August 21, 2018
Developer Brad Hoyt has filed suit against the City of St. Anthony, saying the city fraudulently used his company to oust the residents of the Lowry Grove mobile home park “in order to ride the City of low-income, multicultural citizens that the City deemed undesirable.”
The suit, filed August 20 in U.S. District Court, alleges that the city “conspired and lied” to The Village, a limited liability company formed by Hoyt’s Continental Properties Group (CPG), to use it to close down the Lowry Grove park and remove its residents.
The suit states that The Village spent $6 million to acquire the property from former owner Lowry Grove Partnership. A subsequent lawsuit by the displaced Lowry Grove residents and non-profit developer Aeon against The Village cost the company $1 million in attorneys’ fees and costs.
The suit details the back-and-forth wrangling between the company and City Hall as the company sought to find a building plan that would make residents and the city happy and meet a 2008 Comprehensive Plan goal of a density of 25 units per acre. Ultimately, The Village came up with a proposal with a density of 27 units per acre, but asked for Tax Increment Financing (TIF) because it felt it could not profitably build the proposed apartment complex without it.
“In the Spring of 2018,” the suit says, “The City went through the motions of pretending to be working on” a TIF analysis. The analysis concluded that The Village could be built without TIF.
Reached by phone, Hoyt was blunt. “They [the City] never intended to [allow the building of The Village] to begin with. The fix was in on this project on the day we walked in two years ago. The whole plan was to use us to do their dirty work, to close the park, to get rid of it, and then to not approve what they had said they would approve.”
Asked about TIF, Hoyt said, “The City violated our agreement by not approving the TIF. They never actually denied it.” He continued, “They made it clear they were not going to approve any Tax Increment Financing for the project. If they were to approve the TIF, we would probably allow someone else to step in.”
Asked if this meant the property was for sale, Hoyt replied, “I’m a real estate developer. It’s always for sale.”
The suit seeks damages in an amount “greater than $50,000”, a jury trial, an award of attorney’s fees and other costs associated with the lawsuit.
St. Anthony Villagers for Community Action (SAVCA) weighed in on the announcement in a press release: “While we decry the expense of another lawsuit, it has been our recurring experience that our city leadership requires outside opinion to force transparency – such as when the City Council was notified that it violated the Open Meeting Law (Minnesota Statutes, Chapter 13D) in 2018.”
Responding to the Northeaster, City Manager Mark Casey said, “The city sees this lawsuit as completely without merit. Mr. Hoyt apparently made a horrible real estate deal that displaced hundreds of honorable people. . . We will vigorously defend this ridiculous lawsuit, though we cannot provide further comment at this time due to active litigation.”
Read the complaint here: http://www.mynortheaster.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/20180820_Complaint.pdf”
More details to come in the September 5 issue of the Northeaster.