Fight Brews in Forest Lake over Real Estate

Updated: 02/04/2013 8:50 AM KSTP.com By: Todd Wilson

Susan Young is a member of the Forest Lake City Council. She explained why the city chose to purchase the Northland Mall property to build their new government complex.

"You may have noticed this is not a bustling mall. Most of it has been vacant for at least 10 to 12 years," Young said.

The Northland Mall property is located on highway 61 near highway 97. The city is paying to demolish part of the mall at tax payers' expense, and that site will become a new city hall, fire department and police station. The complex is expected to cost $20 million but could go as high as $30 million.

"This is an economic development project," Young said.

Cameron Piper is a resident of Forest Lake. He feels the city used the Economic Development Authority in an inappropriate manner to purchase private property; he says there is a conflict of interest considering the mayor and a council member are members of the E.D.A.

"In their opinion they are able to avoid a referendum or a petition on the issue," Piper said.

Young says, overlap of city council and E.D.A. is common.   

"Economic development decisions really don't go in front of voting people. That's what they elect representatives for," Young said.

So Piper and several other residents are planning to sue the city.

"We are asking them to weigh in on whether this is the correct use of their power," Piper said.

So far Young says the city has issued bonds just under $23 million, hired an architect, and issued a request for proposals for construction management.