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Ballpark land debate doesn't flatter either side

Web Admin//June 27, 2007

Ballpark land debate doesn't flatter either side

Web Admin//June 27, 2007

The ongoing hearing before a three-judge panel in Minneapolis over the disputed value of the proposed Twins stadium site is making the parties involved look either less than forthright in their dealings or less than well-prepared for the transaction.

On one side are Land Partners II, the partnership that until recently owned the property and still retains joint development rights and the the current owner, Texas developer Hines Interests. They look like they have been trying to milk Hennepin County by claiming the land — appraised by attorneys for the county as having a tax value of less than $9 million — is now worth more than $65 million.

Meanwhile, Hennepin County has already been made to seem like it’s low-balling the landowners by trying to take the eight-acre parcel by eminent domain.

The county seems to have badly underestimated how difficult and expensive it would be to acquire the land. County attorney Mike Freeman has admitted as much previously, saying, “There’s some things that could have been done differently — options picked up, discussions occurred earlier.” At the same time, Freeman has complained that the owners have steadily jacked up its asking price as negotations have worn on.

Hines last year agreed to pay Land Partners II $25 million for the land. As part of the deal, Hines also agreed to pay Land Partners II 22.5 percent of anything the county pays for the land above $25 million. Depending on how much the land ultimately fetches and the success of subsequent development efforts, Hines could collect millions as a reward for its foresight.

But as this game winds on into extra innings, the winners might be Land Partners II. They’ve got a significant amount of cash in hand no matter what the judges decide.

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