Ward County Farm Bureau taking legal action against Ward County Commissioners

MINOT, N.D.- Ward County farmers say they are fed up with a policy which they say strong-arms private property owners to, quote, "unwillingly donate part of their land to get approval for plat applications".

“Ward County Farm Bureau and Ward County Farmers Union, with a combined membership of 4200 members, will file a suit in the United States District Court in Bismarck, against the Board of Ward County Commissioners, citing private property takings without due process and just compensation,” said Ward County Farmers Union President Bob Finken.

Members of the group argue that, for the past few decades, the county has gotten property owners to give up small portions of land near county roads, called right-of-ways, or pay a 100-dollar variance and other fees. Either way, they say it's putting an expense on property owners.

“The plaintiffs allege that the Ward County Commissioners used forced donation along county roads and township section lines even if the township board of supervisor's request that the property not be taken,” said Finken.

The lawsuit comes just a day before the next commissioners meeting.

“Ward County farmers union have attended no less than twelve ward county planning and zoning meetings and ward county commission meetings to end Ward County's policy,” said local farmer John Pietsch.

The farmers say that Ward County has continued this practice through the fifth amendment's taking clause in the U.S. constitution, but they argue the county hasn't met the conditions of the clause.

We have reached out to county commissioner chair Alan Walter on the issue, who did not have comment on news of the lawsuit, but did say the County has been consistent with a 40-foot right-away for most situations.