Wright County District Court File No. C0012375
Considered and decided by Randall, Presiding Judge, Willis, Judge, and
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Mulally, Judge *fn1
In this zoning dispute, appellants sought to compel respondent-city to set aside its decision to rezone certain property. On appeal from the district court's denial of appellant's request, appellants argue that (a) in deciding to rezone the property, the city failed to follow its own ordinances; (b) the city's failure to follow its own ordinances was not merely a technical mistake; and (c) the city's rezoning decision is inconsistent with both the relevant ordinances and with a prior decision to deny rezoning of the property. The city argues that the appeal is moot. The case is not moot. Also, any procedural defects are only technical and the city's zoning decision is not inconsistent with the relevant ordinances. Therefore, we affirm.
To facilitate the expansion of a Wal-Mart store, respondent TKG Wright County Center, L.L.C. (TKG), applied to rezone certain land in respondent City of Buffalo. At an April 2, 2001 meeting, the city council passed a motion to deny the application. At a June 18 meeting, the council granted TKG's motion for reconsideration and, at a July 16 meeting, the council voted to rezone the land. People opposed to the rezoning then sued the city, alleging that, in granting the rezoning, the city had not followed its own procedures nor the relevant ordinances contained in the city's code. After the district court allowed TKG to intervene in that suit, the parties stipulated to the record on which the district court would decide the matter and the district court refused to set aside the city's decision to allow the rezoning. Those opposed to the rezoning appeal.
On appeal from a district court's decision in a zoning matter, appellate courts
give no deference to the trial court's findings and conclusions. Where the municipal proceedings are fair and complete, review is on the record before the municipal agency. This court is reluctant to interfere with the management of municipal affairs. Rowell v. Bd. of Adjustment, 446 N.W.2d 917, 919 (Minn. App. 1989) (citations omitted), review denied (Minn. Dec. 15, 1989).
Citing Apple Valley Square v. City of Apple Valley, 472 N.W.2d 681, 683 (Minn. App. 1991), the city argues that the appeal must be dismissed as moot because, after rezoning the property, the planning commission and the city council approved TKG's planned unit development for the project. Appellants argue that mootness is not properly before this court because TKG did not present that argument to the district court. See Thiele v. Stich, 425 N.W.2d 580, 582 (Minn. 1988) (stating appellate courts generally address only those issues presented to and considered by the district court). "As a constitutional prerequisite to the exercise of jurisdiction, [appellate courts] must consider the mootness question even if ignored by the parties." In re Schmidt, 443 N.W.2d 824, 826 (Minn. 1989) (citation omitted). Therefore, we must address the mootness question.
An issue is moot if an award of effective relief is impossible. Apple Valley, 472 N.W.2d at 683. Apple Valley is distinguishable. There, this court agreed with the district court's ruling that a rezoning issue was moot where there had been "substantial investment by the developers[,]" "the physical development of the property [was] nearly complete[,] and the stores ha[d] opened their doors for business." Id. The record here does not show that the Wal-Mart ...