By Ryan Gueningsman
DELANO, MN The City of Delano and representatives of LeLand and Sons Auto Service are heading to trial to determine a fair market value for the property the city took as part of a floodplain acquisition grant.
LeLand Shrode’s former property, located on Highway 12 and Rockford Avenue, is part of the city’s floodplain property acquisition that it received a grant for several years back. This was the last piece of property the city wanted to acquire, according to Delano City Administrator Phil Kern.
Negotiations have been taking place for several years between the city and Shrodes to attempt to find a relocation property for the Shrodes, and also to come to an agreement on a dollar amount for the city’s taking of the property. To date, there has been no relocation and no dollar amount reached.
A mediation session took place between city representatives and LeLand and Sons Auto recently, with no outcome being reached, according to Kern.
He said a hearing will now take place at the end of October to set a trial date.
At a hearing June 9, 2009, regarding condemnation for flood hazard mitigation, it was determined “the proposed taking appears to be necessary and such as is provided by law,” according to the findings of fact and order.
An appointed commission was named at that time to determine and report the amount of damages that will be sustained by the Shrodes from the taking of the land. The order further stated the title and possession of the properties were to transfer to the City of Delano Feb. 1, 2010.
This commission was scheduled to meet Sept. 15, 2009, but that did not happen because the city and the Shrodes were attempting to work out a settlement, Kern said. Since a settlement was not reached, the commission met in late January, and issued its findings in February 2010.
The commission determined $850,000 as the dollar amount the Shrodes should receive from the city for the taking of the property, according to court documents.
Both the City of Delano and LeLand and Sons appealed the dollar amount the city claiming the dollar amount was too high, and LeLand and Sons claiming the dollar amount was not enough.
An appraisal done by the city that was presented indicates the property taking was not worth more than $645,000, according to Kern. LeLand and Sons’ appraisal indicates the city owes them approximately $1.75 million.
Kern explained that the hearing with the commission was a “non-binding” hearing, and that either entity could appeal, which both did. He said the commission hearing is an alternate process to a full trial.
With neither side agreeable to the commission’s determination, further negotiations took place.
On April 16, a stipulation and order was filed indicating LeLand and Sons were to vacate the property no later than May 31, 2010.
On May 24, a stipulation and order was filed indicating LeLand and Sons were to vacate the property no later than Aug. 15. The Shrodes vacated the property around the Aug. 15 date.
“The city was supposed to have the property Feb. 1,” Kern said. “In the interest of attempting to help them relocate, it was bumped back to April 30, then May 31, then Aug. 15.”
The city presently has the title to the property and is proceeding with getting demolition bids. Kern said the city will likely demolish the property and complete the process of grading to back up the levy, which he said will allow the city to have additional flood protection as soon as next spring. It is expected the demolition will take place in October.
“The eminent domain statute is there to address public needs and provide a process to compensate property owners who lose property as part of that process,” Kern said.
“As part of meeting a public need, floods in Delano are nothing new, the city has tried to be proactive and prepare and put the city in the best position possible to deal with future floods,” he added. “The city tried for three-plus years to assist the Shrodes in relocation. Unfortunately, the several options that have been pursued haven’t worked out, and they’ve chosen to not relocate at this time.”
Shrode declined to comment on the issue.