City responds on property

Published 8:40 pm Saturday, November 22, 2014

The city attorney’s response to another attorney’s objection to a city land deal is that the city continues to believe it owned a small parcel it sold to Continental Terminals earlier this fall.

Kirk Pretlow believes the small, triangular-shaped parcel off Bright Lane near Wilroy Industrial Park belongs to the J.M. Smucker Co., a nearby coffee processing plant that was formerly known as Sara Lee.

But the city believes it owned the land and in June voted to transfer the triangular parcel and other adjacent parcels to the Economic Development Authority. The EDA then transferred it to Continental Terminals in late August. Continental Terminals intends to expand its nearby operations to include additional building space and employees.

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Pretlow questions the ownership of the .17-acre triangular parcel. He contends that the J.M. Smucker Co., which bought Sara Lee in recent years, owns the parcel.

His assertion seemed to be backed up by the city assessor in a document Pretlow obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request.

The document, titled “Review of documents for question in ownership,” concludes by saying, “Sara Lee Corp. would retain interest in this triangle parcel.” The document is dated Aug. 13, less than three weeks before the EDA sold the land.

Pretlow talked about the issue in Wednesday’s City Council meeting.

“The city attorney’s office knowingly allowed the EDA to convey property it did not own,” Pretlow claimed during the meeting.

But City Attorney Helivi Holland, responding to the claims, said Sara Lee itself once filed a document showing the EDA as the owner of that triangular parcel.

“There is one plat put to record in 1986 that seems to suggest Sara Lee acquired the triangle parcel,” she said. “Every other plat, including one submitted in 2005 by Sara Lee themselves, shows the EDA owns it.”

Even so, Holland said, the city has tried to connect with Smucker’s, through the city’s economic development staff, to ensure it has no issues with the property.

“We have not gotten any information that Sara Lee has any concerns or think that they own the property,” Holland said, using Sara Lee interchangeably with the J.M. Smucker Co. “The records show that Sara Lee was not the owner of it.”

There’s a statutory process for addressing errors such as this, but that 60-day time period has expired, she added.

“I’m really upset about the allegation that this office did anything incorrectly,” Holland said. “We are more than prepared to go to the courts if that is necessary.”