A Hennepin County judge heard arguments Wednesday over whether the city of Minneapolis is exceeding its authority by buying and developing land for a public park that is part of a $400 million mixed-use development planned for the eastern stretch of downtown.
The hearing was related to a lawsuit filed last week by two former mayoral candidates and a former City Council president that challenged the way the Downtown East development is being financed.
The financing package for the development, which is located next to the new $1 billion Vikings stadium, involves the city issuing up to $65 million in bonds to help pay for a parking ramp that will be used by stadium-goers, and a public park.
While several of the claims in the lawsuit were thrown out by Judge Mel Dickstein last week, he did issue a temporary restraining order until a question over whether the City Council has the authority to establish and maintain a park under the city charter is resolved. The suit alleges that only the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board, which is independent, has that authority.
Dickstein is expected to rule on the remaining issue by year's end.
The plaintiffs in the suit are software executive Stephanie Woodruff, 60s-era city council president Dan Cohen and Anoka County prosecutor Paul Ostrow -- a former council president. Woodruff and Cohen ran for mayor, and Ostrow chaired Woodruff's campaign.
Ostrow said the suit is about urging city officials to be "transparent and open." Because the developer of the project, Minneapolis-based Ryan Cos., is expected to close on the purchase of the land for the development by Dec. 27, and the city is expected to issue bonds in short order, it's imperative for the judge to issue a permanent restraining order until the matter is ironed out.
The five-block area slated for redevelopment is currently owned by the Star Tribune.
However, Deputy City Attorny Peter Ginder said the city has the right to buy land for a park and subsequently turn it over to the Park Board to operate. "Nothing prohibits us from doing that," he said.