Ruling could decide whether towns must maintain roads

Published 6:43 pm Sunday, February 6, 2022

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MORA — A central Minnesota town is asking the state appeals court to decide whether towns can maintain only portions of their roads.

The Minneapolis Star Tribune reported Friday that Hillman Township in Kanabec County asked the Minnesota Court of Appeals in January to review a lower court ruling forcing it to maintain Hornet Street, a half-mile gravel road that leads to the home of Renee and Andy Crisman just outside Mora.

The Crismans moved to the home in 2013 and asked the town to maintain the road all the way to their house. The property had long been unoccupied and the town hadn’t been plowing or grading the road all the way to the house.

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State law prohibits towns from resuming maintenance on a road that hasn’t been maintained in more than 25 years without voter approval. Voters turned down the Crismans’ request, prompting the family to sue. Kanabec County District Judg Stoney Hiljus ruled that state law doesn’t allow town voters to selectively maintain only portions of their roads. In effect, the judge said towns must maintain the entire road or none of it.

The Minnesota Association of Townships argues that forcing towns to maintain little-used portions of their roads would create a tremendous financial burden and trump the authority the Legislature gave towns.

“The ruling … amounts to the taxpayers providing some landowners with a new driveway,” the association said in a statement.

Minnesota has more than 55,000 miles of township roads.