Articles Posted in Minnesota Supreme Court

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Two churches (the Churches) located in the City of Saint Paul were subject to a right-of-way assessment (ROW assessment) that the City assessed to nearly every owner of real property within the city limits to pay for public right-of-way maintenance services. The Churches appealed their 2011 ROW assessment, arguing that the charge was a tax and was not imposed uniformly upon the same class of property and that the assessed amount improperly exceeded the special benefit to the Churches’ properties. The district court upheld the assessments after applying a reasonableness test, concluding that the ROW was not a tax imposed under the City’s taxing power but was a fee imposed under the City’s police power and, therefore, was not subject to constitutional restrictions on taxation. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the ROW assessment was imposed as an exercise of the City’s taxing power rather than its police power; and (2) summary judgment was inappropriate because a genuine issue of material fact existed regarding the extent of special benefits to the Churches’ properties attributable to the right-of-way services. View "First Baptist Church of St. Paul v. City of St. Paul" on Justia Law

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Appellant was a real estate firm that owned a vacant four-story building (the property) and sought to develop it into an office building. Before the Minneapolis City Council approved Appellant's site plan application, the Minneapolis Heritage Preservation Commission (Commission) nominated the property for designation as a local historic landmark. Appellant subsequently submitted an application for a certificate of appropriateness to the Commission. The City Council denied the application and subsequently designated the property as a local historic landmark. Plaintiff commenced this action against the City, alleging that the City violated Minn. Stat. 15.99(2)(a) by failing to approve or deny the application for a certificate of appropriateness within sixty days. The district court granted summary judgment for the City, concluding that section 15.99(2)(a) did not apply to an application for a certificate of appropriateness. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that an application for a certificate of appropriateness is a "written request relating to zoning" under section 15.99(2)(a), and because the City failed to approve or deny Appellant's application within sixty days, summary judgment for the City was not proper. Remanded. View "500, LLC v. City of Minneapolis" on Justia Law

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Skyline Materials applied for a variance from the setback requirements of Houston County's zoning ordinance. The County granted the variance. Respondents, owners of property that was adjacent to the property owned by Skyline, sought to exercise their statutory right of appeal. The parties, however, disagreed as to the proper method of service. The district court concluded that Minn. R. Civ. P. 5.02, rather than Minn. R. Civ. P. 4.03, controlled, and therefore, the court had jurisdiction over Respondents' appeal. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Respondents were required to effect service pursuant to Rule 4.03, and because they did not do so, the district court lacked jurisdiction to hear their appeal. Remanded for dismissal. View "In re Application of Skyline Materials, Ltd. for Zoning Variance" on Justia Law

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This case involved a facial challenge to the constitutionality of the City of Red Wing's rental property inspection ordinance. Appellants were landlords and tenants who brought suit seeking a declaratory that the City's ordinance violated the Minnesota Constitution. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the City, concluding that Appellants lacked standing and that the constitutional claim failed on the merits. The court of appeals affirmed, ruling that Appellants lacked standing. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Appellants' facial challenge presented a justiciable controversy. On remand, the court of appeals again affirmed, this time concluding that the City's ordinance did not violate the state constitution. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the law can be applied constitutionally; and (2) because Appellants did not satisfy their burden in a facial challenge to show that the ordinance operated unconstitutionally in all of its applications, Appellants' facial challenge failed. View "McCaughtry v. City of Red Wing" on Justia Law

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After the City of Moorhead annexed Americana Estates (Americana), a residential subdivision with sixty-five metered electric service accounts, the City filed a condemnation petition to begin municipal electric service to residents of Americana. After a hearing, a three-member commission of the district court awarded the Red River Valley Cooperative Power Association (RRVC), which previously served Americana, $307,214. Both parties appealed the commission's award of damages. After a jury trial, the district court awarded a total compensation award to RRVC of $385,311. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the City's valuation was inconsistent with the plain language of Minn. Stat. 216B.47 by failing to give meaningful consideration to four statutory factors and thus was properly excluded from consideration by the district court; and (2) the district court did not abuse its discretion in excluding portions of an untimely revised report submitted by the City dealing with facility replacement costs. View "City of Moorhead v. Red River Valley Coop. Power Ass'n" on Justia Law

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Central Lakes College (CLC) formally petitioned the City of Brainerd to reconstruct a road. The City validated the petition and resolved to pay for a portion of the project with special assessments. Appellants, who owned property adjacent to the road, challenged the legality of the petition, arguing that because CLC was an instrumentality of the State, and the State cannot be bound by special assessments of its property, CLC was not an "owner" of property permitted to petition for an improvement under Minn. Stat. 429.031(1)(f). The district court granted summary judgment for the City. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) CLC was an "owner" of property under the plain language of the statute; and (2) therefore, CLC's petition was valid. View "City of Brainerd v. Brainerd Invs. P'ship" on Justia Law

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In 2008, Stearns County changed the tax classification of property co-owned by Respondent from residential nonhomestead to commercial. Respondent filed a petition under Minn. Stat. 278.01, claiming the property was misclassified, unequally assessed, and undervalued. The tax court dismissed the petition as untimely. Respondent did not appeal from the tax court's dismissal of its petition and instead filed a verified claim under Minn. Stat. 278.14 for a refund of taxes paid in 2009, claiming the property was misclassified for taxes payable in 2009. The County denied the refund claim. The tax court denied the County's motion to dismiss the section 278.14 appeal (Matter A11-1479). In the meantime, Respondent filed a timely petition under Minn. Stat. 278.01 with respect to property taxes assessed in 2009. The tax court ruled the property was properly classified as residential nonhomestead, its original classification (Matter A11-1480). The County petitioned for writ of certiorari in both matters. The Supreme Court dismissed the writs of certiorari, concluding that it lacked jurisdiction in each case. View "Beuning Family LP v. County of Stearns" on Justia Law

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The City of Red Wing enacted an ordinance requiring inspections of rental property before landlords could obtain operating licenses and allowing the City to conduct inspections by application for and judicial approval of an administrative warrant in the absence of landlord or tenant consent. Appellants in this case were nine landlords and two tenants who refused to consent to inspections of their properties and successfully challenged three separate applications for administrative warrants. At the same time Appellants opposed the City's application, they filed a separate declaratory judgment action seeking to have the rental inspection ordinance declared unconstitutional. The court of appeals affirmed the district court's dismissal of the declaratory judgment action for lack of standing, concluding that Appellants had not alleged an injury that was actual or imminent. The Supreme Court reversed, concluding that the challenge to the constitutionality of the rental inspection ordinance presented a justiciable controversy. Remanded. View "McCaughtry v. City of Red Wing" on Justia Law

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The Commission of Transportation requested a condemnation order for a portion of appellant Richard Lepak's land for the improvement and widening of a highway. After a condemnation hearing, the district court concluded that improving and widening the highway was a legitimate public purpose and that the state Department of Transportation had established a reasonable necessity. Therefore, the district court rejected the challenged to the proposed taking, and the court of appeals affirmed. At issue on review was whether the State had a valid public purpose for the taking because part of Lepak's land would be used to build a private road to mitigate damages to a neighboring parcel. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the purpose of the taking in this case met the definition of "public use" or "public purpose" as set forth in Minn. Stat. 117.025.

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In 2008, Marlow Timberland (MT) filed a tax petition challenging the taxes payable in 2008 on the belief that Lake County's property tax assessment of MT's recently purchased land was too high. MT then filed tax petitions challenging the taxes payable in 2009 and 2010, which were dismissed due to MT's failure to pay the taxes. MT moved to reinstate the 2009 and 2010 petitions based on its contention that the properties were overassessed and that it was unable to pay the taxes due. The Minnesota Tax Court issued an order granting Lake County's motion to dismiss the 2008 petition and denying MT's motion to reinstate the 2009 and 2010 petitions. On review, the Supreme Court reversed in part and affirmed in part, holding (1) the tax court erred by not allowing MT to amend its 2008 petition because an amendment would not result in any prejudice to Lake County; and (2) the tax court properly denied MT's motion to reinstate its 2009 and 2010 tax petitions, and reinstatement of those petitions was not required on an equitable basis. Remanded.