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06/26/07 5:37 PM ET

Hearing on ballpark land value begins

Owners, Hennepin County disputing site's worth

MINNEAPOLIS -- A condemnation hearing to determine the actual value of the land where the Twins' new ballpark will be built began Monday.

The price of the eight-acre parcel of land has been in dispute between Hennepin County and the land's owners for months. The county seized the land in May under eminent domain.

Daniel Rosen, an attorney representing Land Partners II, the group that owned the land the county has condemned and claimed, told a packed courtroom Monday that the land is worth about $65.38 million. The county itself is believed to be offering $17.23 million, nearly four times less. Some county officials also say the lot is worth only half of that $17 million.

The county's lawyer, Byron Starns, said the lot has been appraised twice -- recently at $13.35 million -- and would be valued at about $8.98 million by the Hennepin County tax assessor.

Right now, the land is currently occupied by a 20-year-old Rapid Park parking lot. Due to the lot being sunken, Starns said that its value is only as a parking lot or for a stadium site. The site also sits next to the county garbage incinerator.

But while Rosen acknowledged the parking lot's proximity to the incinerator, he said the site is still enticing because of its closeness to the core of downtown Minneapolis, Target Center, the entrance to Interstate 394, and to the Cedar Lake bike trail. Rosen also said that the most appealing part of the land is its proximity to the Hiawatha light-rail line and to the future Northstar line.

The hearing could last as long as a month, according to some published reports, and if it does, the cost to taxpayers could rise by $10 million because of the legal fees. Due to the money involved in the argument, the hearing would be the largest land-condemnation hearing in Minnesota's history.

Site preparation has already started on the plot of land in the Minneapolis Warehouse District. The official groundbreaking is set for Aug. 2.

Kelly Thesier is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.