KNOW YOUR RIGHTS!!! Minnesota’s “Buy the Farm” statute applies to this transmission project!
There’s something the utilities don’t want you to know about the Not-so-Great Northern Transmission Line project. In Minnesota, after the powerline struggles decades ago, the legislature recognized that people needed an out, they needed a way to get out from under a line that would go through their property. Most people just don’t want a transmission line, that’s true. But Minnesota legislators figured out a way to let people have that out… it’s called “Buy the Farm.” It’s a law that gives landowners subject to condemnation the ability to get out from under the line:
Subd. 4. Contiguous land. When private real property that is an agricultural or
nonagricultural homestead, nonhomestead agricultural land, rental residential property, and both commercial and noncommercial seasonal residential recreational property, as those terms are defined in section 273.13 is proposed to be acquired for the construction of a site or route for a high-voltage transmission line with a capacity of 200 kilovolts or more by eminent domain proceedings, the fee owner, or when applicable, the fee owner with the written consent of the contract for deed vendee, or the contract for deed vendee with the written consent of the fee owner, shall have the option to require the utility to condemn a fee interest in any amount of contiguous, commercially viable land which the owner or vendee wholly owns or has contracted to own in undivided fee and elects in writing to transfer to the utility within 60 days after receipt of the notice of the objects of the petition filed pursuant to section 117.055. Commercial viability shall be determined without regard to the presence of the utility route or site. The owner or, when applicable, the contract vendee shall have only one such option and may not expand or otherwise modify an election without the consent of the utility. The required acquisition of land pursuant to this subdivision shall be considered an acquisition for a public purpose and for use in the utility’s business, for purposes of chapter 117 and section 500.24, respectively; provided that a utility shall divest itself completely of all such lands used for farming or capable of being used for farming not later than the time it can receive the market value paid at the time of acquisition of lands less any diminution in value by reason of the presence of the utility route or site. Upon the owner’s election made under this subdivision, the easement interest over and adjacent to the lands designated by the owner to be acquired in fee, sought in the condemnation petition for a right-of-way for a high-voltage transmission line with a capacity of 200 kilovolts or more shall automatically be converted into a fee taking.
Last May, after about a year of back and forth in the courts, the Minnesota Supreme Court decision on Buy the Farm was released, and oh what a decision (Buy the Farm, Minn. Stat. 216B.12, Subd. 4, is a statutory provision where landowners can force a utility to condemn their whole parcel, rather than just a narrow easement and let them get out from living under a transmission line). Kudos to Jerry Von Korff, who was at the rulemaking meeting, and his cohort Igor Lenzner, also Michael Rajkowski and Sarah Jewell, the attorneys who brought the appeal, plus Rod Krass/Kirk Schnitker and yours truly on Amicus. It was a win for landowners, homeowners, farmers, business owners, for everyone who has transmission condemnation/eminent domain cases pending, this one’s for YOU!
It really doesn’t get much better than this.
Bottom line on minimum compensation? Landowners are entitled to minimum compensation. Hear that, utilities? LANDOWNERS ARE ENTITLED TO MINIMUM COMPENSATION:
Appellants who elected to require utilities to condemn their entire properties in fee pursuant to Minn. Stat. § 216E.12 (2012) are entitled to minimum compensation under Minn. Stat. § 117.187 (2012) as owners who “must relocate” because on the date of the taking, the utilities took title to and possession of appellants’ entire properties.
… and …
Accordingly, we must determine whether appellants were required to relocate at the time their properties were taken. Because NSP initiated quick-take condemnation proceedings, the time of the takings with respect to appellants’ properties was when title to and possession of the property passed to NSP. See Moorhead Econ. Dev. Auth., 789 N.W.2d at 874 (explaining that “the date of the taking” in a quick-take condemnation proceeding is when “the transfer of title and possession” occurs, which is “well before the commissioners file their award”). It is undisputed that by the time title to and possession of appellants’ properties passed to NSP, appellants had made their elections under Minn. Stat. § 216E.12, subd. 4, which by operation of the statute, automatically converted the easements sought into fee takings. See Minn. Stat. § 216E.12, subd. 4 (explaining that at the time the property owner makes an election, “the easement interest over and adjacent to the lands designated by the owner to be acquired in fee . . . shall automatically be converted into a fee taking”). It follows that, at the time of the takings, NSP took title to and possession of appellants’ entire properties in fee. Therefore, we conclude that appellants were owners under Minn. Stat. § 117.187 who, at the time the takings occurred, “must relocate.” Accordingly, they are entitled to minimum compensation.
Bottom line on relocation benefits? Landowners are entitled to relocation benefits. Hear that utilities? LANDOWNERS ARE ENTITLED TO RELOCATION BENEFITS:
Because appellants are “displaced persons” under federal law, they are entitled to relocation assistance under Minn. Stat. §§ 117.50-.56 (2012).
Because appellants are required to relocate permanently, they do not fall within the exemption in 49 C.F.R. § 24.2(a)(9)(ii)(D). Therefore, because we conclude that appellants satisfy the definition of “displaced persons” under 42 U.S.C. § 4601(6)(A)(i)(I) and do not fall within any exemptions to that definition, we hold that appellants are entitled to relocation assistance under Minn. Stat. §§ 117.50-.56.
The decision was written by Justice Alan Page (photo from StarTribune www.startribune.com):
Yes, when he’s not wearing a football uniform, he’s the guy who is ALWAYS seen wearing one of his many classic “Jacobsen” bow ties, standing up for the public interest and the people of Minnesota. For him to be in the spot where he is, to do the work he’s doing, a long strange trip for a football player (sort of like it was for a truckdriver, eh?), with some good mentoring along the way.
This “Buy the Farm” decision is something I’ve been working for, and toward, since I first got involved with the Chisago Transmission Project so long ago, and folks, that’s 17 years now… so glad it happened before I bought the farm!
Remember, this applies to any transmission line over 200 kV, so that includes this Great Northern Transmission Line.