Ward County Planning Commission changes course on right-of-ways following landowner backlash

MINOT. N.D. - "Theft of property" is what some Ward County residents are calling their ongoing dispute with county leaders over whether the county has the right to expand right-of-ways.

A growing number of landowners have argued that the county has expanded right-of-ways without compensating the owners for the loss of land.

Commission member John Fjeldahl, who has shown sympathy for their cause, had proposed a solution that would set the right-of-way boundaries back to 33 feet.

The landowners argued their case Thursday evening before the Planning Commission.

“When the time comes when you're gonna put a road in someplace where there hasn't been a road, there's a process to get that land. You have it appraised, you make an offer, and if they don't accept it, you can go through the process of eminent domain. But even if you're successful in eminent domain in obtaining that land, you have to pay for it. That's the law,” said James Lee, former Ward County commissioner.

“It's not right where people, as in the gentlemen tonight—and actually it happened in my own situation a month or so ago--that we are forced to give up property in order to get a plat approved,” said Bob Finken, a landowner and spokesperson for the Ward County Farmers Union.

The commission voted in favor of Fjeldahl's proposal.

It now goes to the full County Commission for discussion.