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Allen v. City of Mendota Heights

March 29, 2005

JOHN N. ALLEN, ET AL., PETITIONERS, APPELLANTS,
v.
CITY OF MENDOTA HEIGHTS, A MUNICIPAL CORPORATION, RESPONDENT.



Dakota County District Court File No. C4-04-00689.

Considered and decided by Toussaint, Chief Judge; Hudson, Judge; and Poritsky, Judge.*fn1

SYLLABUS BY THE COURT

When the environmental review process under the Minnesota Environmental Policy Act, Minn. Stat. Ch. 116D (2004), is initiated on a project by a citizens' petition, the 60-day deadline for agency action under Minn. Stat. § 15.99, subd. 2 (2004), is tolled by operation of subdivision 3(d) of that statute until completion of the process.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Toussaint, Chief Judge

Affirmed; motion granted

OPINION

In this mandamus proceeding, appellants argue that their applications for permits to respondent City of Mendota Heights were automatically approved under Minn. Stat. § 15.99, subd. 2 (2004). Upon a citizens' petition for environmental review of appellants' project, the city tolled the running of the automatic approval period. Because the city and district court correctly interpreted an express exception in section 15.99 to allow for tolling of the deadline for agency action on the applications pending the environmental review process under the Minnesota Environmental Policy Act, we affirm. The city's motion to supplement the record is granted.

FACTS

Appellants John Allen and Joel Buttenhoff own land in respondent City of Mendota Heights (the city). Appellant Minnstar Builders, Inc., a Ron Clark Company, executed purchase agreements with Allen, Buttenhoff, and Acacia Park Cemetery Association to buy the property for a proposed residential development with adjacent property. On November 5, 2002, Minnstar applied for preliminary plat approval, rezoning, site-plan approval, a conditional-use permit for a planned-unit development, a variance, and a street vacation.

On December 2, 2002, citizens petitioned the Minnesota Environmental Quality Board (EQB) for an environmental-assessment worksheet (EAW). On December 18 the city wrote Ron Clark of Minnstar that it had taken action on December 3 to grant conditional approval, "in this instance meaning only a vote of confidence, for the application based on nine conditions." The letter also stated that on December 17 the city council had met again and taken further action on the rezoning, conditional use permit, variance, and preliminary plat. The council continued the development-application matters and the EAW petition to its next meeting on January 7, 2003. It also extended the 15-day period for deciding the EAW petition and the 60-day deadline for the rezoning and other matters under Minn. Stat. § 15.99 (2004). The letter indicated that the 60-day period was stayed by the EAW process on December 9 when it was designated the Responsible Governmental Unit (RGU) for the EAW petition, and that the 60-day period would begin to run either after the council decides no EAW is warranted or after the environmental-review process is complete.

On January 7, 2003, the city resolved that pursuant to its consideration of the citizens' petition for environmental review, an EAW would be prepared. On February 19, Minnstar submitted data for the EAW. On November 24, by resolution of the city council, the city made a positive declaration of the potential for significant environmental effects requiring preparation of an environmental-impact statement (EIS).

Appellants petitioned the district court for a writ of mandamus compelling the city to grant Minnstar's various written requests or, alternatively, compelling the city to show cause why the written requests should not be approved. Appellants moved for summary judgment, and the city moved for judgment on the pleadings. The district court filed an order granting the city's motion and dismissing the petition. Appellants filed a notice of appeal, and the city filed an unopposed motion to supplement the record.

ISSUE

Is the 60-day deadline for agency action under Minn. Stat. ยง 15.99, subd. 2 (2004) extended by subdivision 3(d) of that statute when citizens initiate the environmental review process with a petition for an environmental-assessment worksheet under ...


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