After landowner complaints, Minnesota bills would set procedure for counties seeking to move boundary lines
The bill comes after Sen. Steve Green and Rep. Deb Kiel were notified of issues landowners in Polk County were having with property lines.
ST. PAUL — A bill introduced in the Minnesota Legislature would require all counties to file a petition when moving boundary lines established by the United States in the public lands survey, which is used to subdivide land in most of the country.
Authored by Sens. Steve Green, R-Fosston, and Glenn Gruenhagen, R-Glencoe, in the Senate and Rep. Deb Kiel, R-Crookston, in the House, the bill comes after Green and Kiel were notified of issues landowners in Polk County were having with property lines.
In 2021, several Polk County landowners found their records of their property lines differed from the county’s records of property lines. The landowners say the county altered property lines by moving boundary line markers, or monuments, during a recent survey. County officials say property owners misunderstood property descriptions or based their properties on where they mistakenly believed monuments to be, not where the monuments actually are.
Green says his own property has been affected by this issue and he does not believe it stems from a misunderstanding of property lines.
“I know where the monument is, and we had a survey done and they came in and moved the marker from where the monument was originally,” he claimed.
Kiel says a mix of factors could have resulted in confusion around property lines.
“I suspect there’s a little of both, that we have people that misunderstood where their lines were at; however, we may need to make sure that the county is identifying them where they are — human error happens,” she said.
Minnesota law already requires counties to maintain the monuments established by the U.S. public lands survey, but the bills, HF 273 in the House and SF 125 in the Senate, seek to create procedures for addressing discrepancies when they occur, specifically when a county seeks to alter a pre-established boundary line.
In Polk County, landowners have been told to take the issue to court, but the legislation would require the county to file a petition when seeking to alter a pre-established boundary line. The county would be responsible for fielding any associated costs, not a landowner.
“It hopefully gives the landowner the upper hand,” said Green. “For instance, there are people that are having to go to court to try to keep the property that they’ve had for years, and if this bill should pass, that will eliminate that — they will have it established that this is the boundary.”
The bill would also require counties to conduct an assessment of existing monuments by Dec. 31, 2025, and preserve and restore all monuments destroyed or obscured by Dec. 31, 2026.
“It would be to confirm that the monuments are where they are and if they’re damaged or removed, that we make sure they’re in place,” said Kiel.
Green and Kiel introduced similar legislation during the 2022 legislative session, but the bill never had a hearing. Green said this year he worked with legislative researchers to draft a bill that overlaps less with existing laws and instead provides a course of action for when discrepancies occur.
“In law, they have to go by the established boundaries, but they’re not, so what do we do about that?” said Green. “So the bill now codifies again what the existing law is, but it instructs then the procedure.”
The bills have been introduced in each chamber of the legislature and referred to the State and Local Government and Veterans Committee in the Senate and State and Local Government Finance and Policy Committee in the House. No hearings have been scheduled yet.