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Advantage Capital Management v. City of Northfield

July 8, 2003

CITY OF NORTHFIELD, APPELLANT (C2-02-1904), RESPONDENT (C6-02-1923, C5-02-1928), ANTHONY D. BECKER, ET AL., RESPONDENTS (C2-02-1904), APPELLANTS (C6-02-1923).

Rice County District Court File No. C7011143

Considered and decided by Lansing, Presiding Judge, Shumaker, Judge, and Wright, Judge.


An agency's obligation to approve or deny within sixty days a written request relating to zoning arises when it receives a written zoning-action application, not when it receives a building-permit application. The agency's requirement that a preliminary site-development plan accompany a building-permit application does not convert the application into a request relating to zoning that triggers the sixty-day-response provision in Minn. Stat. §á15.99 (2002).

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Lansing, Judge



This is a consolidated appeal from a series of orders in an action seeking a writ of mandamus directing the city to issue a building permit and requesting damages for failure to grant or deny the permit within the time limits prescribed by Minn. Stat. §á15.99, subd. 2 (2002). Because the city acted on the zoning-action application within a properly noticed extension of the sixty-day limit imposed by the statute, we reverse the district court's mandamus order compelling issuance of the permit and approval of the site plan. In light of our holding, the district court's decisions on damages, immunity, intervention, dismissal of parties, and amendment to the petition have no legal impact, and we do not address the challenges to these moot issues.


Fire destroyed a three-unit dwelling on property located at 1016 Forest Avenue in the city of Northfield in February 2001. The property owner, Advantage Capital Management, Ltd., (Advantage) decided to rebuild the dwelling. The applications for the building permit and zoning-action approval necessary for Advantage to rebuild are at issue in this appeal. The property is in an R-2 zoning district, which permits one and two-family residences. When Advantage built the dwelling in 1978, it obtained a conditional-use permit (CUP) to allow a three-unit dwelling in addition to the small cottage already on the property.

Advantage met with city officials after the fire, and, in late February 2001, the city told Advantage that it was unnecessary to reapply for a CUP, but that Advantage must comply with the R-2 district's minimum setback requirements, off-street-parking requirements, and additional regulations. About a month later, Anthony Becker and Rebecca Judge, who live directly north of Advantage's property, submitted a petition on behalf of seventeen neighboring property-owners, requesting that the city council revoke Advantage's CUP.

On April 9, 2001, the city received a building-permit application to reconstruct the dwelling from a construction firm acting on behalf of Advantage. As required by the Northfield Zoning Ordinance, the building permit was submitted with a preliminary building-and-site-development plan. Northfield, Minn., City Code §á34-808(b)(1) (2003). The building plan did not, however, include dimensional parking arrangements or a landscaping scheme as required by the zoning ordinances. See id.

The city granted Becker and Judge's request for a hearing on Advantage's CUP. The city notified Advantage in writing of its decision to hold a hearing and informed Advantage that the city would not act on the building permit until it made a decision on the CUP. Following a public hearing, the city rejected the petition to revoke the CUP.

On May 3, 2001, Advantage filed an application for zoning action requesting a site-plan review. The Design Advisory Board (DAB), by resolution, conditionally approved the site plan on May 23, 2001. The approval was conditioned on submission of a revised survey showing building location, approval of a grading-and-drainage plan, specific engineering changes to accommodate seven, nonstacked parking spaces, submission of color samples, and a revised site plan showing the required changes. Advantage submitted the revised site plan the next day.

On the same day the DAB conditionally approved the site plan, Becker and Judge appealed the decision to the city council. Northfield City Code section 34-163(b) provides that DAB review runs concurrently with a zoning request, and the city notified Advantage that a ...

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