Fischer administration agreed to soccer stadium land prices with - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Fischer administration agreed to soccer stadium land prices without appraisals

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Metro government is preparing to spend $24.2 million in public funds on real estate for a proposed soccer stadium, but city officials didn’t get appraisals to determine whether the land is really worth that much before agreeing to purchase prices with the various owners.

Instead, they relied on the opinions of unnamed people.

The 37-acre site in Butchertown is a patchwork of land -- a self-storage facility, a former factory, an auto junk yard, an above-ground tank farm – that, for the most part, was not listed for sale before Louisville City FC expressed interest in putting the stadium there.

Many of the properties haven’t been sold in decades, making their fair-market value hard to determine without professional expertise.

Even so, Mayor Greg Fischer’s administration locked in those costs earlier this year when it secured options to buy all 37 acres at specific prices, and the Metro Council budget committee approved issuing a $30 million bond based on the figures.

Only now -- after prices were already agreed to -- is the city getting an appraisal of the property.

The appraisal, expected to be delivered to the city on Friday, will value the land at $25 million, said Chris Poynter, a Fischer spokesman.

Such an evaluation wasn’t done earlier because "it wasn't a priority. There were a lot of other priorities other than that initially,” said Jeff Mosley, Fischer’s general counsel.

He said city officials relied on the advice of “several people that were knowledgeable in the area.”

“We were confident in the people we had spoken to,” Mosley said in an interview. “… Their knowledge and their advice and counsel to us was that it is fair market value.”

He declined to disclose the names of those people or whether they are affiliated with Louisville City FC. The professional team’s owners are seeking a new stadium in northern Butchertown as part of a $200 million, mixed-use development project that also would have privately-funded hotels, restaurants and office space.

Under an agreement with developers, the city would buy the land, clean it up and pay for public infrastructure. By a 4-1 vote, the Metro Council’s budget committee approved a bond for those costs on Tuesday night. 

There is no legal requirement that local governments get appraisals before proceeding with real estate purchases, said J.D. Chaney, deputy executive director of the Kentucky League of Cities.

Mike Mountjoy, a member of the Louisville City FC ownership group, told council members on Tuesday that he believed the properties were priced at fair market value, citing their proximity to other downtown real estate.

But Council member Angela Leet, R-7th District, pressed Mountjoy during a budget committee meeting that night, asking how the land for the soccer stadium project is more expensive than property for a proposed U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs hospital in her district.

In that case, the federal government bought a hospital site adjacent to the Watterson Expressway, paying $12.9 million in 2012 to a company controlled by Louisville businessman Jonathan Blue. The VA’s inspector general determined in 2015, however, that the agency may have overpaid by $3 million.

"We're asking for a $30 million investment for just five more acres,” Leet, who recently announced she is running for Louisville Mayor, told Mountjoy on Tuesday. “So I'm just trying to reconcile that and help me understand what's driving the price up so high."

Mountjoy said traffic on nearby interstates gives the assembled land for the stadium project increased visibility.

“We feel like, based on other properties downtown and what they've paid for hotel space and office space and so forth for the ground under it that it's a reasonable price,” he said.

Reach reporter Marcus Green at 502-585-0825, mgreen@wdrb.com, on Twitter or on Facebook. Copyright 2017 WDRB News. All rights reserved.

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