A neighbor is suing the estate of the late Minnesota businessman Irwin Jacobs and the city of Orono over a preliminary plan to divide part of Jacobs' 20-acre property into six subdivisions that would eventually be sold to build houses and new streets.
The complaint, filed last week in Hennepin County District Court by neighbor Barbara Burwell, alleges that the redevelopment plan violates city lakeshore setback rules and could also lead to the seizure of a chunk of Burwell's land, should the city or county install new turn lanes for traffic along Shoreline Drive.
The Jacobs' 20-acre property in question is at 1700 Shoreline Drive and sits between Tanager Lake to the north and Lake Minnetonka's Smith Bay to the south. The proposed subdivision land sits just west of the Burwell property at 1100 and 1125 Millston Road in Orono.
The lawsuit states the Orono City Council approved the Jacobs redevelopment plan for the preliminary housing subdivision plan without regard for the rules and despite Burwell's objections during public hearings.
Burwell is asking the court to appeal the City Council's preliminary approval and wants a declaratory judgment stating that the city and estate violated Orono city ordinances.
Neither Burwell nor her attorney could be reached for comment Tuesday. Orono City Administrator Adam Edwards said the city's attorneys are reviewing the lawsuit. He declined to comment further citing pending litigation.
Patrick Steinhoff, the attorney for the Jacobs family estate, said Burwell's lawsuit has no merit. "The bottom line is that [the subdivision plan] is conforming. It is consistent with all the ordinances," he said.
Steinhoff added that the preliminary plan approved by the city deals only with the subdivision of the land and not where future possible houses might be located. He said complaints about any potential lakeshore setback rules are premature since the plan doesn't yet deal with housing structures.
Steinhoff also said Burwell's complaints about the placement of possible turn lanes is beyond the purview of the city since Shoreline Drive is controlled by Hennepin County.
The Jacobs estate and the city of Orono have 21 days to respond to Burwell's lawsuit. After that the court will schedule a hearing.
The lawsuit is the latest upheaval surrounding the life, family and property of Irwin Jacobs, the prominent Minnesota businessman who fatally shot his wife and then himself in April 2019 after suffering health and financial problems.
Since the couple's death, some of their five children have engaged in public squabbles over inheritance claims and the amount of debt Irwin Jacob left behind.
In court filings, son Mark Jacobs stated that his parents' estate was $110 million in debt. Attorneys for daughter Randi Jacobs countered that no accounting or audits have been shown that validate that claim.
Irwin Jacobs, who died at age 77, was a nationally known investor who made a fortune as a corporate raider in the 1980s and 1990s.
In the 1990s, he purchased a series of boat firms to form Genmar Holdings Inc. Genmar became the nation's No. 2 maker of boats for a time. His other businesses included the bass-fishing tournament organizer Fishing League Worldwide, plus J.R. Watkins Co., Jacobs Trading Co., Jacobs Industries Inc. and Premier Storage Inc.
Dee DePass • 612-673-7725