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Kandiyohi County jury will hear dispute over land sale for Tepetonka Club project near Sibley State Park

A civil lawsuit involving three siblings over a decision by two of them to sell land near Sibley State Park for a destination golf course will be heard by a jury in Kandiyohi County.

An aerial view of the land known as Cedar Hills Farm and for which the Tepetonka Club LLC has a purchase agreement to acquire.
An aerial view shows the land known as Cedar Hills Century Farm and for which the Tepetonka Club LLC has a purchase agreement to acquire.
Contributed / Teptonka Club
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WILLMAR — A Kandiyohi County jury will hear the civil lawsuit involving the siblings responsible for Cedar Hills Century Farm, the property proposed for a destination golf course in Kandiyohi County.

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In a ruling issued this week, Kandiyohi County District Judge Stephen Wentzell granted a request by the plaintiff in the case to have it heard by a jury rather than by a judge.

The civil case over the land located near Sibley State Park is scheduled for a trial starting Oct. 18.

In the same ruling, the judge denied a separate request by the plaintiff to extend the period of time for the parties to collect evidence prior to the trial, known as discovery.

The 187-acre property known as the Cedar Hills Century Farm is controlled by three siblings, Sherry Ulman, Dan Thorson and Dean Thorson. One year ago, Dan Thorson and Sherry Ulman voted to sell the property to Tepetonka Club LLC at a meeting that Dean Thorson did not attend.

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Dean Thorson filed court action to stop the sale. Cedar Hills Farm entered into a purchase agreement with Tepetonka Club to sell the property for $1.2 million.

Dean Thorson claimed that the land’s sale for a non-agricultural purpose violated the bylaws of the Cedar Hills Century Farm, but the court ruled against him. The court allowed him to amend the civil lawsuit.

The amended lawsuit charges that the siblings violated their fiduciary duties by approving the sale at the value in the agreement. It argues that it is below the actual value of the land.

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The plaintiff asked the court at a hearing on Sept. 12 to extend the discovery period. Attorney David Johnson of Paynesville told the judge that they had not been able to obtain an appraiser to value the property until that week.

The parties had agreed to a July 30 deadline for discovery. In this latest ruling, the judge noted that the request to extend discovery had not been made until over a month after the deadline had expired. The judge acknowledged the difficulty the attorney cited in finding an appraiser, but also stated: “The need for a possible appraiser in this case was no surprise to plaintiff.”

In denying the motion to extend the deadline, the judge also noted that it could be prejudicial to the defendants. Because of the litigation, they are not able to finalize their sale agreement.

The parties had originally agreed to have the case heard by a judge, but the plaintiff filed a motion for a jury trial instead. In approving the change, the judge found that the demand was made more than a month in advance of the trial and was not an untimely constitutional waiver.

At the previous hearing, the parties said they had not been able to resolve their differences through mediation.

Tom Cherveny is a regional and outdoors reporter for the West Central Tribune.
He has been a reporter with the West Central Tribune since 1993.

Cherveny can be reached via email at tcherveny@wctrib.com or by phone at 320-214-4335.
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