Right-of-way repairs begin | News, Sports, Jobs


Jill Schramm/DND The county’s right-of-way policy was among the issues discussed by the Ward County Commission on Tuesday. Left to right are John Fjeldahl, Shelly Weppler, Jim Rostad and John Pietsch. Howard “Bucky” Anderson is not pictured.

Ward County commissioners will seek to draft a new right-of-way ordinance and develop a plan to return many years of right-of-way donated by the owner when they meet in special session next Wednesday.

The commissioners briefly discussed returning property with Ward County Deeds Registry Kristin Kowalczyk at their regular meeting on Tuesday.

Kowalczyk said attempts could be made to reach those affected through notices to township councils and through publications. The office could have an online form that people could use to request the return of donated land. The offices of the Registry of Deeds, Fiscal Equalization, Planning and Zoning, and Auditor/Treasurer would cooperatively search each parcel application and provide information to the commission.

The current ordinance requires landowners occupying parcels of 40 acres or less to donate 75 feet of right-of-way on each side of the county road. Commissioners in 2019 amended the ordinance to remove most roads in the township, which had been given a 40ft dedication on each side. By law, a 33-foot statutory easement exists from the center of township and county roads, but easements differ from dedications in that the landowner retains ownership.

The extent of the required land donation was controversial, prompting a lawsuit in which a U.S. District Judge ruled that although due process was followed, the policy was unconstitutional on other grounds.

The county commission had recently decided to hash out the details of a new ordinance in committee session. At the request of Commissioners Shelly Weppler and Jim Rostad, the issue of the cancellation of previous right-of-way donations must now be included in this discussion.

However, there was interest in continuing preliminary research and deed registry actions to solicit responses from landowners and give an indication of the magnitude of the situation. The commission took no specific action other than asking the county consultant, who worked with the county planning commission on drafting a new zoning ordinance, to attend next Wednesday’s meeting. A question arose as to whether the meeting with the commission is outside the consultant’s contract, but Weppler argued for providing an invitation.

“I go back to 2017 when the motion was brought forward to ask for funds from a third party to help us with our land use document,” said Commissioner Shelly Weppler. “These talks are exactly why we wanted to bring in an outside force. We wanted to settle the right of way.”

The committee will meet at 9 a.m. in the committee rooms. The meeting is open to the public, but a future meeting will be scheduled for public comment once the commission has a draft right-of-way ordinance and has worked out the logistics and legality of transferring the land to the owners.

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