9/24/2005

Burger King site home of Whopper or eminent domain? Anoka (MN) Union, 9/23/05

By L A Jones

The long boarded-up Burger King fast food restaurant at the northwest corner of Ferry and Main streets in Anoka could soon be under new ownership – eminent domain and all.

As part of a report to the Anoka City Council Monday, City Attorney Bill Hawkins said a hearing was set in Anoka County District Court for Monday, Sept. 26 conditionally, to be possibly abandoned based on a possible sale of the Burger King property to the city or CVS Pharmacy under an extension granted until yesterday (Thursday, Sept. 22).

The old Burger King site has been considered an eyesore by city leaders, residents and others because it is located at what is considered to be one of the main gateways to Anoka from the south and the west.

The condemnation schedule comes just as an update was presented Monday night from Anoka’s Economic Development Commission (EDC) that it was a little concerned with the placement of CVS Pharmacy across the street from the competitor, Walgreen’s, at the southwest corner of Ferry and Main streets, according to Bonnie Stoll, member of the EDC.

The EDC supports “demolishing the building,” but has “concern about having two drug stores located so close to each other,” according to the Sept. 8 minutes of the committee. Further, according to the EDC minutes, the commission would “support the land use being market driven and that no subsidy be given to potential buyers.”

The block on which the former Burger King is located, as well as other parcels there in which property owners are interested in selling, has been identified as a Tax Increment Financing (TIF) area. The only portion of the block that would not be obtained using TIF funds would be the Auto Zone parcel and a segment owned by the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT).

“Tax increment revenue from the council TIF district can be used to undertake planning, property acquisition and redevelopment,” said Anoka Community Development Director Bob Kirchner in May.

Anoka City Manager Tim Cruikshank said Monday night the city would use TIF funding to acquire the Burger King parcel either via a willing seller or by eminent domain proceedings.

Hawkins told the council that the owner of the Burger King parcel had discussed the sale of the property to Walgreen’s. But he didn’t know just how serious Walgreen’s was about obtaining the site, Hawkins said.

Eminent domain proceedings and the acquisition of the property by the city through other means, he told the council, would allow Anoka to choose what developer it desired to build on the block.

Hawkins would not recommend dismissing eminent domain proceedings until a development plan was actually in place, he said.

“You can insist there is development on that property that is acceptable to the city,” Hawkins said.

The Anoka City Council May 16 on a 4-1 vote authorized Hawkins to proceed with eminent domain proceedings against eight parcels on the block bounded by Ferry, Main and Webster, including the Burger King land.

Mayor Bjorn Skogquist voted against authorizing eminent domain at the time, presumably because of the effect on other property owners, including homeowner Tom Ward.

“(All of these properties) are linked by a complex set of ownership patterns and real estate negotiations at this time,” said Kirchner May 16.

At the time eminent domain proceedings were authorized by the council, Ward expressed his preference to have CVS purchase all of the properties without any city involvement.

But in lieu of that not happening, Skogquist suggested that the city purchase Ward’s three parcels on the condition that other parcels are obtained by either eminent domain or negotiation on the part of the city or CVS.

“It’s a little difficult with so many property owners involved,” Ward said at the time.

With Anoka’s petition for eminent domain against the owner of the Burger King land, according to Hawkins, it is up to Burger King to negotiate the sale of the land or face condemnation by the city in Anoka County District Court commencing Monday with a hearing.


Anoka Union: www.abcnewspapers.com