1/07/2007

Stadium 'squeeze'? Not by us: Minneapolis MN Star-Tribune, 1/6/07

Representatives of a parcel sought for the new Twins stadium object to comments in a recent column, and ask why no one called

By Bruce A. Lambrecht and Richard K. Pogin

We are the fiduciaries who represent the 100-plus small investors who own the site that has been designated for the new Twins ballpark. Sid Hartman's sources for his Dec. 31 column about the site purchase are mistaken.

The column headline, "Stadium site owners put squeeze on Twins," is flatly untrue. We were never contacted by Hartman for our comments. In fact, the Twins have never even picked up the phone to call us about buying our property. Before, and even after, Twins stadium point man Jerry Bell's smear of us in Hartman's column, the Twins had not shown any interest in speaking to us.

As for Hartman's Hennepin County source who says that the county "is trying to negotiate with the owners and not have to condemn it," that source, who speaks of eminent domain as if it were a future possibility the county wants to avoid, is misinformed. In fact, two months ago, on Nov. 3, the county started eminent domain litigation in court.

While we did not choose to be in eminent domain litigation, we accept the county's choice. In such litigation, a court of law will determine what the fair market value of the property is, and we are willing to accept the court's determination.

Is that "greedy" or "stubborn"? This raises a critical question. Are those who smeared us unwilling to pay fair market value for our property?

Unfortunately, in our opinion, the county's eminent domain case has started off badly: The county has hired the same appraisal firm that was used by the city of Minneapolis during the downtown redevelopment-condemnation phase of the 1990s.

We have researched that firm's appraisals in those cases and compared them with the judgments of the court in each of those cases. We learned that in virtually every case, that firm's appraisal was determined by the court to be approximately one-third of the true value of the property taken by condemnation. (Look at its appraisals in the condemnations for the downtown Target store, the 50 S. 6th office building, and the theater at 7th and Hennepin.)

Another flaw in these proceedings is that although the eminent domain law and the Constitution require the payment of fair market value, the county budget for infrastructure and land was fixed by the Legislature in its budget. This budget was based on estimates done at some point in the past by someone who presented them to the Legislature (likely without appraisals and certainly without consultation with the landowners). In short, the county land budget makes no provisions for the fair market value being greater than the estimates. This oversight is regrettable and unfortunate. We hope there is a resolution to the problem, other than casting aspersions on the more than 100 small investors who own the property.


Minneapolis MN Star-Tribune: http://www.startribune.com

Bruce A. Lambrecht and Richard K. Pogin are president and CFO, respectively, of Investment Management Inc.