EMINENT DOMAIN: Dakota County family fights to save homestead - KMSP-TV

EMINENT DOMAIN: Dakota County family fights to save riverfront home

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Neighbors in Dakota County say they are engaged in an uphill battle to keep their beloved properties along a portion of the Mississippi River near Hastings where the county wants to build a bike trail.

A decade ago, there were nearly 13 properties the county wanted to buy in order to complete the Spring Lake Park Reserve. Now, there are only a few holdout owners and the county is ready to take the land by claiming eminent domain -- but the residents who have decades of memories warn they won't' uproot easily.

The family with a little marina is denoted in the master plan of the park as No. 7.

"Our father meant to leave this property to us and our children," Joni Sargent told Fox 9 News.

Sargent and her sister, Nancy Drews, cherish their spot on the point of Spring Lake and the Mississippi River.

"We've been here our entire lives," Drews said.

Their father passed away there years ago and left them the house and 10 acres of prime riverfront property, including the marina. Now, they fear they will lose it all.

"Totally overwhelmed," Drews said. "I have heart issues, and my heart has been fighting this since Nov. 5. It's horrible."

Dakota County wants the land for the long-term development of a Mississippi River trail that would include a pristine park. In the county's rendering, the family's home is gone and is replaced by paths, house boat docks and a picnic area.

"That riverfront is important to protecting the shoreline, protecting the Mississippi River water quality, and also providing opportunity for public access," Steve Sullivan, Dakota County park director, told Fox 9 News.

Sullivan has led the effort to complete the county's riverfront playground, and several property owners willingly sold their land -- but not the sisters and their extended family. When the county officered them $370,000 for everything, they were insulted.

"Probably four years ago, our dad said he could get $1.3 million for it," Sargent said.

With a March 31 deadline to obtain $3 million in federal grants for the project, the county is now taking the issue to court. Next week, lawyers will ask a judge to begin the process of repossessing the land under eminent domain. If approved, appraisers will determine fair market compensation for what the family describes as their little slice of heaven.

"It just means way too much to us," Drews said. "We can't lose it."

The sisters do admit the property has fallen into disrepair since their father died, but they do want to clean it up and have dreams of living there again. Both told Fox 9 News that they are willing to part with a couple of acres for the park and trail, but the county wants it all.

ONLINE PETITION: http://bit.ly/1evCuyt

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