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Billy Graham Ewangelistic Association v. City of Minneapolis

October 08, 2002


Minneapolis City Planning Commission

Considered and decided by Anderson, Presiding Judge, Halbrooks, Judge, and Parker, Judge.*fn1


A designation of a historical district by a city is arbitrary and capricious when the designation is devoid of articulated reasons explaining why similarly situated property was treated differently for purposes of the historic-district designation.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: G. Barry Anderson, Judge



Relator Billy Graham Evangelistic Association owns several properties in the Harmon Place area of Minneapolis. The Minneapolis Heritage Preservation Commission recommended, and the Minneapolis City Council approved, a historic district that includes a number of realtor's properties. By writ of certiorari, relator challenges the city's designation. Because we conclude the city's designation of the Harmon Place Historic District was arbitrary and capricious, we reverse.


In November 2001, the Heritage Preservation Commission (commission) of the City of Minneapolis (city) directed the city's planning department to begin a study to determine whether the Harmon Place area of the city should be designated as a historic district.*fn2 The planning department hired Carol Zellie of Landscape Research to prepare a designation study. (Zellie Report).*fn3

The Zellie Report found that the Harmon Place area met the designation criteria in the Minneapolis code of ordinances and proposed a Harmon Place Historic District (HPHD). The Zellie Report concluded that the HPHD would meet two separate criteria for designation as a historic district. First, the report stated that HPHD would qualify for designation as a historic district because, "[t]he property is associated with significant events or with periods that exemplify broad patterns of cultural, political, economic or social history."*fn4 The report concluded that,

Harmon Place and the adjacent blocks of Hennepin Avenue were the heart of the Minneapolis automotive district for over fifty years, and twenty-two of the twenty-six contributing properties are auto-related. The buildings along Harmon Place and Hennepin Avenue include many of the city's best remaining examples of a vital industry that engaged thousands of entrepreneurs, workers and customers. The twenty-two contributing buildings, most with good exterior integrity, reflect the roller-coaster progress of the early automotive industry and the twentieth-century economy as both evolved at the edge of downtown Minneapolis.

Second, the Zellie Report found that the HPHD would also qualify as a historic district because "[t]he property embodies the distinctive characteristics of an architectural or engineering type or style, or method of construction."*fn5 The report found this criteria had been met because: (1) there was a specific building type addressed in the HPHD; (2) certain apartment buildings reflected early twentieth-century design long associated with Harmon Place; and (3) "the historic district boundaries reflect the general edges and sense of place long associated with the core of the city's automotive district."

But the Zellie Report also recognized that, within the district, there were sixteen (out of the proposed forty-two) non-contributing properties. In other words, some properties had little connection to the historical significance of the HPHD "due to their construction before or after the district's period of significance or the extent of exterior alterations."

After Zellie completed her report, the city planning department sent a letter to Harmon-area property owners explaining that a consultant's report had been completed and that anyone could receive a copy of the report. The letter also emphasized that a historic district had been proposed and that a public hearing would be held in August 2001. On May 15, 2001, Zellie presented her report to the commission. The commission appears to have directed the city planning commission to continue with the designation process.

The city-planning director then sent the Zellie Report to the State Historic Preservation Officer (SHPO) for comment.*fn6 On July 11, 2001, the SHPO concluded that the HPHD "is eligible for ...

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