Brookings, state lose $850,000-plus Interstate 29 Exit 130 interchange lawsuit

The future site of the new Exit 130 off Interstate 29 in south Brookings which is slated to open July 14. The city and state owe a property owner more than $850,000 after they took 6.12 acres of land from her via eminent domain to begin construction. The city paid $37,364 but a jury awarded her $850,000 plus costs and fees. (Brookings Register file photo)

BROOKINGS — The new Brookings exit on Interstate 29 got considerably more expensive last week.

A Brookings County jury awarded a property owner whose land was taken by the city and state through eminent domain $850,000 on June 1 — nearly 23 times the original payment from the city and state.

The state of South Dakota and city of Brookings acquired the land from Renae Rohl, owner of RCS Development Inc., in 2021 through a quick take at the price of $6,000 per acre, or $37,674 in total.

At the conclusion of a two-day trial last week, a county jury ordered them to pay her $850,000 plus expert fees and trial costs. That figure represents a valuation of $138,888 per acre.

Attorney Tim Hogan of Ribstein and Hogan represented Rohl at trial, along with Clint Sargent of Meirhenry Sargent LLP of Sioux Falls.

Hogan said his client and her late husband owned 20 acres west of I-29 and south of 20th Street in the area along with the Western Estates mobile home park for years. The couple sold Western Estates in 2016 but held the parcel as an investment.

“Renae is very happy with the outcome, and I think happy to get it over with,” Hogan said. “And I was impressed with her at trial. When asked how much she thought she should get, she just said she should get a fair price for her property.”

State statute requires property seized via eminent domain be purchased for fair market value. And because the jury decided the land was worth more than 20 percent more than the state and city offered, Rohl is entitled to collect all her costs from the litigation, including attorney’s fees.

The city is entitled to appeal the verdict.

When reached for comment, city officials confirmed the verdict for 6.12 acres of land.

The city also confirmed it does not have lawsuit insurance on the project and the costs will be included in the overall project costs of the interchange.

City Manager Paul Briseno offered: “The City has no further comment.”

Hogan said a decision to appeal would be up to the city, but added “Based on what was presented to the court, I didn’t see any grounds for appeal.”

Site preparation for the new Exit 130 interchange beganlast year and the exit is scheduled to be open next month.

Eminent domain has become a hot-button political issue in the Upper Midwest as scads of litigation has been filed over two proposed carbon dioxide pipelines through the area. Both the South Dakota and North Dakota state legislatures hotly debated bills that would have made using eminent domain for the pipelines all but impossible last session.

Linehan is The Register’s managing editor and welcomes comments at [email protected]