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Dakota County vs. private property owners

U of M map of Dakota County, MN
U of M map of Dakota County, MN
University of Minnesota

Dakota County, which stretches from South St. Paul in the north to Farmington, MN in the south, is home to a simmering fight over private property rights. It's a fight everyone in Dakota County is paying attention to:

Locally, even residents who are not directly connected to the case are attending the hearings out of concerns that the government might come after their property next.

"The case is frightening," Pam Larkin said. "That's what prompted me to come down."

This is about more than the property that Dakota County wants to grab this time. Like Ms. Larkin said, it's about the possibility that their property might be next. Ms. Larkin summed most people's thinking about government land grabs, saying "I think it has a lot to do with if it's your's, you get to keep it."

Prior to the Supreme Court's ruling in the case of Kelo v. New London, eminent domain was used to buy land to build interstate highways or regionally important infrastructure. Following the Renhquist Court's ruling, the floodgates opened for local governments to use eminent domain to take people's land for private land development or local goverments building frivolous things like regional parks.

According to Dakota County's website, the county already has 6 prominent county parks. Here's what Dakota County wants to take the land for:

The County wants their house, their small marina and all of the family's 10+ acres. The master plan is to develop the land into a pristine regional park along the Mississippi with bike and hiking trails.

What's interesting is the deference courts have taken on the definition of public use:

The just compensation provision of the Fifth Amendment did not originally apply directly to the states, but since Chicago, B. & Q. Railroad Co. v. Chicago (1897), federal courts have held that the Fourteenth Amendment extended the effects of that provision to the states. The federal courts, however, have shown much deference to the determinations of Congress, and even more so to the determinations of the state legislatures, of what constitutes "public use".

Rather than just letting local governments seize private property for building frivolous projects, the Minnesota legislature should pass a law prohibiting local and state government from using eminent domain to build bike trails. Taking private property should be limited to important things like the interstate highway system or extending a much-needed street.

If the legislature doesn't limit local governments' use of eminent domain, the term private property rights won't have any meaning. Private property is one of the cornerstones upon which the Founding Fathers built this nation on. The Kelo v. New London ruling essentially said all property is the government's if they want it.

The government's appetite for seizing land must be stopped. It isn't their land to do with as they wish. It's a citizen's property. Period.

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