Lawsuit Filed Against St. Cloud Over Heritage Park Land Sale [VIDEO]
ST. CLOUD -- A lawsuit has been filed against the city of St. Cloud over the land where a Costco store is being built. A group called "Citizens for Government Accountability", who describe themselves as St. Cloud taxpayers, filed the lawsuit in Stearns County Court Thursday morning.
The group claims the city sold the nearly 19 acres of land at Heritage Park well below market value, therefore constituting an illegal business subsidy to the buyer. The city and the developers for Costco closed on the property last month at a price of just over $3.5 million, and the city also agreed to provide the buyer with nearly $1.3 million in additional improvements.
The court complaint says an independent certified appraisal of the Heritage Park Property sets the fair market value at more than double the sale price at nearly $8.7 million. The complaint goes on to say that the city's own appraiser valued the land at over $5 million.
St. Cloud Mayor Dave Kleis says he disagrees with those numbers and that the dollar amount that the land was sold for is the correct one.
We feel very confident in those dollar amounts. But, if a judge determines different well then Costco will pay additional dollars for it.
It also states that on or about January 22nd of this year the city received a $6.5 million cash offer for the Heritage Park Property from a different buyer. The city council acknowledged the existence of the offer but didn't consider it because they had already committed to the Costco sale. Kleis says it was impossible for the city to take other offers while they already had a purchase agreement in place.
While the offer is there you can't take other offers. The individual was told that and said, "you're right".
Kleis says the city council would have had to first rescind the offer to Costco before they could have accepted any other offers.
He says nothing in this lawsuit is new, and it has all already been discussed in a public forum through the city council.
The group is asking the court to rule that a subsidy in excess of $6 million was given to Costco.
Citizens for Government Accountability spokesman John Austin says the people behind the lawsuit want to remain anonymous, at least for now, out of a fear of retaliation.