewing decks and a stairway to a slough, planted trees, developed trails and have maintained them, according to the Gibsons and Poiers. Donuts were made for nesting birds. The water pond was stocked with bluegills. A pontoon was built in the lake. A parking lot for visitors is located there for visitors and buses for the outdoor classroom.

The Gibsons and Poiers state that Starbeck maintained the recreational campground/outdoor classroom area, but did so with their permission. They reimbursed the Starbecks for gas for the mowing expenses.

According to the Gibsons and Poiers, after the Starbecks learned of their intention to sell the property for a park, “communication was exchanged between the parties. Part of the communication included a discussion regarding the lack of merit regarding any claim Plaintiffs (the Starbecks) may make regarding the Real Property.”

It was after this exchange that the Starbecks filed the lawsuit that the Gibsons and Poiers allege “muddied the title” and resulted in the alleged damages and attorney fees.

ADVERTISEMENT

The Gibsons and Poiers are represented by attorney Richard Stermer of Montevideo and the Starbecks by attorney Doug Kluver of Montevideo in the civil case.

Chippewa County has put its plans for developing the park on hold until the lawsuit is resolved.

Tom Cherveny is a regional and outdoors reporter for the West Central Tribune.
He has been a reporter with the West Central Tribune since 1993.

Cherveny can be reached via email at tcherveny@wctrib.com or by phone at 320-214-4335.
What to read next
The 18th annual Upper Minnesota River Valley arts crawl — known as the Meander — took place Sept. 30 through Oct. 2, 2022.
The public hearings on Monday's Willmar City Council agenda are regarding special assessments for unpaid snow and ice removal and unpaid weed and grass mowing. The tabled action items the council is expected to consider are the rezoning and the creation of a tax increment financing district for the Unique Opportunities apartment complex project on Lakeland Drive Northeast.
Starting Oct. 5, Minnesota Highway 9 will be closed on the west side of Highway 23. Highway 9 travelers will be detoured to Kandiyohi County Road 40 for up to two days. Work is expected to end Oct. 10.
More help for low-income students, more help to connect businesses with graduates and more career counseling were some of the needs mentioned at a budget listening session Thursday at Ridgewater College. The Minnesota State college system will use the ideas to develop a budget proposal for the 2023 legislative session.