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LLC v. City of Minneapolis

Supreme Court of Minnesota

September 25, 2013

Court of Appeals 500, LLC, Appellant,
v.
City of Minneapolis, Respondent

Karl E. Robinson, Hellmuth & Johnson, PLLC, Edina, Minnesota, for appellant.

Susan L. Segal, Minneapolis City Attorney, Erik E. Nilsson, Darla J. Boggs, Assistant City Attorneys, Minneapolis, Minnesota, for respondent.

Stras, J. Concurring, Page, J. Took no part, Lillehaug, J.

SYLLABUS

An application to a heritage-preservation commission for a certificate of appropriateness is a "written request relating to zoning" under Minn. Stat. § 15.99, subd. 2(a) (2012).

Reversed and remanded.

OPINION

STRAS, Justice.

The question presented in this case is whether an application to a heritage-preservation commission for a certificate of appropriateness is a "written request relating to zoning" under Minn. Stat. § 15.99, subd. 2(a) (2012). If so, then the respondent, City of Minneapolis ("the City"), had only 60 days to "approve or deny" the application for a certificate of appropriateness submitted by the appellant, 500, LLC ("500 LLC"). See Minn. Stat. § 15.99, subd. 2(a). Because we conclude that an application for a certificate of appropriateness is a "written request relating to zoning" and that the City failed to approve or deny 500 LLC's application within 60 days, we reverse.

I.

500 LLC is a real-estate firm that owns a vacant four-story building ("the property") located at 500 Third Street North in the warehouse district of Minneapolis. 500 LLC seeks to develop the property into an office building. 500 LLC submitted a site plan application to the City in September 2008 to obtain approval of its proposed development. According to the Minneapolis City Code, the purpose of a site plan application is to allow the City to determine whether a proposed development is "compatible with nearby properties, neighborhood character, natural features and plans adopted by the city council." Minneapolis, Minn., Code of Ordinances § 530.10 (2013). The Minneapolis City Council approved 500 LLC's site plan application.

Before the City Council reviewed 500 LLC's site plan application, however, the Minneapolis Heritage Preservation Commission ("the Commission") nominated the property for designation as a local historic landmark. The Commission's action placed the property under "interim protection, " which prohibits "destruction or inappropriate alteration [of a nominated property] during the designation process" in the absence of a "certificate of appropriateness." Minneapolis, Minn., Code of Ordinances §§ 599.240, 599.320 (2013).

On May 6, 2009, 500 LLC submitted an application for a certificate of appropriateness to the Commission. Following a public hearing and a series of administrative appeals, the City Council denied the application for a certificate of appropriateness on July 31, 2009. Approximately 10 months later, the City Council approved a resolution designating the property as a local historic landmark. The designation became final and effective on June 5, 2010.[1]

In October 2010, 500 LLC commenced this action against the City. In its complaint, 500 LLC alleged, among other things, that the City violated Minn. Stat. § 15.99, subd. 2(a), because it failed to approve or deny the application for a certificate of appropriateness within 60 days. See Minn. Stat. § 15.99, subd. 2(a) (requiring an agency to "approve or deny within 60 days a written request relating to zoning"). 500 LLC further alleged that the City's failure to approve or deny the application resulted in its automatic approval at the end of the 60-day period. See id. (declaring that an agency's failure to approve or deny "a written request relating to zoning" within 60 days results in the automatic approval of the request). 500 LLC sought a declaratory judgment that its "application for [a] Certificate of Appropriateness [was] approved and granted by operation of law."

At the close of discovery, the district court granted summary judgment to the City.[2] The court recognized that "[c]onventionally, one would believe that historic preservation proceedings and decisions would 'relate to' zoning inasmuch as they may serve to control projects in a manner akin to zoning requirements, or may employ special zoning conditions within historic districts." Even so, the court concluded that Minn. Stat. ยง 15.99, subd. 2(a), did not apply to an application for a certificate of appropriateness because "decisions ...


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