by Dennis Dalman
Legal action might have to be taken against four Sartell landowners over the matter of easements the city needs for the Pinecone Road North project expected to begin this spring.
At the March 26 Sartell City Council meeting, an extended discussion took place about the agenda item. Council member Mike Chisum said any legal action should be delayed, at least for a week or two, to give city staff and those four lot owners more time to come to an agreement.
The Pinecone Road project will involve reconstruction and overlays of the busy, major roadway from Seventh Street all the way north to the new high school now under construction. To accomplish that, easements on properties along the route will be necessary. Nine of those property owners are amenable to granting the easements, but so far four others are not.
Sartell City Engineer Jon Halter said he has had numerous talks with those property owners and remains quite positive that progress toward an agreement has been made. However, Halter said legal paperwork should at least be started through the city’s legal firm (Rinke Noonan) just as a backup because without the easements, the Pinecone project could be delayed. The legal maneuver is known as a “quick-take” process, a form of eminent domain in which the city could legally take the easement by paying a fairly appraised value.
The Pinecone Road project is scheduled to begin this June.
“We should step back, take a breath and then get something done,” said Chisum, who said legal action should not be started now against those landowners.
Council member David Peterson said he is inclined to agree with Chisum because previous examples of “quick-take” legal proceedings did not work out so well.
Council members Ryan Fitzthum and Pat Lynch, who is serving as acting mayor in Mayor Sarah Jane Nicoll’s absence from the meeting, disagreed with Peterson and Chisum.
City staff, Fitzthum said, should have the option of being able to move forward with the road project. The council, he noted, has discussed plans for the Pinecone project for 18 months, and it’s time to move forward, he noted.
Lynch made much the same points, saying the Pinecone project, already set in motion, cannot be delayed.
Peterson encouraged Halter to continue to talk with the four property owners, preferably in face-to-face settings so legal recourse can be avoided.
The motion to reconsider starting the legal proceedings failed on a 3-1 vote with Chisum voting yes, the others no.