This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (1998).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
In the Matter of the Petition of
Joan M. Sigurdson Wurdeman, et al., petitioners,
City of Maplewood,
Patrick W. O’Brien, et al.,
Filed December 5, 2000
County District Court
File No. C2-98-7031
Raymond W. Goodwin, David W. Larson, Dudley and Smith, P.A., 2602 Firstar Center, 101 East Fifth Street, St. Paul, MN 55101 (for respondents)
Clinton McLagan, McLagan & Lerman, P.A., 2025 Centre Pointe Boulevard, Suite 260, Mendota Heights, MN 55120 (for appellants)
Considered and decided by Stoneburner, Presiding Judge, Forsberg, Judge,** and Holtan, Judge.
Appellants challenge an order determining boundaries, contending that the referee's decision to adopt one survey over another was not supported by the evidence. Appellants also argue that the referee applied the wrong legal standard and applied it incorrectly for remedying the error contained in the original plat. We affirm.
In 1923, surveyor Walter Hobart certified the subdivision plat of Gardena Addition, located in Ramsey County. The plat was recorded on May 5, 1924. Lots one through eleven comprise the block of the plat where lot two, the property at issue, is located.
Appellants Joan Sigurdson Wurdeman and Rick Wurdeman (the Wurdemans) and respondents Catherine and Patrick O’Brien (the O’Briens) are neighbors. The O’Briens’ property abuts the Wurdemans’ property on the north.
The Wurdemans petitioned to register their boundaries pursuant to Minn. Stat. § 508.671 (1998). The O’Briens are the only defendants who answered. A trial was held before the deputy examiner of titles acting as a special referee pursuant to the consent of the parties and a standing order of the district court. The referee’s findings of fact, conclusions of law, and memorandum were made part of the district court’s January 24, 2000, interlocutory order to determine judicial boundaries. The O’Briens appeal the order pursuant to Minn. Stat. § 508.29(4) (1998).
D E C I S I O N
The findings of a referee, to the extent adopted by the court, are considered the findings of the court, and on appeal the district court’s findings of fact are given great deference, and will not be set aside unless clearly erroneous. Minn. R. Civ. P. 52.01. Where there is reasonable evidence to support the district court’s fact-findings, this court will not disturb them. Fletcher v. St. Paul Pioneer Press, 589 N.W.2d 96, 101 (Minn. 1999). But a district court’s decision on a purely legal issue is not entitled to deference and will not bind this court on review. Frost-Benco Elec. Ass’n v. Minnesota Pub. Utils. Comm’n, 358 N.W.2d 639, 642 (Minn. 1984).
Generally, when boundary disputes arise, the plat recorded by the original surveyor will be consulted. But all four surveyors who testified in this case agreed that the courses and distances set forth in the original plat were erroneous. That is, the courses and distances between the known monuments on the original survey differ from the actual courses and distances measured on the ground. This dispute centers on the manner in which these errors were resolved.
Richard William, a surveyor, was called by the Wurdemans as an expert. The Wurdemans also called surveyors Ronald Alwin and David Claypool to testify at trial. The O’Briens called Lloyd Pew as their expert surveyor. Only the surveys of Williams and Pew were presented. The district court ordered that judicial landmarks be set in accordance with the survey performed by Williams.
The problem here is that the original plat, made in 1924, shows no interior monuments and only two original monuments even appear on the plat. Survey stakes and lines of occupation were later established, but none could be traced back to the original plat. Williams utilized fence lines and iron pipes when conducting his resurvey, Pew did not. Alwin also utilized the iron pipes as part of his method of surveyance. The O’Briens’ argument, in essence, is that Pew’s survey is more accurate than that compiled by Williams and that the judicial boundaries should be set in accordance with the Pew survey.