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Downtown East court challenge seeks ‘transparency’

“Bottom line, we just want to make sure this deal is done right,” says former mayoral candidate Stephanie Woodruff, one of three challenging the action.

Friday’s vote by the Minneapolis City Council on the Downtown East development project apparently will go ahead as planned, despite a court challenge that claims the terms of the deal violate rules outlined in the stadium legislation.

The legal action comes from former mayoral candidates Stephanie Woodruff and Dan Cohen, who are joined in the matter by former City Council President Paul Ostrow.

“Bottom line, we just want to make sure this deal is done right, and there’s proper transparency and the taxpayers are represented,” said Woodruff following Thursday’s courtroom arguments.

Ostrow, appearing before Hennepin County Judge Mel I. Dickstein, argued for a temporary restraining order to halt the vote on Friday.

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“The judge has this under advisement and has indicated he will not be issuing a ruling before the City Council meeting tomorrow,” said City Attorney Susan Segal after a closed-door meeting with the judge and the two sides following arguments in open court.

Segal said she expects the judge to rule early next week.

Opponents of the project contend that the $65 million the city plans to spend on the project’s new parking ramp adjacent to the new Vikings stadium violates the $150 million legislative limit on the city’s participation in the stadium.

Peter Ginder, deputy city attorney, argued that the parking ramp is part of a development district, not part of the stadium, and is therefore not in violation of the spending limit.

The two parties also disagree on the city’s legal rights to operate the project’s park, and the designation of the land, some of which is currently owned by the Star Tribune, as “marginal property.”

“Our issue is not so much the vote itself but making sure that before any bonds are issued, or before any contracts are signed, we’re hoping the court decides to take a look at all of that,” Ostrow said.

There are several deadlines involved in the process.

Dec. 27 is the deadline for the developer, Ryan Cos, to sign a purchase agreement for the land. Ryan and Wells Fargo are also expected to sign an agreement this month for the banking company to occupy two office towers on the site.

Friday is the current council’s last regular meeting of the year. When the new council convenes in January, there will be seven new members.