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January 4, 2007

The Landowners' response to Sid's column

UPDATE: This is the letter Rich sent to the Star Tribune. A little different, but the main theme is still there: the County doesn't have enough money for the land whether through negotiations or condemnation.


I just received this from Rich Pogin, spokesperson and main negotiator for the land the Twins ballpark will sit on. Strong words:

We (the land owners and Hines) have told the county that we will not object to a quick take of the land to be for used as a ballpark.

The problem is the county submitted a fixed budget to the legislature for infrastructure and land. Of the $90M, the land piece was $18M. Of this $4m is budgeted to the BN rail, $500,000 has gone to the city. There are several remnant parcels to acquire from MN dot and or the city. The balance is for the main parcel. The dollars available for land left could go up or down based on what the infrastructure costs. The bottom line is the legislation did not provide for paying market value for the land. Their number for land were probably guesses. When these guesses were made and by whom is a mystery.

If the legislation had said the infrastructure is $72M, and the land at fair market value, the county would take the project in a quick take and the value would have been determined though eminent domain proceedings (assuming a negotiated deal could not be reached).

Despite the fact the county has filed condemnation orders against the property I do not see the County proceeding due to the defects of the legislation they requested. They have more or less said they will not pay fair market value as defined by the eminent domain statutes. I'm not sure that this will be the final chapter in the book but it might be.

For the record I am the person in charge of negotiations and legal matters for the partnerships that own the land. The County knows this because I negotiated the option with the city and county in 2004. I have never been asked to meet with the Twins regarding the land at any time. I have also never been asked by the county to meet with the county to discuss land values in 2006 (I did sit in on a couple of meetings unrelated to land value).

Rich Pogin

Yikes, yikes, yikes. The phrase "I'm not sure that this will be the final chapter in the book but it might be" sends chills down my spine. I don't know what to think. I'll see if I can't gather some more information. Until then, start praying.

Again, though, I can't see getting this far only to see everything blow up. I just can't see it. Only time will tell.

Posted by snackeru at January 4, 2007 6:34 PM

Comments

This is alarming, but I wouldn't panic. This is where the Twins have to step up if they want this to happen. They are responsible for cost-overruns. This is not truly a cost-overrun more of a defect in the legislation, but the principle is the same.

I'm not completely familiar with the legislation, but there would seem to be two options. #1 is the Twins simply have to cover the difference between the condemnation FMV and the money that the county has left. This is the simplist solution. However, does the legislation cap the amount that can be spent on this at $90 million no matter what? Even if the Twins are chipping in the difference?

If so, it is more problematic. It would seem that the Twins will need to purchase the land from the current owners. Unforetunately they don't have condemnation rights, but hopefully the current owners really do want this to happen and would sell at that agreed upon price. The Twins would then need to sell the land to the county for whatever is 'left' of the $90 million.

Overriding point: It is in the best interest of the Twins, the county and the landowners that this stadium be built. I can't see how anyone benefits by it blowing up now, so hopefully reasonable minds will prevail.

Posted by: David Howe at January 4, 2007 7:32 PM

Thanks for the response David. Yes, the $90 million is a hard number. The County cannot spend more than that on both infrastructure and land acquisition. I just received verification of this yesterday.

Your point about the Twins picking up the difference is an important one since it may be one of the only ways out of this mess. Unfortunately getting Pohlad to cough up $130 million was like squeezing blood from a rock. He has been remarkably stubborn about the amount of money he will provide.

The difficulty with this is also the fact that Pohlad agreed to pick up overruns on the ballpark itself, not the land or the infrastructure.

From what I've heard so far, everyone is sticking to their guns, especially the Twins. Bell is calling the landowners greedy, but not suggesting they will pony up anymore.

This is all a part of the dance, I'm sure, but I don't like it. $90 million was not enough and it is causing problems. If the Twins giving more money is the only way out of this, then we are probably going to be sweating a little.

Like you, though, I can't see this blowing up just yet. However, that doesn't mean I'm not worried.

Posted by: Shane at January 4, 2007 7:41 PM

Well, I'm normally on the Twins side, but they need to step up here. What is thier alternative? They worked 10 years for this and they're going to walk away instead of come with another $10-20 million that might be needed to solve this problem? I can't believe they would let it go down like that.

Posted by: David Howe at January 4, 2007 8:41 PM

Just a thought:
I think it is also important to understand everything about this deal. Did you know that one of the owners of the land have investments into the NorthStar lightrail. This is paid by tax payers. They are to may millions if that deal goes through. Weather condos and/or the twins on the site, the lands needs the NorthStar lightrail to go through. It is a little hard for me to say that it is only about Twins.
I think there is greed on both sides and I think it is fair to the Twins should bail us out. I say no Twins, no NorthStar lightrail funding.

Posted by: JB at January 5, 2007 7:41 PM

Sorry about grammar:
I think it is also important to understand everything about this deal. Did you know that the owners of the land have investments into the NorthStar lightrail. This is paid by tax payers. They are to make millions if that deal goes through. Weather condos and/or the twins are on the site, the land needs the NorthStar lightrail to go through. It is a little hard for me to say that only the Twins should bail us out.
I think there is greed on both sides and I think it is NOT fair to say only the Twins should bail us out. I say no Twins, no NorthStar lightrail funding.

Posted by: JB at January 5, 2007 7:48 PM

Shane, has the Star Tribune contacted you yet about a job? You scooped them by at least 24 hours on this one. Congrats.

Posted by: David Howe at January 6, 2007 5:31 AM

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