Judge rules in favor of newspaper

A judge has ruled that the quick take eminent domain acquisition of The Minot Daily News’ parking lot by Ward County was not legal.

Ward County Commissioners moved forward with their plans for the Ward County Jail expansion project by unanimously voting to seize the parking lot across from the jail by a quick take eminent domain claim. The claim was served to the newspaper by the Sheriff’s Department on Nov. 27.

Commissioner Alan Walter was not at the meeting when the vote was held due to illness and thus did not vote.

“I find that Ward County has exceeded its constitutional and legislative authority and has not acted in accordance with law by using quick take proceedings to acquire the Property in this matter,” wrote Northwest District Judge Paul W. Jacobson, who is chambered in Williston, in his Jan. 9 order to vacate the quick take seizure.

“It is further ordered,” he continued, “that by 5:00 p.m. on January 16, 2014, Ward County must remove all property, improvements, materials, and alterations of any kind, and restore the Property to the condition it was in prior to Ward County’s taking possession of the Property.”

The parking lot has been used since the illegal taking as a staging area for the construction of the Ward County office building being constructed in the parcel of land right next to it. Soil testing has also been performed in the lot for purposes of planning the foundation for the planned Ward County Jail expansion.