New road design means land to be purchased from county commissioner

SPICER -- The redesign of Kandiyohi County Road 10, west of Spicer, has put Kandiyohi County Commissioner Dennis Peterson in a bit of an uncomfortable position.

SPICER -- The redesign of Kandiyohi County Road 10, west of Spicer, has put Kandiyohi County Commissioner Dennis Peterson in a bit of an uncomfortable position.

The three-mile project, which will be constructed this summer, will mean taking nearly 10 acres of Peterson's land by eminent domain.

Peterson will be paid -- and will probably be paid quite well for the land, which is a flat hay field that's in a prime residential and commercial development area.

Like nearly all of the 65 property owners that will be selling land to the county for the project, the compensation will likely be in the neighborhood of $10,000 an acre, according to Kandiyohi County Public Works Director Gary Danielson.

The other property owners, however, will be losing only slivers of land from the front of their lots. Peterson has the largest chunk of land that will be used for the project -- somewhere between nine and 10 acres.


The process for setting the selling price is being handled with kid gloves to prevent a conflict of interest. Recognizing the danger of the appearance of an "inside job," Danielson said every precaution is being taken to carefully follow the proper steps.

Usually, county commissioners are involved in negotiating with landowners and approving the sale price of land needed for county road right-of-way projects.

If a deal can't be struck, then the eminent domain process is used and a court-appointed group of three individuals, called "viewers" or "commissioners," determines damages to the property and sets the price the county will pay.

Because Peterson is a county commissioner, he cannot talk to the other members of the Kandiyohi County Board of Commissioners about the project or the price, said Danielson. He will not have the option of accepting an outright offer from the county.

The County Board has also been removed from the decision-making process regarding Peterson's property.

This case will go immediately to the eminent domain process where the three court-appointed viewers will set the price that Peterson will have to take. The price is based on appraisals that both the buyer and the seller submit.

Citizens who object to the price set by viewers can contest it and take the issue to court.

Peterson also has the right to go to court if he doesn't think the value is fair, but he may be reluctant to do that because of his role as a county commissioner, said Danielson, adding that in some ways Peterson has fewer rights in this case than a normal citizen does.


With past road projects, the county has been able to obtain most of the land it needs without going through the lengthy, and more costly, eminent domain process. Because the major landowner in this case is also a county commissioner, it complicates things on the county's end. "It makes it more difficult to get the job done because he's a commissioner," said Danielson.

At a County Board meeting last week when the commissioners were informed about the process for purchasing his land, Peterson quipped that it would be "simpler" if he resigned from the board.

In an interview, Danielson said Peterson has always acknowledged the road project needs to go forward and understands the engineering decisions for moving the road to create a new intersection with County Road 9 and U.S. Highway 71. But Danielson said it's safe to say that if Peterson would have had input in the design, he would not have chosen the one that's on the drawing board. When asked by the Tribune, Peterson declined to talk about the project.

Danielson said bids for the project can't be awarded until all the property along the route has either been purchased or unless a date in the eminent domain court process has been set.

Meanwhile, a project on the east end of County Road 10 by Green Lake could be held up because one property owner is refusing to sell a 55-foot stretch of land, totaling three-sevenths of an acre. The land has an estimated value of $300, said Danielson. Because the eminent domain process will have to be used there, he said the small parcel of land will end up being a "very expensive" piece of right of way.

Carolyn Lange is a features writer at the West Central Tribune. She can be reached at or 320-894-9750
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