SIOUX CITY, Iowa — Sioux City has gone to court to avoid paying $34,000 for land for a proposed recreational trail, forcing the landowner to decide whether to spend more money on attorneys, represent himself in court or give up the fight.
Brad Lepper told the Sioux City Journal that he’s not opposed to plans for the Big Sioux River Recreational Trail connection envisioned by the city. But he’s concerned about what the trail could do to his property value and about safety for his family and his tenants. The proposed route would take the trail through the backyards of some rental townhomes he owns and a side yard of his own home.
When Lepper and city officials couldn’t agree on the route, the City Council voted to take the land under eminent domain. The legal process allows public entities to take private land for public use if they compensate the property owners.
Lepper rejected the city’s first offer of less than $16,500 for title to nearly 9,000 square feet (836 square meters) of land and nearly 27,000 square feet (2,492 square meters) for construction and permanent easements.
The matter moved on to the Woodbury County Compensation Commission, which ruled that the city’s appraisal wasn’t accurate and said the city should pay Lepper $34,000.
The City Council then ordered its lawyers to appeal the commission’s decision in Woodbury County District Court, saying the commission’s price was too high.
Assistant City Attorney Amber Hegarty declined a request to comment.
Under Iowa’s eminent domain law, Lepper must show the commission undervalued his property by at least $1 in order for the city to cover his legal fees if he wins. He’s taking no chances, he said: He’ll be his own attorney if the case ultimately ends up in a Sioux City courtroom.
“What I want is just drop the appeal, pay me what the commission says it’s worth, and just leave me alone and I’ll leave you alone,” Lepper said.
Information from: Sioux City Journal, http://www.siouxcityjournal.com