Hennepin County gave up on years of fruitless negotiations with a Minneapolis family and decided Tuesday to forcibly acquire its property for a new $15 million Webber Park Library on the northern edge of town.
Kevin and Valerie Holler once had their house at 45th and Humboldt Avenues N. on the market but have been unwilling to sell to the county despite owning a second, lavishly landscaped house nearby on tree-lined Washburn Avenue N.
The library project has been parked because of the Hollers' refusal to sell. The county obtained all the land needed to build, except the Hollers' piece. Now it will forcibly acquire the property through a legal action called eminent domain. The process, often called a "taking," allows governments to acquire land for a public purpose.
Library started crumbling
The public purpose here is the new library, the need for which would seem to have escalated last summer when the current building literally began crumbling. Board Chairman Mike Opat, who lives nearby in Robbinsdale, and Commissioner Linda Higgins, who represents the area, say the new library should be on or near Victory Memorial Parkway but cannot be rebuilt on the current site.
Opat has repeatedly pointed out that the current library is accessible only from one direction, and that will be exacerbated with the opening of a new Minneapolis pool next summer.
The Hollers have declined requests to speak about their motivation for not selling, although Valerie Holler sent an e-mail to commissioners and the media Tuesday in which she asked the board not to "set in motion the plundering of our dreams" by acquiring the property.
She also said the new library location was the desire of only Opat and Higgins.
Board voted 5-2
The board approved the action to acquire the property 5-2 Tuesday without discussion. Commissioners Gail Dorfman, Randy Johnson and Peter McLaughlin joined Opat and Higgins in voting for the action. Commissioners Jan Callison and Jeff Johnson voted against.
The Hollers still could choose to negotiate and sell the property to the county. If they don't, County Administrator David Hough will begin the eminent domain procedure, through which a price will be determined. The process could stretch to a couple of years.
The dispute dates from April 2008, when the board decided to build a library to replace the Webber Park Library at 4310 Webber Pkwy. In June of that year, the Hollers received a letter telling them of the county's interest in acquiring their property at 1423 45th Av. N., which had been on the market in 2007.
A story in the Camden Community News noted that the Hollers said they would sell only for $1 million to the county. The article went on to say the board didn't intend to pay more for the house than its fair market value. (The current county record estimates market value at $275,000.)
Last year, the board pulled the proposed new library from its list of projects.