Friends of the Eagan Core Greenway

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-----Original Message-----
From: Jack G. Conrad [mailto:jackgconrad @]
Sent: Tuesday, December 14, 2004 12:47 AM
Subject: Eagan Open Space Update: Current Status of the McCarthy Farm (Comprehensive Summary)

Dear Friends of the Eagan Core Greenway,

Personal Background:

Patrick McCarthy owns the last remaining "operational" farm in the City of Eagan. His 130 acre+ property is situated directly to the north of Patrick Eagan Park, west of Lexington and on both sides of Wescott Road. See orange parcel on map: [Greenway Map]

Around 1850, Patrick's great-great-grandfather purchased this land from Hastings Sibley, who was to become the State's first governor. Patrick recalls from family lore where on the land bison once grazed. The Minnesota Historical Society is acquainted with the farm because at one point in the not too distant past, the farm retained one of the state's last working old-time thrashers.

Possessing this much property in central Eagan, were Patrick interested in financial gain, he could have "cashed-in" years ago. But personal gain is not Patrick's primary motivation; preserving the historic McCarthy farm is. For this reason, Patrick has opposed the sale of his now deceased brother James's portion of the property (described below).

See recent article and letter on this subject that appeared in the Pioneer Press in late November:

(If selecting these URLs produces no results, copy and paste them into the address box of your Internet browser.)

The last in the line of five generations of McCarthy farmers, Patrick McCarthy has no heirs.

Three judicial proceedings have affected a 60-acre portion of the 130-acre McCarthy Farm in Eagan. This is a brief summary of the status of these proceedings.

Legal Background:

In August of 2000, James McCarthy signed a purchase agreement to sell his interest (approximately 60 acres) in the McCarthy property to Tollefson Development, Inc. His brother, Patrick McCarthy (who was co-owner as a tenant in common), was not a party to this purchase agreement. As a result, problems ensued.

Proceeding #1:

Tollefson sued James in early 2001 (Dakota County Court File No. C2-01-8446) because James wasn't fulfilling his end of the agreement, i.e., by attending a closing and signing over the deed to the 60 acres in order to satisfy the agreement. Prior to trial, on April 30th, 2002, Tollefson and James settled by agreeing to a number of amendments to the original purchase agreement, including a description of the property and a purchase price. In October 2002, the district court issued an order for settlement which, in pertinent part, stated that James agreed to sell 60 acres for an agreed-upon amount and that the 60 acres did not include that portion of land beyond a certain tree line (evidently located largely north of Wescott Road). The closing date was set for Nov. 14th, 2002.

James McCarthy died before the closing date, on June 22nd, 2002.

Proceeding #2:

On October 20th, 2002, Tollefson sued Patrick McCarthy, seeking a partition of the property in order to secure the 60 acres referenced in the original settlement. The district court dismissed this suit. The Court held that Tollefson's equitable interest in the property, as a result of the settlement agreement with James, was insufficient to support a partition action. This dismissal was upheld by the Minnesota Court of Appeals on Sept. 16th, 2003.

Proceeding #3:

The third matter is the probate proceeding for James's estate. After the settlement in proceeding #1 (the civil lawsuit against James), the district court assigned the case to the probate court. Tollefson also filed a claim in the probate court for its interest in the James McCarthy property pursuant to the settlement agreement from proceeding #1. Patrick McCarthy, acting as the personal representative of James's estate, disallowed the claim. Tollefson then petitioned the probate court for allowance of the claim. The probate court denied the claim, finding that the settlement agreement was unenforceable. Specifically, the probate court found that the sale of 60 acres was impossible if the eastern boundary was to consist of the tree line as specified in the settlement agreement (since this would have resulted in a parcel of less than 60 acres). The Minnesota Court of Appeals affirmed this decision on April 27th, 2004.

Tollefson thereafter moved to vacate the settlement agreement. On October 22nd, 2004, the probate court granted the motion and vacated the settlement agreement, finding that the settlement agreement was not valid due the parties' mutual mistake.

Current Status:

As a result, proceeding #1 (the suit against James, now his estate) is open again. There will likely be a trial in this matter over the validity of the original purchase agreement between James and Tollefson, unless another settlement agreement is reached between Tollefson Development and Patrick McCarthy---an unlikely prospect, given Patrick's disposition towards the developer. One very sad aspect of these proceedings is that in the act of defending his family's land from an unscrupulous developer, Patrick has accrued legal fees of approximately $100,000. It would ring with a very visceral irony, indeed, if Patrick had to sell some of this prized land in order to pay for his dedicated efforts to fend off this developer. Given this troubling situation, there may be a meaningful role for us, "Friends," to play here.

---Roberta & Jack Conrad

Friends of the Eagan Core Greenway Board Member

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