The new maps detailing recommended designs for the Interstate bridge project show that Mn/DOT has scaled back plans to widen the intersection at Fourth and Winona streets in an effort to cut costs, officials said. Along with an estimated 32 private parcels that will be wholly or partially taken for the project, nothing will be allowed under the new bridge or the current structure due to Homeland Security regulations. Mn/DOT project officials said they had no plans to relocate the parking lot under the current bridge because they did not believe those using it — including many Winona County workers — had any ownership rights to the property.
In addition to land to be taken for the project, properties near the bridge may be negatively affected by the bridge plan. With more lanes of traffic halting and a new stoplight at Fourth and Winona streets, getting out of driveways in the adjacent blocks may be difficult. There are eight driveways on residential properties opposite the Law Enforcement Center and YMCA. Mn/DOT officials made a strong recommendation that any redevelopment on the block north of the YMCA (which is being demolished) not include entrances onto Fourth Street due to the amount of traffic that will be using the bridge intersection. The resale of that property is likely to reflect such a limitation, but not everyone affected by the bridge project is being paid for property. For the homeowners and landlords opposite the YMCA and Law Enforcement Center — who may have trouble parking near their properties or using their driveways — the only recourse for any detrimental impact to their land because of the project is to sue the state.
Mn/DOT officials have in the past estimated the cost of property acquisition for the bridge project at $12 million to $20 million. For property owners who are not satisfied with purchase offers from Mn/DOT for their parcels, however, the complex process will require eminent domain proceedings and property owners filing lawsuits against the state in order to recoup the value they believe they deserve.
When a business has a great location, with high customer traffic in a well-established spot that just can't be replaced, moving to a less advantageous location will ultimately mean less revenue. In order to receive compensation for the blow to business revenue, according to Mn/DOT officials, an owner must do the following: refuse to sell during negotiations with Mn/DOT; wait for the state to proceed with eminent domain; wait for court action allowing the state to acquire the property through condemnation; then sue the state for a "loss of going concern," a legal term for the money the business would lose when forced to move.
Residential property transactions can often be easier to negotiate directly, since a home can more easily be replaced or replicated in another part of the city. Properties are first appraised, a process that is currently being undertaken by Mn/DOT officials. Property owners may also choose an independent appraiser of their choice to determine a fair price. Following appraisals, direct negotiations begin. If residential or business property owners are able to prove that it would cost more to replace the home or business elsewhere, the state will often pay the higher price for the move.
The estimated $12 million to $20 million in private property to be used for the bridge project will also be taken off the tax rolls, expected to lower the city's tax base as the land is given tax-exempt status.