DELASALLE It ain't over til it's over

Reprinted with the permission of Ms. Viken

Yes, DeLaSalle had a groundbreaking yesterday, but here’s a few clues that this is NOT a done deal:

1 – the ground they “broke” was their own.

Since the Reciprocal Use Agreement (RUA) that was the basis for use of Park Board land has been voided by the State Finance Commissioner, DeLaSalle could only dig at home.

2 – this was in “invitation only” event, and the public clearly was NOT invited.

3- the planned construction, initially signaled by DeLaSalle officials to begin
this fall, now is referred to as beginning in the spring.

Though the local media initially just played back DeLaSalle’s press release about the PR event, under pressure from Park Watch, an ad hoc citizen’s watchdog group that monitors the Minneapolis Park Board’s activities, some of them ultimately reported some hints that there are some roadblocks ahead for the field.

Though DeLaSalle supporters make every attempt to minimize the significance of the following, you can judge for yourself:

1 – There are three lawsuits pending. A ruling from the Minnesota Court of
Appeals is due by mid-December at the latest. That suit examines DeLaSalle’s
claim that there was no feasible and prudent alternative to locating the field
where it will destroy historic resources. That court can order DeLaSalle to
search for an alternate location, of which there have been many identified.

2 – The RUA for shared use of the land has been rejected by the State Finance
Commissioner. The hurdles to clear to meet the terms of a valid agreement are high and the issue is basically that the Park Board must have control of land that it owns when that land was purchased with state bonding.

(The Finance Commissioner offered two options: the Park Board could lease
DeLaSalle’s portion of the land needed to create the facility, or the Park
Board could sell the land it has on Nicollet Island and reimburse the state for
the amount of the bonding. (Land was purchased for $1.1 million.)

If the Park Board chooses to sell the land, state law would require that the
sale be open to all buyers, not just DeLaSalle, on the same terms.

While it’s true that the project has yet to clear its Archeology Plan and the
question of artificial turf, it’s widely considered only a matter of time
before they get those approvals, as the City Council has rolled over on every
issue concerning the field to date. (Watch again for fancy verbal footwork from CM Remington and Schiff who adamantly opposed artificial turf — it’ll be a reprise of their “going back on the ruling against the lights” dance.

The real hurdles the project faces are the questions about parking, which is a
tangle because of the cozy relationship DeLaSalle has enjoyed with the
Minneapolis Park Board and the fact that the Park Board has played fast and
loose with the land they acquired from the Met Council to create the regional
park on Nicollet Island. This has resulted in a number of uses in violation of
the covenants to which they agreed in accepting the land. The tennis courts
they built for DeLaSalle’s use (and which would be destroyed by a new field)
are just one of the flagrant violations that are coming home to roost.

((ASIDE: The Sept. 21, 2007 memo which reveals to the Pk. Bd. Commissioners that the DeLaSalle RUA has been rejected by the Finance Commissioner, also notes that there are “several other facilities with lease agreements where State Bonds were used to acquire the property or buildings” that are likely also in violation of the State’s policies and need to be reviewed and brought into compliance. Seems the DeLaSalle proposal opened the proverbial Pandora’s Box.))

The question is not — and never has been — whether there will be a field for
DeLaSalle’s use, but where that field will be. Mr. Maas is sincere in his wish
to give back to a school that shaped his life so positively, and memorializing
that with a first-class facility that will serve the kids of Minneapolis and
the kids of DeLaSalle is the wish of virtually everyone involved.

And once the door is opened to discussions of locations outside the historic
district, which is what I believe the Appeals Court will rule, then we’ll begin
to see real steps toward making the dream of Mr. Maas and the host of DeLaSalle supporters a reality.

Until then, it ain’t over by a long shot.

Christine Viken