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COURT RULING: County Can Seize Land For Reservoir

A judge’s ruling means about 30 Clarke County land owners will have to give up their property.

For 25 years, Cindy and Pete Sanford have enjoyed their home and the 180-acres it sits on. It’s where they raised their children, and where they planned to spend the rest of their days. But now, the government is seizing their home and more than two thousand acres belonging to about 30 of their neighbors, to build a reservoir.

It’s like they say, you can’t fight city hall.

“They had four, five expert witnesses,” Cindy Sanford says. “We had none. Because we didn’t have the money, the landowners, to fight it. They have taxpayer dollars to fight against us.”

Her husband Pete Sanford adds, “Both my kids were raised here. They both come home here and they love it here. They sleep well here and it’s quiet. And it’s gonna be a loss for them.”

David Beck with the Clarke County Reservoir Commission says while he sympathizes with the landowners, Osceola needs the water. “We have a water supply need here in Oceola, Clark county and Southern Iowa,” Beck says. “The ground water here in the area is inadequate in terms of quality and quantity. “

If no one contests the judge’s ruling, the reservoir commission will begin assessing the property values and making offers early next month. Land owners will be offered fair market price for their property.

19 comments

    • Harry Moyer

      We haven’t had any real television investigative journalists here in 20 years; and what we have left is the DM Register which has been decimated by lack of funds due to the internet.
      We started becoming an oligarchy 34 years ago and we are in the last throes of our democracy.
      All Hail to the Billionaires!!!

  • Gary Stanford

    If you people need money to contest this thing and have somebody who willing to be the front man then ask the public for help,I don’t like the idea of anybody being able to take somebodys land.

  • Paul Orton

    Cliven Bundy is proving you CAN fight a corrupt government and rally plenty of support. Stand up and fight for what’s yours, you bought and paid for it.

  • LKM

    My late husband told me there is an old law on the books that states if you have 4 fruit trees and an outhouse on your land the gov’t can not touch your land. He was an historian and didn’t make light of this. So maybe they should do some digging and see if this law is still there. There are a lot of old laws still on the books people are not aware of.

  • Matthew

    I agree, Right Wing Patriot. Is nothing sacred in this country anymore? The same thing happened to my mothers relatives in Alleman when they built the new high school. And fair market value is a bunch of BS!

  • True patriots value the Constitution AND due process

    What do you mean “sacred”? Eminent domain is in the Constitution and you people are all up in arms as if this is another example of government bullying. Why don’t you educate yourselves on how and WHAT eminent domain is for. This falls squarely into the devices for which it was meant. A public project needed by the community as a whole initiated by a government entity through LEGISLATION. You don’t like it? Get an ordinance through that revokes the grant.

    The Fifth Amendment to the Constitution says ‘nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.’ The 14th Amendment made sure this applied to the States and local governments as well as the federal government. The explicit justification for this was laid out in the SCOTUS decision in Kohl v. United States in 1876 and for the States in Chicago B&Q Railroad Co. v. Chicago in 1897. That’s more than 100 years of case law. This isn’t even a case of government seizing land for a private corporation of which there may be justified outrage.

    All I see here is a lot of spitting into the wind. These people probably are just upset that the real estate market right now still kills property values. It’s about money, not about land someone has owned in the family since the Louisiana Purchase.

      • True patriots value the Constitution AND due process

        If it were my home I’d resort to taking it back to the system already laid out in the Constitution and roughly 130 years of case law including many rulings at the SCOTUS. You take it back to the commissioners that approved the ordinance to begin with. Or, if you think you can get up the votes, you pass a petition to force a general ballot issue.

        You go to the courts on an eminent domain case without evidence of something illegal you will lose the case, and waste not only your money on fees and lawyer time, but cost taxpayers (including yourself double since it’s your taxes too) on a case that was already lost as soon as it was filed. That’s exactly how it’s meant to work. As long as the home owners get the fair market value from an independent 3rd party appraisal they haven’t a leg to stand on in the courts. That’s fair market value, most people always like to think their home is worth more than what the market will pay especially in a bad housing market. Unlike all the hyperbole flying around here, the courts actually require proof of something hinky going on. From what I’ve seen in the case, there’s no mischief in the legislative process for once.

        For your information, I *have* been hit by an eminent domain about 7 years ago. The home I was living in was taken by a hospital which really was needed in the community. Not just the town I lived in, but for 3 counties around it. The older two hospitals in the town were old when I was born 40 years ago. They were combined, the parcels were purchased, including a few 100 year old homes on the main drag, and the hospital built. Yes there was some to-do over the older homes being demolished. But which would you rather have? A few old homes and abandoned warehouses preserved with no outstanding historical significance, or your child or wife (husband) mauled in a traffic accident but the nearest trauma unit is 15 minutes out by air lift? Choice is pretty clear to me. Seconds count.

        I really wish Des Moines didn’t have to depend so heavily on our two rivers for drinking water. Past few years it’s been clear our water supply is inadequate in a serious drought when the rivers are running low.

  • Julie

    Why didn’t WHO explore that 95% residences of Clarke county have been supporting to build a lake for 10 years! I believe most people would like to consider our future natural resource for next generations. We always should support to develop the society where we live our lives, so stop being disrespectful..

  • josh

    A lake is trying to be built SOUTH of town but it seems to me that mr Diehl doesnt like that location. So yes they need the water they can get it from the lake south of town. I support a lake for water but what if it was your land they was taking that had been in your family for years.

  • joyce shaw

    In the early 80’s they took my husbands parents farm to make West Lake bigger. Offered them money, got an okay deal. Now if you go by where the farm was you will not see a farm or a lake it is all filled up with silt. Why doesn’t the city just clean out the West Lake? There is plenty of room for the water there. The land is already bought, and we know it is a good water sorce. As they had it years ago. Just talking out loud but really Osceola take a look at what you already have and use it.

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