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Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Keystone Cops: Hennepin County Style

The Soap Opera continues. Mark H points out the revenue raising predictions from the stadium tax. The Strib covers the finger pointing between the Land owners and Hennepin County. From the article:

"We had no expectation that the willing sellers were going to be so unwilling, that the champions of Twinsville would now be lawyered up," Opat said.

Pogin, in an interview on Monday, revealed more details of the complicated limited partnership whose membership is not considered public by law. Pogin said he and Lambrecht own no more than 20 percent of the partnership, which has owned the property for 20 years, and said many of the investors are now "in their 60s, 70s and 80s." In a letter to the partnership's investors in January, Pogin said the county was in effect telling the landowners that "if you don't [accept our offer], we will throw a fit and blame our problems on you."

Despite concerns over how his personal ties to Lambrecht might be viewed, Stenglein said he proposed that he and Opat meet personally with Lambrecht. But Opat said he rejected the idea. Lambrecht, who is well-connected in the state's Republican Party, served as a top adviser when Stenglein ran for mayor of Minneapolis in 2001. (He was unsuccessful.)

"It's no secret that Lambrecht's a friend of mine," said Stenglein.

Heading off critics

Reacting to criticism from taxpayers that the county did not move quickly enough to reach a land sale, Opat said the county had to first hold public hearings in August and then take a final vote on authorizing the 0.15 percent sales tax. Then, he said, more time was need to conduct environmental reviews of the property and hire an outside appraiser.

The landowners have also moved aggressively to counter complaints that their actions are threatening to scuttle the Twins stadium. In a rare public rebuke, Downtown Council president Sam Grabarski said this month that the landowners wanted more than $40 million for land "that isn't worth $20 million."

Pogin said the landowners had a better offer three years ago under a 2004 option agreement with the city of Minneapolis. In that agreement, which has since expired, the property owners would sell the 8 acres for $12.95 million and receive as much as 5 acres nearby as additional compensation from the city. Now, he said, the county was offering $13.35 million for the 8 acres and has left out the other acreage.

Opat said the additional property is needed for the stadium and is no longer available.

Daniel Rosen, an attorney for the landowners, added that despite the stadium's approval at the Legislature seven months earlier, county officials did not hold their first formal negotiating session with the property owners until Jan. 8. Pogin said the county and the team then tried to pressure them into a quick sale, at one point giving the landowners "two to three hours" to accept an offer.

Opat said the property owners created delays throughout the fall by making it confusing as to who represented them. Although the land has a taxable value of less than $9 million, Opat said the property owners raised the price, indicating to him that even $50 million "isn't going to do it."

All of the uncertainty has left the ballpark, and its projected 2010 opening, in doubt. For the time being, the county has slowed its attempt to acquire the property through condemnation in hopes that the landowners will agree to an out-of-court sale that will be cheaper than what a court might decide. After the county's decision last week to consider alternative sites, the team canceled plans to unveil a detailed stadium design that was scheduled for Thursday.

The Lambrecht-Stenglein-Pawlenty-McClung connection sticks.


Markh said...

I'd encourage Hennepin County residents who object to the Twins stadium swindle to contact their commissioners with suggestions re: what else the public could buy with $76,300 a day.

Or better yet - maybe the taxpayers could keep the money in their own pocket!