The Hennepin County Board of Commissioners is expected to vote Tuesday on a resolution that would authorize the county to take the eight-acre ballpark site through eminent domain. According to the county's lead negotiator, Commissioner Mike Opat, the county still has to finalize an agreement with the railroad. Those negotiations involve a plan to move the train tracks, so they're not so close to the ballpark.
"We're working on how the track might be realigned to accomodate the ballpark and some liability issues. But all that is proceeding pretty well. So I don't think we're that far apart," he said.
Following an agreement with the railroad, the county will deposit $13.35 million with the courts. Through a process called Quick Take they will get the title to the land and will be able to start clearing away the asphalt parking lot which covers much of the site.
The county had started the eminent domain procedure several months ago after negotiations over the price of the land with the landowners reached an impasse. The landowners wanted more than the $13.35 million the county had offered to pay. And they agreed to let the county take the land through eminent domain and let a court appointed panel determine the fair market price.
But under that process the county faced with the possibility that the court would set a price that was more than they could afford. And Opat was concerned that the $90 million pool of money that the county was authorized to use to buy the land and pay for construction of bridges, walkways and plazas wasn't going to be enough. So Opat went to the Twins for help.
"Actually the team will assist us with non-land infrastructure primarily," Opat said. "The bridges and plazas are proving to be a little more expensive than we had thought. So we're going to get a little help from them. We're not going to talk about the details. But that's their additional involvement."
In other words, Opat isn't saying how much the Twins have agreed to kick in.
The county is now prepared to follow the condemnation process all the way through to a jury trial, if they don't like the fair market price assessed by the courts.
That assessment could come in the next two months, according to Rich Pogin, one of the principals of Land Partners. His group of investors owns much of the stadium site and is one of the parties involved in the condemnation procedure. Pogin says a judge has already empaneled the three-person commission and has instructed them to make their determination by late June.
Pogin says he's encouraged that commissioner Opat has gotten this far in negotiations with the railroad. However, he says he's going to wait for the ink on the railroad deal to dry before he congratulates Opat.
"I think it all sounds relatively positive," he said. "I would just say, like any very complex agreement, until it's actually come together and everything is signed with the railroad -- we've always felt that was going to be a very sticky issue -- until that's all inked I wouldn't pop the champagne corks."
Orginally, construction crews were supposed to start preparing the site last month. However county officials say, even with the delay, the project can still be completed on schedule.
Now that the land deal has progressed to this point, the Twins are ready to roll out the long-delayed stadium design later this week.