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Billy Graham Evangelistic Association v. City of Minneapolis

August 14, 2003

BILLY GRAHAM EVANGELISTIC ASSOCIATION, RESPONDENT,
v.
CITY OF MINNEAPOLIS, PETITIONER, APPELLANT.



SYLLABUS BY THE COURT

The City of Minneapolis did not act unreasonably, arbitrarily, or capriciously in designating the Harmon Place Historic District because the historic designation meets the criteria in the ordinance, the city made findings in favor of its decision, and the city's findings are supported by the record.

Reversed.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Meyer, Justice.

Took no part, Blatz, C.J.

Heard, considered, and decided by the court en banc.

OPINION

In this case we decide whether the City of Minneapolis (the City) acted unreasonably, arbitrarily, or capriciously in designating an area near downtown Minneapolis as an historic preservation district. Respondent, Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA), owns four buildings in the designated district. By writ of certiorari, BGEA challenged the City's designation and the court of appeals granted relief to BGEA. The City appeals.

Minnesota Statutes § 471.193 announces a state policy that the "historical, architectural, archaeological, engineering, and cultural heritage of this state is among its most important assets." Minn. Stat. § 471.193, subd. 1 (2002). In order to promote the conservation of historic properties, the legislature granted local governments the power to establish commissions to designate districts or buildings of historic significance and to preserve those assets. Id., subds. 2, 3.

The City exercised the authority granted by the legislature and formed the Heritage Preservation Commission of the City of Minneapolis (HPC) under chapter 599 of the City code. Minneapolis, Minn., Code of Ordinances (Code) ch. 599 (2001). The commission is made up of ten members, chosen for their knowledge and expertise in the field of historic preservation. See Code § 599.120(c) (2001). The commission considers seven criteria in determining whether a property is worthy of designation as a landmark or historic district.*fn1 See Code § 599.210 (2001). Those criteria include the property's association with significant events or periods, significant people, the City's identity, a particular architectural or engineering style, or a unique landscape design. Id.

In November of 1999, a neighborhood group, the Citizens for a Loring Park Community, asked the HPC to study whether an area on and around Harmon Place, from Loring Park to 11th Street South, merited a designation as historic. The citizens' group liked the mini-downtown feel of the area, with its eclectic group of businesses in one- to four-story buildings and pedestrian-friendly streets. In 2000, the HPC asked the City planning department to commission a study of the area for possible historic designation. The planning department contracted with Carole Zellie of Landscape Research to conduct the designation study. Zellie presented her report to the planning department in April of 2001. She concluded that an area comprising ten city blocks (see map appended to this opinion) merited historic designation for its role in the City's historic automotive industry and met criteria 1 and 4 of the Code.*fn2 The Zellie report concluded that the area could be designated for protection because of its past association as the hub of the automotive sales district in Minneapolis at the beginning of the 20th century.

The Zellie report explained that "the automobile dealership evolved into a prominent and very specialized building type" and that the Harmon Place area showed "some of the best efforts of local architects." Various architectural styles for these buildings were "all arranged around the important display windows." Zellie concluded that:

Harmon Place was synonymous with the Minneapolis automotive industry for fifty years, from the birth of the local and national industry to its dispersal to the suburbs. Twenty-two automotive buildings from the dozens which once lined Hennepin Avenue and Harmon Place survive in the ten-block [area]. Most of the contributing buildings still embody a good sense of an important era in the city's growth, and illustrate a chapter of its transportation, economic, and social history.

Having determined that the area met two of the criteria for designation, Zellie analyzed each of the individual buildings in the area. Of the 42 buildings comprising the proposed District, Zellie found 26 were "contributing," i.e., met criteria 1 and/or 4 of the ordinance, and 22 of those 26 fit the additional unifying characteristics Zellie identified: buildings constructed between 1907-1930 with some relation to the automobile industry. The remaining 16 properties were designated as "noncontributing."

After Zellie's study recommended historic designation for the Harmon Place Historic District (the District), the proposed designation began working its way through the approval process required by city ordinance. See Code §§ 599.200-.300 (2001).*fn3 First, the HPC forwarded the Zellie report to the state historic preservation officer, who concurred that the District was eligible for preservation under criteria 1 and 4. Then the City Planning Department sent a letter to property owners in the District, informing them that a consultant had recommended historic designation, that they could access the report, and there would be a public hearing likely held in August of 2001. The City Planning Commission adopted the findings of the planning department and approved the designation on August 6, 2001. The proposed designation included five buildings owned by BGEA at that time: buildings 11, 12, 13, 25, and 27 (see map).

Meanwhile, in July 2001, the HPC denied a request from the University of St. Thomas to demolish five buildings that St. Thomas owned within the proposed District.*fn4 St. Thomas appealed to the city council, which, on August 10, 2001, granted permission for the demolition of the requested buildings, including four buildings designated as contributing properties.

Before the first public hearing on the District's historic designation, BGEA hired Charlene Roise, of Hess, Roise and Company, to conduct an independent study of the proposed District. Roise concluded that the Fawkes block, at the westernmost end of the proposed District, bordered by Hennepin Avenue, Harmon Place, and Maple Street, fit the criteria for designation as an historic district. She disagreed with the designation of the remainder of the nine blocks, however. She recommended the City designate the Fawkes block as a district, and then individually designate buildings numbered 4, 5, 10, and 14 as historic (none of which were owned by BGEA). Alternatively, Roise suggested the City divide the large proposed District into two subdistricts: the Fawkes block being the first; the second capturing a group of buildings in the area bounded by the alley that runs between Hennepin Avenue and Harmon Place, Yale Place, 11th Street, and Spruce Place. Her proposed alternative boundaries would still have captured two of BGEA's buildings (those numbered 11 and 12) in the historic district.

Apparently in response to Roise's report, the planning department revised the proposed District to exclude (1) the large "superblock" containing the Minneapolis Community College, the Minneapolis Area Vocational Technical Institute, and the H. Alden Smith house*fn5 (buildings 15, 16, and 17), because the buildings did not contribute to the proposed District; (2) the frontage along Hennepin Avenue, because the character of the buildings did not reflect the character of the District and the only contributing properties had been extensively remodeled; and (3) all of the property owned by the University of St. Thomas. The effect of the planning department's revision was to split the District into two portions: the Fawkes block and a northeast portion.

The HPC held a public hearing on September 25, 2001, and in response to the significant interest in the designation, the HPC scheduled a second public hearing on October 16, 2001. At both meetings, there was significant opposition to the area's historic designation by local property owners. The owners complained that they had not had enough input in the process, that the designation would decrease their buildings' value, that the auto industry was not significant enough in the history of Minneapolis, and that the buildings had already been altered too much to merit designation. Additionally, Roise and Marjorie Pearson (also a consultant for BGEA) spoke on behalf of BGEA and urged limiting the historic designation to the Fawkes block and four individual buildings in the northeast portion.

Residents of the neighborhood spoke in favor of the designation at the public hearings, mentioning that they wanted to save the character of the area, its historic value, and the pedestrian-friendly nature of the District. City Council Member Lisa Goodman opined: "[T]his is about preserving one of the last, very unique architectural areas in the city." At the October 16 HPC meeting a motion to approve the two subdistricts was amended to include five properties facing Hennepin Avenue (buildings numbered 21-25). The commissioners discussed why the HPC staff had recommended excluding them, and reasons for keeping them in the District. Finally, the HPC approved the designation of the two subdistricts, with the inclusion of the five buildings facing Hennepin Avenue. The HPC did not make written findings to support its inclusion of the Hennepin Avenue properties.

On October 31, the City's Zoning and Planning Committee (Zoning) heard public testimony and then adopted the findings of the planning department, requested findings to support the inclusion of the Hennepin Avenue properties, and approved the designation. Zoning then passed the recommendation on to the city council for final approval, together with findings that the inclusion of the Hennepin Avenue properties helped to preserve the integrity of the contributing properties and the character of the District. On November 9, 2001, the city council passed two resolutions, designating the ...


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