The fate of the Crisman family’s access to their home on Hornet Street has taken a turn as a judge amended his earlier ruling, now concluding Hillman Township must maintain the full length of Hornet Street. 

Renee and Andy Crisman bought the property at the end of Hornet Street in 2013, moving there to live year round with their young daughters in 2017. Hornet Street is a half-mile, dead-end road.

The end property had not been lived on for a long time and the township had only performed plowing, grading, or other road maintenance for the first quarter mile of the street for over 40 years. 

When the Crismans approached the township board with a request to plow the full length of the street, all the way to their property, the board cited the “25-year law” which means town residents must vote to approve maintenance on a road that has not been serviced in 25 years. 

Town residents voted to deny maintenance. 

The Crismans then sued the township; Tenth District Court Chief Judge, Stoney L. Hiljus initially ruled in favor of the township. The Crismans filed a motion to amend the findings in July.

In an amended ruling signed Nov. 9, 2021, Tenth District Court Chief Judge, Stoney L. Hiljus, ruled that Hillman Township could not choose to deny maintenance of only a portion of the road. 

The judge’s amended rule found that nowhere in the 25-year-rule “does it state that an electorate may vote to discontinue maintenance of only a portion of a road.”

The ruling ordered that Hillman Township’s maintenance of the first quarter mile of Hornet Street requires it to maintain all portions of Hornet Street —including the portion that leads to the Crisman property. 

In his conclusions, Judge Hiljus states, “It is unreasonable and absurd to allow (Hillman Township) to deny maintenance of the latter portion of Hornet Street while maintaining the first portion, leaving the Crismans stranded while what exists of Hornet Street erodes away. The Town’s formal decision to abandon the latter half of Hornet Street came after the Crismans decided to reside at their home at the end of Hornet Street. Not maintaining the latter portion of Hornet Street would leave the Crismans at the will of a neighbor who has gone out of his way to make it hard for the Crismans to access their home like any other town resident. Not maintaining the road could also block school buses and any emergency vehicles that needed to get to the Crismans’ home.”

In a press release, Renee Crisman explained, she “wanted to have some land, and live a simpler life, away from the accelerated pace of the metro area. We fell in love with the mix of rolling hills, green open pastures, water and wooded areas. The community of Hillman Township, Kanabec County and Mora area are full of kind people and in no way does this struggle reflect on them.”

Renee noted she is “extremely grateful” for the judge’s ruling but fearful the township will continue the fight to abandon the road. 

Andy Crisman said, “We just wish the board would bring peace to this situation, now that they have been given a path to do so.” 

The Hillman town board’s next meeting is Nov. 16 (after the Kanabec County Times’ press deadline). At this meeting the board is expected to enter closed session and discuss their legal strategy and response in the matter. 

Clarifications

To make clear some confusing aspects of the Times coverage of this topic in the Oct. 28 edition, we would like to offer the following clarifications:

The township hired Stafford Trucking to create a new road by extending 297th Street at the cul-de-sac until it reached the Crisman property. There was no formal road plan created, quote, bidding process, or public hearing regarding the project. It should be noted, since Stafford Trucking is the township road contractor, public bidding is not required for projects under $25,000.

The map was off slightly, showing Hornet Street extending too far to the North. The map has been updated online at www.MoraMinn.com

The judge’s original findings of fact, noted that a neighbor put a post in the road right-of-way and later removed it. The post has not been removed.

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