EMINENT DOMAIN: Family rooted since 1896 fights 75-acre seizure - DC News FOX 5 DC WTTG

EMINENT DOMAIN: Family rooted since 1896 fights 75-acre seizure

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With controversy swirling around a proposed park along the Mississippi River in Hastings, a man whose family has owned the land for more than 100 years says he doesn't want to sell the best parts.

Dakota County plans to go to court to claim eminent domain for the remaining properties that it wants to acquire for a riverside park because several residents haven't been convinced to sell their land. On Thursday, one man who told Fox 9 News his family has owned 1,000 acres just outside Hastings for over 100 years said he still isn't keen on parting with what he considers to be their best 75 acres for the bike trail and park.

The master plan for the park calls for picnic areas, walking and bike trails, and a marina for house boat rentals; however, the whole area is currently under private ownership -- and not only are the current owners reluctant to sell, they believe the county is trying to rob them.

Bill Sorg broke out a copy of his 100-plus-year-old map as prove that his family has owned a large swath of the riverfront land since 1896. The family owns about 1,000 acres, but the county is only interested in a part they treasure.

"They want all of our river frontage, which we think is awful nice to have," Sorg said.

The county is preparing to go to court next week to get the green light to repossess the privately-owned land in the Spring Lake Park Reserve and provide fair market compensation in return. Yet, the Sorgs, along with sisters Joni Sargent and Nancy Drews, are fighting to keep the fate of their land in their hands.

"It just means way too much to us," Nancy Drews said of her family's 10-acre homestead that includes a small marina. "We can't lose it."

Additionally, all the impacted owners told Fox 9 News they were insulted by the county's final purchase offer. Dakota County offered $370,000 for the sisters' entire property.

Ellen Herman is a respected Twin Cities appraiser with vast experience with eminent domain cases. While she didn't want to get too specific with the numbers, she explained that once the legal process is settled, the families will be entitled to full compensation.

"What's the highest economic value that the property would have -- not necessarily to the people who own it currently and how they are using it to the market," she said.

Herman was involved in an eminent domain case in Dakota County years ago, and she told Fox 9 News the county eventually more than doubled its initial offer to land owners after the appraisal and negotiation phase.

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