In the Matter of Bryan Hutchinson and Tracy Hutchinson for the Establishment of a Cartway Within Unorganized Territory in St. Louis County, Minnesota
St. Louis County District Court File No. 69DU-CV-10-3715
Kenneth D. Butler, Duluth, Minnesota (for appellants Chester Cullen and Robin Cullen)
Kimberly E. Brzezinski, Andresen & Butterworth, P.A., Duluth, Minnesota (for respondents Bryan Hutchinson and Tracy Hutchinson)
Mark S. Rubin, St. Louis County Attorney, Nick D. Campanario, Assistant County Attorney, Duluth, Minnesota (for respondent St. Louis County Board of Commissioners)
Considered and decided by Worke, Presiding Judge; Rodenberg, Judge; and Smith, Judge.
Appellants, the owners of land over which respondent county board of commissioners approved a cartway, argue that the district court erred by affirming the location of the cartway because the county board of commissioners' decision is arbitrary and capricious, failing to address the existence of an implied easement, and by not properly addressing alternative routes that are less damaging and in the public's interest. We affirm.
This dispute concerns a cartway located across land owned by appellants Chester and Robin Cullen, established to provide access to the property owned by respondents Bryan and Tracy Hutchinson. In 2009, the Hutchinsons built a home on their property, and were assured by St. Louis County that access could be achieved over North Triplett Road, which was a public road. North Triplett Road extends north-south, forming the western border of the Hutchinsons' property and the eastern border of the Cullens' property, with the Cullens' property located north-west of the Hutchinsons' property.
In early 2010, the Cullens filed a complaint against the county, alleging that the stretch of North Triplett Road abutting their property was not a public road, but was either established illegally or abandoned pursuant to the Minnesota Marketable Title Act. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the Cullens, finding that the road had been abandoned for the statutory period and was no longer a public road.
In July 2010, the Hutchinsons and their neighbors, Richard and Susan Coccie, petitioned the county to establish a cartway over the Coccie and Cullen properties under what is now Minn. Stat. § 164.08, subd. 2 (2012) along the former North Triplett Road. On November 9, 2010, the county board held a hearing. Numerous witnesses testified, including two officials from the county's public-works department who presented a report assessing three options for cartway routes. The report indicated that, of the three options, the route proposed by the Hutchinsons required no additional construction and would not impact area wetlands. The county board voted to adopt a resolution establishing a cartway over old North Triplett Road, and to award the Cullens $10, 700 to compensate them for the taking. On November 30, 2010, the county board entered an order with findings of fact and conclusions of law to this effect.
In December 2010, the Cullens appealed to the district court under what is now Minn. Stat. § 164.07, subd. 7 (2012). On March 22, 2012, the court considered whether the county board's decision was arbitrary and capricious; all other issues were reserved. The district court affirmed the decision, concluding that it "had a reasonable basis in law and ...