About a month ago, tax payers in Minnesota learned that the new Twins ball park’s cost would be $8 million dollars more than anticipated. At the time, Hennepin County enforced a newly-minted eminent domain law, taking title over the land where the proposed stadium would be built.
County commissioners approved an escrow payment of $13.755 million for the value of the land, but, guess what, the landowners didn’t like it. So they took the county to court for a condemnation hearing. The ensuing legal fight came at taxpayers expense, as Hennepin County attorneys were getting paid at the $320-an-hour rate; totaling about $8 million in fees.
From a July 7th AP report:
And the county could be liable for “reasonable attorney fees, litigation expenses, appraisal fees, other expert fees and other related costs” if the condemnation award is more than 40 percent greater than the county’s original offer, which was made before it filed for condemnation last November.
The county says it offered $13.35 million for the land at that time, but the landowners say they never received a formal offer before condemnation papers were filed.
Hennepin County Commissioner Mike Opat, the County Board’s lead stadium negotiator, said the ownership group is trying “to drive up legal fees and have a long ugly battle” in hopes of getting a better offer from the county. Instead, Opat is focused on a land-option agreement between Hines and Land Partners II that was revealed last week.
Opat said the agreement shows that Land Partners II would sell the property to Hines for about $19 million, far below their claim last week that it is worth more than $65 million.
Well, guess what.
At the start of a nearly monthlong condemnation hearing in June, a lawyer for the landowners had said the parcel was worth $65.38 million. County officials had formally offered $13.35 million for the downtown Minneapolis parcel, and a real estate appraiser hired by the county said that the property’s worth is $17.23 million.
The landowners, represented by Land Partners II, a limited liability partnership, and Hines Interests, a Texas developer, said Monday they had not decided whether to appeal the award and by and large withheld public comment.
“It was $10 million more than what they offered,” Rich Pogin, a Land Partners II official, said of the $23.8 million award.
That’s right. Hennepin County had offered around $13 million for the property, but the courts decided it was actually worth $23.8 million, that’s $10 million more – never mind that doesn’t include the legal fees, if the hearing ever went to trial.
But wait, there’s actually more:
Three hours after the ruling was made public, one of the three condemnation commissioners — the only real estate appraiser on the panel — filed a surprise dissenting report stating that he felt the land was instead worth $33.2 million.
“It’s a highly unusual and bizarre development,” said Hennepin County Commissioner Mike Opat, the lead stadium negotiator for the County Board.
Although the dissenting report filed by Larry Tucker, a real estate appraiser for 32 years, has no official bearing on the panel’s award, it could push the owners of the stadium site toward an appeal and lengthen what has already been a nine-month public feud over the value of the land where the 40,000-seat stadium will be built.
That’s right! The legal fight isn’t over! Meaning those legal fees could add up and up!
That sucks Twins fans, but you guys should be up in arms about this. Not only is the stadium going to be more expensive, according to county commissioner Mike Opat, it “might not be as great and grand.” What a crock!