Plaintiff in land lawsuit says outcome will decide fate of proposed Tepetonka golf course – West Central Tribune


– An upcoming civil lawsuit in a dispute involving three siblings could determine whether a proposed destination golf course is built in Kandiyohi County, according to the plaintiff, and despite claims by the developer to the contrary.

Dean Thorson, plaintiff in the lawsuit, said a purchase agreement approved by his siblings, Dan Thorson and Sherry Ulman, for the roughly 190-acre plot near Sibley Park will be void if he wins in the trial.

Thorson’s comment came in response to recent statements by Mark Haugejorde, representing the Tepetonka Club.

Haugejorde recently said the Tepetonka Club has a valid purchase agreement with Cedar Hills Century Farm, of which the three siblings are shareholders.

Haugejorde said Tepetonka Club was not a party to the lawsuit and the outcome would not affect the sale. The sale will be completed when the dispute is resolved, regardless of the outcome, he said.

Thorson disputes this claim. He said the purchase agreement would be canceled if he won and he had no intention of approving the sale of the land.

“I don’t want to sell the land,” he says.

He also bristles at suggestions that the lawsuit is about the money. He said he turned down later, larger offers for the land that his siblings had approved when they signed the purchase agreement.

According to Thorson, the crux of the lawsuit is whether the siblings violated the bylaws of the Century Hills Family Farm when they approved the purchase agreement.

District Judge Stephen Wentzell dealt the plaintiff a setback when he ruled in May that the property was not a farm, as the land had been part of the conservation reserve program since 1986.

State law does not consider CRP-enrolled land to be an “active farm,” but federal law does.

Thorson said the founders probably didn’t envision a different definition of what a working farm is when they created the Century Hills Family Farm in the 1980s.

The relevant point for the trial, he said, is that the judge will decide whether or not the company’s bylaws passed at the time still matter. These regulations state that the land cannot be sold for non-agricultural purposes and that the land must remain in the family’s ownership, Thorson said.

The three siblings were present when those bylaws were passed and signed the documents creating the Cedar Hills family farm, he added. The land had been owned and cultivated by their parents.

The civil complaint also accuses the siblings of breaching their fiduciary duty by allegedly failing to exercise due diligence to obtain a price for the land.

This charge can be seen as a matter of money, agrees Thorson, but said the amount accepted under the purchase agreement does not concern him personally. He said his concern and goal is to maintain the land for agricultural purposes.

The trial is scheduled for a jury trial on December 12-13 in Kandiyohi County District Court.

Tepetonka Club is proposing a $20 million project to develop the site as a destination golf course. It would generate around $5 million in annual revenue for the area, according to the golf course developers.