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Hans Hagen Homes, Inc. v. City of Minnetrista

May 16, 2006

HANS HAGEN HOMES, INC., RESPONDENT,
v.
CITY OF MINNETRISTA, APPELLANT.



Hennepin County District Court File No. CT 05-4810.

SYLLABUS BY THE COURT

To deny effectively a written application for rezoning and for expanding a metropolitan-urban-service area, a multimember governing body must comply with the requirements of Minn. Stat. § 15.99, subd. 2(c) (2004), including the requirement to provide the applicant, in writing, a statement of the reasons for the denial. Failure to complete these requirements before expiration of the sixty-day statutory deadline, or an authorized extension, results in approval of the application as a matter of law.

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

Affirmed

Concurring specially, Randall, Judge

Considered and decided by Toussaint, Chief Judge; Lansing, Judge; and Randall, Judge.

OPINION

On cross-motions for summary judgment, the district court granted Hans Hagen Homes' petition for mandamus to enforce Minn. Stat. § 15.99, subd. 2 (2004), and directed the City of Minnetrista to approve Hagen Homes' application for rezoning and for expanding the metropolitan-urban-service area. The city appeals, and, because we conclude that the district court properly construed the requirements of section 15.99, subdivision 2(c), as mandatory, we affirm.

FACTS

Hans Hagen Homes, Inc., filed a petition for a writ of mandamus to compel the City of Minnetrista to approve Hagen Homes' application for rezoning and for amending the city's comprehensive plan that would adjust the metropolitan-urban-service-area (MUSA) line. On cross-motions for summary judgment, the district court denied the city's motion, granted Hagen Homes' motion in part, and directed the city to approve the application. The district court denied Hagen Homes' mandamus request to approve its conceptual site plan, and this denial is not disputed on appeal.

Hagen Homes and the city agree on the essential facts. Hagen Homes owns approximately 220 acres of land, divided into six parcels, within the city. In May 2004 Hagen Homes submitted a rezoning application to the city, requesting that the city rezone its parcels from rural agricultural to R-4-PUD and amend its comprehensive plan to adjust the MUSA line to provide Hagen Homes' parcels with public services. The city asked for an extension of the sixty-day statutory time limit to approve or deny the application; Hagen Homes eventually agreed to a November 30, 2004 deadline.

On October 4, 2004, the city council held a public hearing on the application. A Minnetrista city planner presented information on Hagen Homes' request, and a company representative described the project in further detail. After hearing the presentations and public comments, the city denied the application, finding that Hagen Homes' requests were inconsistent with the city's comprehensive plan and that further traffic studies were necessary. The city did not adopt written findings until its October 18, 2004 meeting when it passed a resolution formally denying Hagen Homes' request. Hagen Homes did not have a representative at this meeting.

The city posted minutes of the October 4 and 18 meetings on its website before the November 30, 2004 deadline for action on the application. Copies of the resolution were also available at city hall within forty-eight hours after its adoption. The city did not, however, provide Hagen Homes with a copy of the resolution until December 9, 2004, when Hagen Homes requested a copy from the city.

In March 2005 Hagen Homes filed a petition for mandamus, contending that it was entitled to approval of its application as a matter of law because the city did not provide Hagen Homes with a written statement of denial and the reasons for denial before November 30, 2004, as required by Minn. Stat. § 15.99, subd. 2 (2004). The city appeals from the district court's summary judgment granting Hagen Homes' mandamus petition.

ISSUE

Did the district court err by concluding that a city's failure to provide an applicant with a written statement of its reasons for denying an application for rezoning and extending a MUSA line before the expiration of the Minn. Stat. § 15.99 deadline for action resulted in approval as a matter of law?

ANALYSIS

To obtain a writ of mandamus, a petitioner must establish that the law clearly requires the performance of the mandatory or purely ministerial act for which the writ will issue. Minn. Stat. § 586.01 (2004); McIntosh v. Davis, 441 N.W.2d 115, 118 (Minn. 1989). Whether a petitioner has established the grounds necessary to support the issuance of a writ is a question of law. McIntosh, 441 N.W.2d at 118.

The district court's summary judgment granting the mandamus petition and directing the city to approve Hagen Homes' application is based solely on the city's failure to provide Hagen Homes with a written statement of the city's reasons for denial before expiration of the response deadline as required by Minn. Stat. ยง 15.99, subd. 2(c) (2004). Because Hagen Homes and the city do not dispute the material facts, we exercise independent review to determine whether the district court erred in its application of the statutory language to the undisputed facts. ...


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