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Cass County Board: Access denied for landlocked property

WALKER—Commissioner Neal Gaalswyk cast the lone dissenting vote Tuesday, Aug. 7, as the Cass County Board voted to deny a petition for a cartway Mark Dorholt sought to gain access to property he owns in unorganized township.

The county board serves as town board for unorganized areas.

Gaalswyk said he preferred to table the issue to learn more about possible options for the board. Commissioner Dick Downham was absent from the meeting.

Dorholt first petitioned for the cartway about three years ago.

To connect Dorholt's property to the public road, a cartway would either follow the middle of or to one side of a section line.

North of the section line is Blandin Corporation-owned property, which has been put into a conservation easement with the state of Minnesota.

The county board last year approved a cartway straddling the section line and taking 16.5 feet either side of it. This meant taking land from Blandin north of the line and from David and Samantha Nikkel and from a Cass County tax-forfeited parcel south of the line.

The county then conducted an appraisal and set compensation to each party involved.

After subsequent court hearings, the court ruled land could not be taken from the Blandin side of the line, because of the state's interest in the conservation easement.

Crossing south of the line through Nikkel's and tax-forfeited properties would necessitate an easement across the tax-forfeited parcel. In 2015, the land department recommended an easement across the tax-forfeited land, but on the condition that Nikkels would provide a reciprocal easement across their parcel to the county tax-forfeited land.

The Nikkels have been unwilling to do that.

Thus, it would be necessary for the county to condemn their property to complete the easement.

Paul Reuvers, consulting attorney for the county, now has advised the county that state statutes, which require a cartway to connect directly to a public road, prevent the county from granting the cartway. Therefore, the board voted Tuesday to deny the cartway.

Dorholt's attorney, Andrew Shaw, told the board Tuesday he believes the board could simultaneously approve an easement/condemnation and approve a cartway.

When the board asked Shaw whether there is precedent law he could site that makes this legal, Shaw said he is unaware that the issue has ever been decided by a court.

"I don't know why people just can't get along," Commissioner Bob Kangas said after hearing the latest discussion on the issue.

Dorholt has the option to appeal the denial in court.

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