Pope County District Court. File No. C7-03-96.
Considered and decided by Harten , Presiding Judge; Halbrooks , Judge; and Minge , Judge.
When a party has previously litigated the applicability of a local zoning ordinance in an action, collateral estoppel precludes further litigation of the same issue in a subsequent proceeding.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Minge, Judge
Appellant argues that the issues litigated in this proceeding were not identical to those previously litigated in another proceeding and challenges the district court's use of collateral estoppel to grant respondent summary judgment. Because we find that appellant attempts to relitigate an issue identical to that decided previously, we affirm.
In 1991, appellant John Pryzmus purchased land containing a one-level cabin on Lake Leven in Pope County, Minnesota. The cabin, built in 1972, had a setback of approximately 145 feet from the ordinary high-water level. On November 28, 2000, appellant applied to the county for a permit to build a residence on the property. The county office manager explained the ordinances applicable to appellant's proposed building project, including a 200-foot setback from the lake requirement for new structures. She also explained that if the proposed structure is an addition, and if 50% of the value of the existing structure is removed, it is considered a new structure and must also comply with the 200-foot-setback requirement. Appellant's plan measurements showed a setback from the lake of about 150 feet and he indicated to the county that he was building an addition to the existing cabin, not a new structure.
The county approved the building permit based on information provided by appellant. In May 2001, appellant completely dismantled the existing cabin. However, he saved the furnace, some plumbing fixtures, some lumber, the kitchen cabinets, and the front door and stoop to use in the new structure, which was built on the same site.
In July 2001, the county observed that the old cabin had been completely removed and replaced with a new, wood-frame structure. It concluded that construction of this structure exceeded appellant's permit and told him to seek a variance allowing the structure to be closer than the required 200-foot setback. Appellant applied for the variance in October 2001, which the Pope County Board of Adjustment denied. Appellant appealed the variance denial to the district court, and on October 10, 2002, the district court affirmed the denial.
On March 5, 2003, Pope County brought an action seeking an order directing appellant to abate the violation by removing the offending structure within one year, authorizing the county to remove the offending structure if the violation was not abated within the specified time, and authorizing the county to recover costs. Appellant denied violating any applicable Pope County ordinances. Pope County moved for summary judgment, and on August 27, 2003, the district court granted the motion. The court took judicial notice of the findings of fact and conclusions of law from the October 10, 2002 order affirming the denial of the variance application. It specifically found that (1) appellant proposed to place his "new" house 145 feet from the ordinary high-water mark, contrary to the 200-foot setback required under County Land Use Controls Ordinance § 4.4.4; and (2) because appellant completely dismantled the existing cabin, the new structure was required to be at the 200-foot setback. The court found that the same issues had already been litigated in the action regarding appellant's variance application and, based on the doctrine of collateral estoppel, granted summary judgment for the county.
Did the district court err in granting summary judgment based on ...