Chisago County District Court File No. 13CV091081.
Christopher D. Johnson, Johnson/Turner, Forest Lake, Minnesota (for respondents).
Courtland Borle, Tennis and Collins, P.A., Forest Lake, Minnesota (for appellants).
Considered and decided by Stoneburner, Presiding Judge; Connolly, Judge; and Larkin, Judge.
In this dispute over the location of the common boundary between two properties, appellants argue that the district court erroneously found that respondents established a boundary by practical location by estoppel. We agree and reverse.
In November 1987, development partners Ronald Strang and Peter Sampair purchased real property adjacent to Wallmark Lake in Chisago County. The following summer, the property was platted into 37 lots, together known as Wallmark Lake Estates.
In July 1988, Sampair and his wife granted lots 13 and 14 of Block One to Strang and his wife (Quist). These adjacent lots also border Wallmark Lake and Wallmark Lake Drive. Strang and Quist constructed a house on Lot 14; they moved into the house in October 1988.
At that time, Lot 13 was heavily wooded, except for a grassy lawn along Wallmark Lake Drive. To ensure that he did not cut firewood from the adjacent Lot 12, Strang ran a string between the lake and drive corners of lots 12 and 13; Strang tied the string to trees on Lot 13, keeping the string, which zig-zagged somewhat from tree to tree, within one to three feet of the actual straight-line boundary with Lot 12.
In September 1992, Strang and Quist granted several lots, including Lot 12 of Block One, to Sampair and his wife. At approximately the same time, another party constructed a house on Lot 11. Prior to 1992, Sampair had accessed Wallmark Lake via a road through Lot 11. After the house was built on Lot 11, the owner of Lot 11 gave Sampair permission to continue using that lake access. Although that permission was never revoked, in approximately 1994, Sampair began to build his own access to the lake, clearing a road through the woods on what he believed to be Lot 12. Sampair worked on the road "for a couple years." After the road was complete, Sampair used it primarily during duck-hunting season, transporting his boat across the road once at the beginning and once at the end of the season and accessing the lake once or twice a week during the season. Outside of duck-hunting season, Sampair used the road two to five times per year, and mowed it "maybe once a year." Strang testified that he knew about Sampair's use of Lot 11 to access the lake but was not sure if Sampair used Lot 12 to access the lake. Strang was not asked if he was aware that Sampair used a portion of Lot 13 to access the lake.
In 1998, Strang moved out of the house on Lot 14. The following year, he and Quist divorced and, as part of the divorce decree, Quist was awarded the undeveloped Lot 13. Shortly thereafter, in early 2000, Sampair and his wife sold Lot 12 to respondent Todd Erickson, and Quist sold Lot 13 to Richard and Cheryl Vogel. Both sales were by contract for deed.
In May 2001, Erickson obtained a plot plan for Lot 12 from a licensed land surveyor. He used the plot plan to apply for a building permit. Both the plot plan and building permit reflect the original plat and show that Erickson's proposed house and garage would be approximately 10 feet from the platted boundary with Lot 13. Both documents show a straight-line boundary between lots 12 and 13 from Wallmark Lake Drive to Wallmark Lake and that a portion of Sampair's road is located on the Lot 13 side of that line. Erickson testified that the building permit does not say the straight line is a boundary line, and he considered it just "a reference line." Erickson testified that the realtor told him that Lot 12 includes the road, which curves outward toward Lot 13 from the proposed house shown on the documents. On appeal, Erickson argues that the road already constituted the boundary between lots 12 and 13, regardless of what boundary line is shown on the plat. Erickson ...