The Minnesota Department of Transportation (Mn/DOT) is ready to take the rest of the land it needs for the Winona bridge project with legal force. Mn/DOT already began eminent domain proceedings against rental properties within the new bridge's footprint at the request of landlords anxious to finalize the process before fall semester; now the agency is preparing to begin the process of seizing the remaining properties, including the AmericInn, Severson's Sinclair gas station, and Winona Leasing and Sales.
The paperwork had not yet been filed at the courthouse when the Winona Post went to press, but on Tuesday, Project Manager Terry Ward said Mn/DOT officials were assembling the condemnation petitions and about to file them. The filings are actually coming roughly two weeks later than expected. With a January 1, 2015, deadline for acquiring all of the needed right-of-way and a six-month timeline for the accelerated eminent domain process, Mn/DOT had been expected to file for eminent domain at the beginning of this month. When asked when exactly the filing would reach the Winona District Court, Ward replied, "In time to meet the January 1, 2015, Mn/DOT possession deadline." Ward declined to confirm whether any last minute purchase agreements had been reached, but acknowledged that such deals were still possible and that voluntary agreements could be reached during eminent domaine proceedings, as well.
Ward said that all of the property owners had almost a year to mull over Mn/DOT purchase offers, make counter offers, and hire their own appraisers. Now both the state of Minnesota and local business owners will be able to argue their case in court, and court-appointed commissioners — often real estate professionals — will determine a fair price purchase price for the properties.
For a price of $1.5 million, the parent company of Dahl Chevrolet Buick GMC finalized the purchase of the dealership's new location: the former Cornerstone Church Property south of Highway 61 and Vila Street. General Manager Andrew Dahl said the dealership was likely still two weeks away from obtaining a demolition permit to prepare the site for construction and acknowledged that the company was "in a crunch" to complete construction of the new store before Mn/DOT's January 1, 2015, deadline for vacating the company's downtown location. Dahl thanked city officials and neighbors for being accommodating, and, in an interview last month, said he is hoping that Mn/DOT will grant the dealership leniency on the January 1 deadline.