Minnesota attorney general sides with mobile home owners fighting redevelopment

Published 9:55 am Tuesday, August 9, 2016

By Shannon Prather

Minneapolis Star Tribune

Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson is throwing her support for St. Anthony mobile home park residents who are now in a fierce legal fight to save their community.

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In an amicus court brief, Swanson argues that residents of Lowry Grove never had a fair chance to buy the property beneath their homes as guaranteed by a 1991 state law.

Instead, mobile home park owner Lowry Grove Partnership and the party buying the property, The Village, structured the $6 million land deal to deny residents their right to buy the property first, Swanson said.

They also withheld information about the pending sale, she said.

When residents persuaded Aeon Management, an affordable housing nonprofit, to match the $6 million offer on their behalf on June 10, the land was sold to The Village on the next business day.

The Village has said it plans to remove all 97 trailer homes and redevelop the property.

Residents now are suing both the seller and buyer, asking a judge to undo the deal and allow residents and Aeon to buy the mobile home park.

“What we are seeing is the seller and buyer intentionally depriving the residents of their right of first refusal,” Swanson said. “There were a series of different things they did, all designed to deprive residents of their statutory rights.”

This is the first legal test of the law, one reason why Swanson said she weighed in on the case at the trial court.

“Any help we can get is truly appreciated,” said Aeon President Alan Arthur.

Attorneys for Lowry Grove Partnership did not return a call for comment.

The Village, associated with Wayzata-based Continental Property Group, defended its actions and said the land deal complied with the law.

“From the very beginning, The Village LLC has followed the state statute and we will continue to do so,” according to a statement. “The Village LLC has offered more assistance to Lowry Grove residents than what will be offered to them through the state fund.