County will try to settle land dispute

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 21, 2002

County Attorney Craig Nelson said he is ready to begin the process of condemning the property next to the Western Grocer Building, though he thinks the county can still negotiate with the owner before taking the legal action.

The county wants to build a parking lot on the 8,000-square-foot site to the east of the Western Grocer Building, which will be demolished to make way for a new judicial center. But landlord George Dress has been refusing to give away the property.

Nelson said if the county board officially approves the purchase, the first thing to be done is to have an updated appraisal to calculate a purchase offer. If negotiations wwith Dress fail, then the county will bring the issue to court.

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State law defines the land for courthouse construction as an eminent domain, and allows acquisition by condemnation, according to Nelson. The county claims Dress has set his price too high.

Chester Swenson, Dress’s attorney, denied that Dress had named a specific price to the county. Rather, he has been waiting for the appraisal, Swenson said.

Swenson pointed out that the county has not decided on a final plan for the new judicial center, and Dress is not obligated to hurry up and make a decision.

The county board will discuss the issue during its meeting today. The county has already spent about $300,000 for the purchase and demolition of the Western Grocery Building. In addition to the cost for removing newly discovered asbestos, the acquisition of Dress’s property will push up the total cost.