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Schulz v. Town of Duluth

Supreme Court of Minnesota

December 4, 2019

John Schulz, et al., Appellants,
v.
Town of Duluth, Respondent, Charles Bille, et al., Respondents.

          Court of Appeals Office of Appellate Courts

          William D. Paul, William D. Paul Law Office, Duluth, Minnesota, for appellants.

          Robert A. Alsop, Joshua P. Devaney, Kennedy & Graven, Chartered, Minneapolis, Minnesota, for respondent Town of Duluth.

         SYLLABUS

         1. To perfect an appeal and confer jurisdiction on a district court in an action initiated under Minnesota Statutes section 462.361, subdivision 1 (2018), an aggrieved party appealing a zoning variance is only required to serve the municipality that decided the variance application, rather than the municipality and all necessary parties.

         2. The district court erred by dismissing the action with prejudice rather than joining the non-municipality defendants to the action under Minnesota Rule of Civil Procedure 19.01.

         Reversed and remanded.

          OPINION

          CHUTICH, JUSTICE.

         This case considers which parties must be served to perfect an action initiated under Minnesota Statutes section 462.361, subdivision 1 (2018). Appellants John Schulz, Rebecca Norine, and Jack Nelson (the Neighbors) sought judicial review of a zoning variance granted by the Town of Duluth (Duluth) to Charles Bille and Carol Danielson-Bille (the Billes), who want to build a retirement home on Lake Superior. The Neighbors properly served Duluth within the 30-day appeal period set forth in the local Duluth ordinance that authorized judicial review of the zoning variance decision, but failed to serve the Billes within the same 30-day period.

         The district court dismissed the Billes from the case because they had not been timely served. It then dismissed the entire action, determining that the Billes were a necessary and indispensable party under Minnesota Rules of Civil Procedure 19.01 and 19.02, and that the action could not proceed without them. The court of appeals affirmed. The Neighbors seek review of this application of section 462.361 and Rules 19.01 and 19.02. We reverse the court of appeals and remand to the district court for reinstatement of the Neighbors' action and for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

         FACTS

         The Billes are joint owners of real property in Duluth who sought a zoning variance to build a home on their property. The Neighbors are joint owners of land adjacent to the Billes. The Neighbors opposed the Billes' variance because they alleged that construction of the Billes' home would obstruct their view of Lake Superior.

         The Billes filed their first variance application with the Town of Duluth Planning and Zoning Commission (the Commission) on March 7, 2017. The Commission granted the variance. Opposing the variance, the Neighbors appealed to the Town of Duluth Board of Supervisors (the Board). The Board granted the Neighbors' appeal and denied the Billes' variance application.

         The Billes then filed an amended variance application with the Commission on July 15, 2017. Three weeks later, the Commission again granted the Billes' variance, and the Neighbors again appealed. This time, the Board denied the Neighbors' appeal and granted the Billes' variance application. A copy of the Board's decision was delivered to the Neighbors' attorney on September 8.

         The Town of Duluth's zoning ordinance provides aggrieved persons a right to appeal a decision of the Board. Town of Duluth, Minn., Zoning Ordinance No. 5, art. XIV, § 3.E.4 (Sept. 10, 2015). The ordinance states in relevant part:

All decisions made by the Town Board in hearing appeals from Planning Commission determinations shall be final, except that any aggrieved person or persons . . . shall have the right to appeal within thirty (30) days after delivery of the decision to the appellant, to the District Court in St. Louis County on questions of law and fact.

Id.

         This ordinance and Minnesota Statutes section 462.361, subdivision 1, authorized the Neighbors' appeal to the Saint Louis County District Court. Each party agreed that, under the ordinance, the 30th day for filing was October 8, a Sunday; the following day was Columbus Day, a legal holiday; and the deadline for filing an appeal, therefore, was Tuesday, October 10.

         To initiate their appeal from the Board's decision, the Neighbors personally delivered a copy of the summons and complaint to the Saint Louis County Sheriff on October 9, 2017, who then served Duluth on October 20, 2017. On October 10, 2017, the Neighbors faxed a copy of the summons and complaint to ...


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