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Judge's 'Buy the Farm' Ruling Puts Utility on Hook

Updated: 08/15/2014 6:44 PM
Created: 08/15/2014 10:53 AM KSTP.com
By: Kate Renner

A Scott County judge ruled in favor of an organic dairy farm in New Prague over a big utility cooperative Friday.

Cedar Summit Farm won their case in the eminent domain fight against CapX2020 utilities, forcing the utility company to buy the whole farm, not just the piece it wanted.

Owners of the farm say the power lines put on their property interrupted their business. The 345,000 kilowatt power line towers are operated by CapX2020 utility companies.

"It was pretty scary, pretty upsetting when we found out they were coming through here," said Florence Minar, owner of Cedar Summit Farms.

We introduced you to the Minar family in April when 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS first found out about their lawsuit. They run a 100 percent grass-fed organic dairy farm, selling their milk to Twin Cities’ cooperatives.

"It could ruin our business. The cattle won't perform like they did previously," said Dave Minar, owner of Cedar Summit Farms.

The Minars opted to exercise their "Buy the Farm" right, which is a law that makes the utility companies buy the entire farm not just the parcel with the power pole on it.

CapX2020 took them to court, unwilling to buy all 135 acres.

"It's the utilities preference to try and understand a little more about the buy the farm statute, and how it applied to the Cedar Summit Dairy Farm," said Dan Lesher, CapX2020 Right-of-Way Lead.

Friday the judge ruled in favor of the Minars. Their attorney says it's setting a precedent for farms all across Minnesota.

"We're excited, elated, but you don't see the big smiles on our faces having to pack up and leave. I was born right inside that door over here, so emotions run pretty deep," said Dave Minar.

The battle's not over yet. The whole farm was appraised at $1.4 million, and the judge ruled the burden falls on CapX2020 to purchase it at a fair market value. The two sides now have to negotiate a fair cost.

"We'll take a look and see what the next steps are, and start looking at numbers if we need to," said Lesher.

The Minars plan on relocating and starting a new farm elsewhere, so likely this farm will end up on the market; power line and all.

The Minar's attorney says the impact of this ruling could be widespread across the state. There’s always another power line that will be built, and there's always a property owner who will want to move because of it.

"Seems like everybody was watching to see what happens here," said Dave Minar.

According to CapX2020, 900 parcels were involved in the Brookings Project running power lines 240 miles from Brookings to Hampton.

"There are varying properties at different stages and still ones we are trying to evaluate," said Lesher.

Not to mention, the five other power line projects already operating or being built in Minnesota.

"We'd rather just stick to what we're talking about with this particular case," said Lesher.

The Minars hope their victory paves the way for better deals for farmers in eminent domain cases.

"Like any other farmer we want what's fair and hope we can get what's fair for them too," said Florence Minar.

The CapX2020 project is a multi-state, $2 billion project. It's one of the largest expansions of the power grid in state history.

When it's finished CapX2020 should generate $49 million in state and federal tax dollars. It's scheduled to be done sometime next year.

CapX2020 Project

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