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Long legal battle over Exchange Bank building may be near an end

In what seems to be a never-ending story, city officials are hoping a final chapter in the tale of the Exchange Bank building is at least in the works.

For more than a decade, ownership of one of downtown's oldest buildings has been a cause for controversy between city officials and the company that bought it from the city in 1998.

The city of Farmington has been involved in litigation with Hosmer Brown III and Hosmer Brown IV, the owners of 2004 Real Estate Company, since last August. The source of this litigation dates back to a question of whether the city transferred the building's deed back to the Browns two years ago.

It's a long and somewhat confusing story.

Back in 1998, the Farmington Housing and Redevelopment Authority owned the Exchange Bank building. They found new owners for it. Those new owners, the Browns, signed a contract stating they would have all interior renovations completed within 15 months of taking over the building.

By early 2008, though, the work still was not done. Per the agreement between the city and the Browns, the Browns had to sign a $80,000 line of credit for the building. The city initiated legal action to take back the property via a reconveyance deed if the work was not completed by a final deadline of June 1, 2008. The city filed the deed two days later, but then reversed the action a couple weeks later to avoid any litigation between the Browns and the city.

But last August, the Browns filed six complaints against the city of Farmington, ranging from a request to have the city reimburse the funds used from the line of credit to having the city pay for alleged damages incurred when the Browns were forcibly removed from the building in June, 2008.

The complaint alleges that the city of Farmington never did return the deed to the Browns, even after deciding to reverse the decision two years ago.

In recent weeks, the Farmington City Council has met in closed session a couple of times for litigation updates. Council members were to address Exchange Bank issues at the last regular meeting, but a few loose ends needed to be tied up first so the item was pulled from the agenda.

However, Farmington city administrator Peter Herlofsky is optimistic a solution is near.

"It's still being worked on, but we're working our best to make sure they receive the building," he said. "We're still working with all of the complexities of the situation, but we are very close to a solution."

He would not elaborate on what the solution may be, because the matter is still, technically, in litigation. Herlofsky said he hoped the city and the Browns could have a resolution to the issue by the end of this week.

"It's really much ado about nothing. It's a shame it's taken this long," he said, "but we're doing our best."

Michelle Leonard

Michelle Leonard joined the Woodbury Bulletin staff in November, 2014, after 14 years covering news for the Bulletin's sister publication, the Farmington Rosemount Independent Town Pages.  Michelle earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Mass Communications: News-Editorial from Mankato State University in 1991. She is an active member of the American Legion Auxiliary Clifford Larson Unit 189 of Farmington, and served as the 2014-15 Third District President to the American Legion Auxiliary Department of Minnesota. Michelle is also the volunteer coordinator for the Minnesota Newspaper Museum which is open annually during the Minnesota State Fair. She has earned Minnesota Newspaper Association awards in Investigative Reporting, Local News Coverage, Feature Photography and Column Writing. 

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