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Board: Township doesn't have to maintain road

Residents of Cedar River Estates in Udolpho Township are weighing their options after the Mower County Board on Tuesday rejected their petition for road maintenance.

By a 3-2 vote, board members denied the request that would force the township to maintain the one-mile stretch of road that leads to  residents' homes.

Board members Tim Gabrielson, Ray Tucker and Mike Ankeny voted to deny the request. Tony Bennett and Jerry Reinartz voted to approve it.

The board was encouraged to weigh four factors in its decision: the cost of maintenance to the road; the number of dwellings abutting the road; the conditions of the road; and the degree of hardship suffered because of the lack of maintenance.

Craig Byram, attorney for the plaintiffs, said he was "very surprised" by the vote.


"All four factors seemed to be weighing in favor of my clients," he said.

Their options now are to either accept the decision or appeal it to the state court. Working with the township to resolve the issue doesn't seem possible, Byram said.

"The township has been so incredibly hostile, and frankly, rude to them," he said.

At issue are three roads: 304th Street, 306th Street and 538th Avenue, which total about one mile. The township maintains 43.6 miles of road, according to documents from the Minnesota Highway Department.

The latest audit of the township budget shows a current expenditure of about $750 per mile. That number jumps to about $1,500 per mile with capital outlay.

By the same token, the township has seen taxes collected on the land serviced by the roads grow by about $1,500 since its development.

"Based on the taxes generated, it doesn't appear the cost of maintenance would be a real concern to the township," said board member Jerry Reinartz.

Tim Gabrielson, whose 1st District includes Udolpho Township, agreed — to a point.


"It appears it would be a wash," he said, "but just because there's an increase in revenue doesn't mean there should be an increase in cost to the township."

In the end, the board essentially lay the responsibility back on landowners — or more accurately, on the developer.

All along, "the township board made it clear to the developer that it wouldn't maintain the road until the developed plat was complete and generated enough tax base" to fund the road care, said Troy Gilchrist. The township attorney made his argument at the Nov. 8 meeting; he wasn't present Tuesday.

The developer, Cedar River Properties LLC, owned by Mike and Lori Hodgman, did maintain the road for a while, Byram said, until costs "about ate him up."

Since then, the landowners have been appealing to the township board for basic maintenance: plowing snow and fixing gravel heaves.

Though both sides agreed the condition of the road was sufficient and should have no impact on the finding, another legal concern cropped up.

At 15-18 feet wide, with an average of 4-5 inches of gravel, the road doesn't meet the conditions stipulated by the county board when the developer applied for a conditional-use permit. The violation will be addressed at a later meeting, said acting Chairman Mike Ankeny.

After the meeting, Byram said the votes cast were in "some ways legal, some ways political. It was really unfortunate timing between the last meeting and this one."


He believes conversations with township officials and residents may have had some influence on the decision.

"I don't know what became important between then and now," Byram said, "but there was a sea change."

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