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Northern States Power Co. v. City of Sunfish Lake

April 09, 2003

NORTHERN STATES POWER COMPANY, D/B/A XCEL ENERGY, PETITIONER, RESPONDENT,
v.
CITY OF SUNFISH LAKE, RESPONDENT, AND POWER LINE TASK FORCE, INC., INTERVENOR, APPELLANT, DOUGLAS P. BEEDON, ET AL., INTERVENORS.



Dakota County District Court File No. C4026854

Considered and decided by Schumacher, Presiding Judge, Halbrooks, Judge, and Hudson, Judge.

SYLLABUS BY THE COURT

Judicial review of a lawsuit may become moot when the litigants settle and stipulate to its dismissal with prejudice.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Robert H. Schumacher, Judge

Appeal dismissed

OPINION

Respondent City of Sunfish Lake denied respondent Northern States Power Company, d/b/a/ Xcel Energy, a conditional use permit to upgrade an existing power line running through Sunfish Lake. By petition for writ of mandamus, Xcel sought a district court order requiring Sunfish Lake to issue the conditional use permit. Appellant Power Line Task Force, Inc., (PLTF) a group of citizens living near the existing line, intervened in the mandamus action in support of Sunfish Lake's position.

The district court granted the writ and ordered Sunfish Lake to issue the permit. Before judgment was entered on the mandamus order, Xcel and Sunfish Lake executed a settlement agreement providing Sunfish Lake would grant the conditional use permit and stipulating to dismissal with prejudice of the mandamus action. The district court approved the settlement and dismissed the action. PLTF now argues the dismissal should have been conditioned on entry of judgment of the mandamus order so as to allow it to appeal the mandamus order to this court. We dismiss the appeal.

FACTS

On November 13, 2001, Xcel filed an application with Sunfish Lake for a conditional use permit to upgrade an existing power transmission line traversing the southeast Twin Cities metropolitan area. Sunfish Lake was one of five local governments with zoning authority over the proposed line upgrade. The Sunfish Lake City Council voted to deny Xcel's conditional use permit application on the grounds that (1) Xcel had failed to show need for the upgrade; (2) the upgrade would adversely affect the value of nearby property; and (3) the upgrade's electric and magnetic fields would expose nearby residents to unjustified and avoidable health risks.

By petition for writ of mandamus, Xcel sought a district court order requiring Sunfish Lake to approve the conditional use permit. On cross motions for summary judgment, the district court concluded Sunfish Lake's denial of the conditional use permit was unauthorized, unreasonable, and arbitrary and capricious, and ordered Sunfish Lake to issue the conditional use permit. The order also granted appellant PLTF's motion to intervene as a defendant in Xcel's mandamus action against Sunfish Lake.

Prior to entry of judgment on the mandamus order, Xcel and Sunfish Lake executed a settlement agreement and release accompanied by a stipulation and order for approval of settlement and dismissal with prejudice of all claims. The parties submitted the agreement to the district court for approval pursuant to Minn. R. Civ. P. 41.01 (providing for voluntary dismissal of actions). The settlement provided that Sunfish Lake would grant the conditional use permit subject to various conditions not addressed in the mandamus order. The district court approved and signed the settlement and dismissal order.

Before judgment was entered, the district court heard PLTF's argument that the settlement violated its rights under rule 41.01, which provides that a court shall not approve a stipulated voluntary dismissal with prejudice except"upon such terms and conditions as the court deems proper." PLTF contended the rule required the court to condition dismissal upon entry of judgment of the mandamus order in order to allow PLTF to appeal that order. The district declined to adopt the condition advocated by PLTF and entered judgment on the settlement agreement and dismissed the action with prejudice.

PLTF appealed the district court's mandamus order overturning Sunfish Lake's denial of the conditional use permit as arbitrary and capricious. This court dismissed that appeal because the mandamus order was never entered into judgment and as such was not appealable. Northern States Power, Inc., d/b/a/ Xcel Energy, Inc., v. City of Sunfish Lake, No. C0-02-1285 (Minn. App. Sept. 3, 2002). PLTF now appeals the district court's ...


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