ST. PAUL, Minn., July 31 (UPI) -- Two years after being given $44 million to place its northern Minnesota forestland off-limits to development, UPM Blandin is angling for a property tax break.
In seeking to have its property tax assessments lowered, the forestry company, a subsidiary of the Finnish conglomerate UPM-Kymmene, contends the land has fallen in value, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported Sunday.
The move, which would have a major impact on the local governments in the areas where the Blandin property is located, wasn't expected by state and county officials, the newspaper said.
"This is going to be a big thing," Itasca County Assessor Brian Connors told the Star Tribune.
Blandin officials contend assessors had set the property's market value higher than its actual value and assessed the property "unequally" when compared with other properties.
"The matter will be resolved by whatever authority we're before, or will get before, eventually," Blandin attorney Terry McBride said.
The $44 million paid to Blandin for protecting about 190,000 acres of its land from future development is the largest amount paid out of the state's Legacy fund, which is fueled by a sales tax Minnesotans approved in 2008 to help preserve the state's outdoors, clean water, parks and arts.
The Star Tribune said Richard Peterson, a state Natural Resources Department manager who monitors conservation easements, said last month he had not heard about the Blandin situation and county officials, likewise, were surprised.
"It honestly hadn't crossed my mind that a year after or two years after the thing went into effect that they would do it," said Rusty Eichorn, the Itasca County Board chairman. "So I was surprised."