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Calhoun v. Strommen

Court of Appeals of Minnesota

April 29, 2019

Save Lake Calhoun, Appellant,
v.
Sarah Strommen, et al., Respondents.

          Ramsey County District Court File No. 62-CV-18-2891

          Erick G. Kaardal, Mohrman, Kaardal & Erickson, P.A., Minneapolis, Minnesota (for appellant)

          Keith Ellison, Attorney General, Christina M. Brown, Max Kieley, Assistant Attorneys General, St. Paul, Minnesota (for respondents)

          Considered and decided by Schellhas, Presiding Judge; Slieter, Judge; and Stauber, Judge. [*]

         SYLLABUS

         I. A petition for a writ of quo warranto relief based on a governmental agency's decision may overcome dismissal pursuant to Minn. R. Civ. P. 12.02(e) upon a showing that the decision, even if final, constitutes an ongoing exercise of power.

         II. Pursuant to Minn. Stat. §§ 83A.01-.07 (2018), the commissioner of natural resources lacks authority to change a lake name which has existed for 40 years.

          OPINION

          SLIETER, JUDGE

         Appellant challenges dismissal of its petition for writ of quo warranto under Minn. R. Civ. P. 12.02(e), arguing that the commissioner of natural resources exceeded his authority, pursuant to Minn. Stat. §§ 83A.01-.07, in changing the name of Lake Calhoun to Bde Maka Ska.[1] We reverse and remand.

         FACTS

         This matter relates to the name change of Minnesota Public Water No. 27-31, commonly known as Lake Calhoun (the lake). The precise date the lake obtained this name is unknown, but it is known as such in Henry Schoolcraft's journals through the Northwestern region of the United States in 1821 and William Keating's narrative account in 1884. Significant to this opinion, the parties do not dispute that the name of the lake was Lake Calhoun for more than 40 years.

         In 2015, the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board (park board) sought to change the lake name to Bde Maka Ska. Legal counsel for the park board, however, determined that the park board lacked the authority to change the name of the lake on its own. The park board continued its effort to rename the lake through the Hennepin County Board of Commissioners (board of commissioners) and respondents Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and Commissioner of Natural Resources (together, DNR).[2] On October 1, 2015, the park board, after passing a resolution, changed signage around the lake to Bde Maka Ska.

         On May 3, 2017, the park board approved the Calhoun/Bde Maka Ska-Harriet master plan (master plan). The master plan provides a 25-year vision for the area. A component of the master plan notes "the [p]ark [b]oard's support for the restoration of the Dakota name Bde Maka Ska to Lake Calhoun."

         The board of commissioners entertained a petition from the park board to change the lake name to Bde Maka Ska, and it held a public hearing on October 17, 2017. DNR "through [their] agents or representatives, told the Hennepin County Board to follow the statutory process found under [Minn. Stat.] §§ 83A.05-.07." Minn. Stat. §§ 83A.05-.07 apply to the changing and giving names to bodies of water except for a name that has existed for 40 years may not be modified under those provisions. The Hennepin County Attorney's Office informed the board of commissioners that it "had no role in renaming a body of water whose name was in existence for more than 40 years."

         Before the board of commissioners, appellant Save Lake Calhoun[3] presented a petition on behalf of 318 of the 334 homeowners around the lake, opposing the name. On November 21, 2017, the board of commissioners passed, by a vote of 4 to 3, a resolution recommending that the DNR change the lake's name. Resolution No. 17-0489 provided:

BE IT RESOLVED, that after following the process outlined in Minn. Stat. §§ 83A.05[-].07, including a public hearing, the Hennepin County Board of Commissioners recommends that the [DNR] take the steps necessary to change the name of Lake Calhoun, Minnesota Public Water No. 27-31, located in Sections 4 and 5 of Township 28 North, Range 24 West; and in Sections 32 and 33 of Township 29 North, Range 24 West, in the City of Minneapolis, to be Bde Maka Ska.

         On December 15, 2017, the resolution was served on the DNR. On January 18, 2018, the DNR approved the name change in a "Names of Geographic Features Order." The DNR's order identified historical authority for it to modify the lake's name and its "long[-]standing policy . . . encouraging counties requesting that the [DNR c]ommissioner approve a name change pursuant to Minn. Stat. § 83A.02 and Minn. Stat. § 83A.04 to comply with the notice and hearing requirements set forth in Minn. Stat. § 83A.06." The order continued: (1) the board of commissioners complied with chapter 83A notice and hearing requirements; (2) the U.S. Board of Geographic Names protocol supported the name change; (3) Lake Calhoun was a duplicative lake name;[4] (4) the elected members of the board of commissioners recommended the name change after a public hearing and receiving testimony, which the DNR commissioner found constituted compelling evidence for the name change in the public interest; (5) the DNR weighed the information in Resolution No. 17-0489 with the written comments received and found the name change served the public interest; and (6) the 40-year restriction under Minn. Stat. § 83A.04, subd. 1, did not apply to the DNR's authority under Minn. Stat. § 83A.02. Therefore, the DNR commissioner approved the renaming of the lake from Lake Calhoun to Bde Maka Ska.

         On February 13, 2018, appellant petitioned this court for a writ of certiorari. This court dismissed the writ on March 6, 2018, concluding that the order is not a quasi-judicial decision reviewable by certiorari. In re Proposed Renaming of Lake Calhoun, No. A18-0261 (Minn.App. Mar. 6, 2018) (order).

         On April 25, 2018, appellant petitioned for a writ of quo warranto[5] in Ramsey County District Court. The DNR moved to dismiss or, in the alternative, to change venue. The district court found that appellant had standing to bring the petition but granted the

          DNR's motion to dismiss under Minn. R. Civ. P. 12.02(e), [6] concluding that appellant failed to establish an ongoing act necessary to obtain quo warranto relief.

         ISSUES

         I. Does appellant have standing to petition for a writ of quo warranto?

         II. Did the district court err by dismissing appellant's petition for writ of quo warranto for failure to state a claim for which relief may be granted under Minn. R. Civ. P. 12.02(e)?

         III. Does the DNR commissioner have authority pursuant to Minn. Stat. §§ 83A.01-.07 to change a lake name which has existed for 40 years?

         ANALYSIS

         A dismissal under Minn. R. Civ. P. 12.02(e) is reviewed de novo and this court accepts "the facts alleged in the complaint as true and construe[s] all reasonable inferences in favor of the nonmoving party." Walsh v. U.S. Bank, N.A., 851 N.W.2d 598, 606 (Minn. 2014). Similarly, matters of standing and mootness are addressed under a de novo standard of review.[7] In re Gillette Children's Specialty Healthcare, 883 N.W.2d 778, 784 (Minn. 2016) (standing); Verhein v. Piper, 917 N.W.2d 96, 100 (Minn.App. 2018) (mootness). Matters of statutory interpretation are also analyzed under de novo review. Staab v. Diocese of St. Cloud, 853 N.W.2d 713, 716 (Minn. 2014).

         I. Appellant has standing to petition for a writ of quo warranto.

         "Standing is a legal requirement that a party have a sufficient stake in a justiciable controversy to seek relief from a court." McCaughtry v. City of Red Wing, 808 N.W.2d 331, 338 (Minn. 2011) (quotation omitted). This court may determine standing as a legal issue when the facts are not disputed. Joel v. Wellman, 551 N.W.2d 729, 730 (Minn.App. 1996), review denied (Minn. Oct. 29, 1996). "The question of standing, which can be raised by [appellate] court[s] on [their] own motion, is essential to our exercise of jurisdiction." Annandale Advocate v. City of Annandale, 435 N.W.2d 24, 27 (Minn. 1989); see also ...


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