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Bridgewater Township v. City of Dundas

Court of Appeals of Minnesota

December 23, 2013

Bridgewater Township, Appellant,
v.
City of Dundas, Minnesota, Respondent.

UNPUBLISHED OPINION

Rice County District Court File No. 66-CV-12-2961

Peter B. Tiede, Brent D. Kettelkamp, Murnane Brandt, St. Paul, Minnesota (for appellant)

Paula A. Callies, Callies Law, PLLC, Minneapolis, Minnesota (for respondent)

Considered and decided by Stoneburner, Presiding Judge; Hudson, Judge; and Hooten, Judge.

HUDSON, Judge

On appeal from summary judgment, appellant Bridgewater Township argues that the district court erred in granting summary judgment to respondent/cross-appellant Dundas. On cross-appeal, Dundas argues that the district court erred in denying its motion to dismiss for lack of a justiciable controversy. Because we conclude that a justiciable controversy exists, but that the district court erred in granting summary judgment to Dundas, we affirm in part and reverse and remand for the district court to enter judgment in favor of Bridgewater Township.

FACTS

Bridgewater Township shares a common boundary with the City of Dundas in Rice County. On July 12, 2004, the township and the city entered into a contract known as an Orderly Annexation Agreement, providing for annexation of certain pieces of township land (the annexation area) to the city between 2004 and 2033. See Minn. Stat. § 414.0325 (2012).[1] The parties dispute which entity was granted planning and zoning authority in the annexation area. Prior to the agreement, the Dundas City Council had planning and zoning authority in the city, and the Dundas Planning Commission served in an advisory capacity to the city council. The annexation agreement required Dundas to expand its planning commission to include three residents of Bridgewater. Bridgewater claims the agreement also granted the newly expanded planning commission authority over all planning and zoning in the annexation area; Dundas claims the agreement granted that authority to the Dundas City Council, with the new planning commission serving only in an advisory capacity.

The uncertainty surrounding planning and zoning in the annexation area has led to conflict. In spring 2012, for example, Bridgewater granted a permit to Rice County for the construction of an antenna tower within the annexation area. Dundas then sent an official notice to the county stating that construction violated the Dundas city zoning code. Dundas claimed the annexation agreement granted the city sole authority over the annexation area, and thus the Bridgewater permit was invalid. The antenna construction was completed, but a determination of which entity could properly grant building permits in the annexation area was never made. Bridgewater also claims that Dundas has wrongly prohibited the new planning commission from enacting ordinances for the annexation area.

On October 31, 2012, Bridgewater filed suit seeking a declaratory judgment that the annexation agreement grants the new planning commission "the jurisdiction and authority to exercise planning and land use control authority within the Annexation Area." Dundas moved to dismiss, arguing that the district court had no jurisdiction because there was no justiciable controversy. In the alternative, Dundas moved for summary judgment claiming that the annexation agreement unambiguously grants the city sole authority to control zoning and land use within the annexation area. Bridgewater also moved for summary judgment.

The district court concluded that a justiciable controversy existed, denying Dundas's motion to dismiss. But the district court granted summary judgment for Dundas and entered judgment declaring that the annexation agreement unambiguously vested planning and zoning authority in the annexation area to the city. The district court concluded that Bridgewater's proposed interpretation of the agreement would lead to absurd results and fail to give effect to all of the agreement's provisions.

Bridgewater appeals the district court's order granting summary judgment to Dundas. Dundas cross-appeals from the district court's ruling that a justiciable controversy exists, claiming the judgment should be vacated and the case should be dismissed. In the ...


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