Court of Appeals rules in favor of township that abandoned Minnesota family's road
HILLMAN TOWNSHIP, Minn. (FOX 9) - The Court of Appeals has ruled in favor of Hillman Township, Minnesota in the legal battle over a family fighting the town's decision to remove their road.
FOX 9 spoke with the Crisman family last year about the ongoing struggle in the small town about an hour north of the Twin Cities near Mora, Minnesota.
The family told FOX 9 the town was removing a section of Hornet Street, the only road that leads to their home. The family had been involved in a dispute with the town since 2017 over the town's failure to maintain the stretch of Hornet Street leading to their house.
The Crismans had spent thousands to repair the road and handle snow removal. The town argued that since they hadn't maintained the road in 40 years, ownership reverted back to the property owners. State law allows owners to take ownership of roads that are abandoned for at least 25 years.
Adding to their troubles, the Crismans' neighbors began blocking off their section of the road, blocking the family's access to their home.
In a lawsuit over the matter, a lower court ruled that since the town had maintained the southern part of the road, they were still required to maintain the Crisman's branch of Hornet Street.
However, this week, the Court of Appeals ruled that finding wasn't backed by the law, citing a previous case that found the abandonment rule could apply to only a portion of a road. The court however did acknowledge the Crismans' unfortunate predicament in the ruling, with judges writing: "In closing, we note our sympathy to the Crismans’ argument that the township is displaying gamesmanship by favoring established residents over new residents. We are disturbed by the district court’s finding that 'three times when [the Crismans] plowed [Hornet Street] open after they made improvements, someone called County law enforcement who told them they could not maintain a public road.' We understand, as did the district court, that 'the Crismans, as homeowners and taxpayers, are frustrated that their efforts to be treated like their neighbors when it comes to the maintenance of the road leading to their home have been rebuffed by the [t]ownship.'"
However, judges say the precedent is clear and they must abide by the law, overturning the law.