A court-appointed commission has determined the value of some land that the city of St. Paul has been trying to take from ExxonMobil.

The three-member group said the 37-acre former oil tank farm is worth $7 million, according to Cecile Bedor, director of St. Paul's Planning and Economic Development department.

That's the amount the city and ExxonMobil will use in negotiations for the property, which has been envisioned as part of one of the city's largest housing developments ever. At one time, plans for the 65-acre Victoria Park called for 850 housing units.

The land was once the site of separate oil tank farms owned by Koch Refinery Co. and Mobil Oil Corp., and neighbors and the city had been sizing it up since 1995, when both companies simultaneously shut down operations.

Koch sold its land, but ExxonMobil had been unwilling to sell its portion if the city was going to build housing on it. The company was concerned about future liability for the contaminated land.

The city made efforts to condemn the property, and the parties have been in and out of court over the past four years. The city has said it would clean the land to make it safe for housing and has submitted plans to the state Pollution Control Agency.

"We are still in negotiations with Exxon and feel confident we will reach an agreement," Bedor said. A deal could be in place by mid-January, she said.

Bedor declined to go into details of what might happen with the site -- whether it would be housing or a park or some other development -- should the city gain control of it as a result of the negotiations. "The ultimate goal is to make sure that the old tank farm is redeveloped into a positive asset for the neighborhood," she said.

Dan Rosen, a Minneapolis attorney representing ExxonMobil, was traveling out of the country and couldn't be reached to comment Tuesday.

Chris Havens • 651-298-1542