For more than 65 years, a sign stood sentry over a Grand Marais gas station along Hwy. 61. Now the red, white and blue Holiday insignia is on the ground, out of sight, and the owner of the station is suing the state to put it back up.
The Minnesota Department of Transportation, now undertaking a major reconstruction project on the highway, issued a violation notice to Mike's Holiday Inc. in October last year, saying the sign is an "encroachment" onto the public right of way despite standing on its angled blue signpost since 1953.
In April, owners Michael and Darlene Quaife obliged, and the business told customers on Facebook "we are required to remove it for them to complete the Hwy. 61 project over the next two years."
"While we are hoping they will eventually allow us to put it back up, we are deeply saddened to see it come down."
In May the store sued the state and the city, saying the sign is "integral to plaintiff's ongoing business operations" and that for decades the state "respected plaintiff's placement of the sign" and made no objections to it.
The dispute boils down to a border battle over the actual property lines between the business and the public right of way.
The suit is asking a judge to set the boundary at the southern edge of where the sign stood, award attorneys' fees and any "further relief that the court deems just and equitable."
The state will ask the court to dismiss the case in August, it said in a filing last month.
Tyson Smith, an attorney for the Holiday store owners, said he wouldn't comment on the case while it is pending and advised his clients not to as well.
Smith is representing a number of other Grand Marais businesses in an eminent domain case launched by the state last fall that sought temporary easements along the highway.
An easement near the Holiday station was granted in March and is set to expire by Dec. 1, 2022, according to court filings.
The sign post was one of the last two original Holiday posts left, according to the store.
Construction on Hwy. 61 will limit visibility and access to the gas station through next year.
The suit seeks to identify the property boundary that existed before highway construction since the roadwork will "obliterate evidence of the common boundary" due to new sidewalks, curbs and surfaces.
The store can't "adequately assert its rights after the structures and improvements showing the common boundary have been destroyed," the complaint states.
Cook County District Court Judge Michael J. Cuzzo will hear the state's motion to dismiss on Aug. 25.
Brooks Johnson • 218-491-6496