An Edina couple who recently shuttered their dry cleaning business in the 50th and France neighborhood lost a battle to keep their building Tuesday evening when the Edina city council voted 3-2 to condemn it in the city’s first use of eminent domain in a decade.
Soon and Jenny Park operated Hooten Dry Cleaning at 3944 W. 49½ St. for more than 20 years before retiring in May. The city had been negotiating to purchase the building, valued at more than $550,000, since fall 2012, but the couple refused to sell. A 60-day negotiating period will now begin; if an agreement isn't made, the case will be taken to Hennepin County Court.
In a public hearing Tuesday evening in which nearly two dozen residents spoke, Soon Park said that Bill Neuendorf, the city’s Economic Development manager, had promised them that should they close their business, their property would not be seized. (Neuendorf denies he made such a promise.)
“We feel the city has not treated us fairly,” Park said. “We have no income, we have no business income, we have no tenant income: We are very afraid of how we can live.”
Many Edina residents spoke in support of the Parks during the public hearing.
“I’m concerned about this particular use of eminent domain having a chilling effect on the Edina business climate,” Edina resident Brian Hansen said. “How many potential business owners, how many leaseholders, how many potential investors are going to look at each other and say, ‘Who’s next?’”
Condemnation procedures will begin in two months should the city be unable to reach an agreement with the Parks. Council members said they were not happy with the course of the negotiations, but Neuendorf told the Star Tribune that the Parks were asking the city to give a purchase offer three or four times the number reached by an independent appraiser.
“We are entering into the use of this tool on a very reluctant basis and a very cautious basis because we haven’t been able to have an effective discussion with you,” mayor Jim Hovland told the Parks during the meeting. “There is a legitimate need for parking in that area and that is one of the things we’ve been sensitive to.”Edina plans on using the Parks’ building to extend the North Parking Ramp and, possibly, as a site for a municipal liquor store.