This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2000).
IN COURT OF APPEALS
School District No. 11, petitioner,
Kenneth A. Nordstrom, et al.,
City of Andover, et al.,
Anoka County District Court
File No. CX004363
Joan M. Quade, Karin E. Simonson, Barna, Guzy & Steffen, Ltd., 200 Coon Rapids Boulevard, 400 Northtown Financial Plaza, Coon Rapids, MN 55433 (for respondent)
Charles C. Kallemeyn, Kallemeyn & Kallemeyn, 3200 Main Street Northwest, Suite 280, Coon Rapids, MN 55448 (for appellants)
Considered and decided by Kalitowski, Presiding Judge, Halbrooks, Judge, and Stoneburner, Judge.
Appellants challenge the district court’s denial of their motion to set aside the commissioners’ award in this condemnation proceeding. Appellants argue that the court erred by finding that (1) appellants’ motion was untimely, (2) appellants waived their right to move to set aside the award by first appealing it, and (3) the commissioners had cause for filing their report late. Because we conclude that the record supports the district court’s findings that the commissioners had cause for the late filing and that appellants’ motion was untimely, we affirm.
On May 23, 2000, respondent Anoka-Hennepin Independent School District served appellants Kenneth and June Nordstrom with notice of its intent to use eminent-domain power to acquire appellants’ property for the location of a new elementary school. The property was appraised at $360,000, and respondent offered that amount to appellants. When appellants declined the payment, respondent paid the money into court. On August 16, 2000, the district court ordered transfer of the title and possession of the property to respondent by August 22, 2000. The court also appointed three appraisal commissioners to value the property, file a report, and award damages within 180 days.
Respondent claims that it proposed several dates over a period of months for a hearing, but appellants stated that they were unavailable to attend any of them. A hearing was finally set for December 19, 2000, but appellants notified respondent shortly before the hearing that they could not attend. Due to appellants’ apparent failure to cooperate, respondent obtained a court order indicating that the commissioners could proceed with a damages hearing on December 19, 2000. But in an effort to attempt to have both parties present, the commissioners decided to reschedule the hearing for a day when appellants could attend. Again, the parties could not find a mutually acceptable date.
A hearing was finally held on March 15, 2001, a date on which appellants first indicated that they were available. Just before the date, appellants stated that they would not attend the hearing but did submit documentation relevant to the property’s valuation. The commissioners filed their final report on May 11, 2001, awarding appellants $360,000 plus $500 for appraisal fees.
Appellants challenged the commissioners’ award in district court, but failed to serve respondent with notice as required by Minn. Stat. § 117.145 (2000). Respondent filed a motion to dismiss the appeal for lack of jurisdiction based on lack of service. In response, appellants moved, pursuant to Minn. Stat. § 117.105, subd. 2 (2000), to set aside the commissioners’ award on the ground that the commissioners failed to file the award within the 180-day limit.
The district court granted respondent’s motion to dismiss the appeal and denied appellants’ motion to set aside the award, finding that (1) appellants failed to file their motion within a reasonable time, (2) appellants waived their right to set aside the judgment by first appealing the award, and (3) the commissioners had good cause to file the report late due to the difficulty in setting a hearing date.
Appellants filed an appeal with this court, but we questioned jurisdiction because the district court had not yet filed a final certificate. Appellants dismissed that appeal, and the district court filed a final certificate. Appellants now appeal the district court’s denial of their motion to set aside the award.
D E C I S I O N
We review the district court’s findings of fact for clear error, but independently apply the law to those facts. Foster v. Bergstrom, 515 N.W.2d 581, 585 (Minn. App. 1994). We first address appellants’ argument that the district court erred in finding that “cause” existed for the commissioners to file their report late.
When property is taken pursuant to eminent-domain power, Minn. Stat. § 117.075 (2000) requires the district court to appoint three disinterested commissioners “to ascertain and report the amount of damages that will be sustained” by the landowner. The commissioners must file their report by the deadline set by the court, but “for cause shown, the court may extend the time for making their report.” Minn. Stat. § 117.105, subd. 2 (2000). Failure to file the report before the deadline renders the award voidable, not void. City of Woodbury v. Woodbury Township Co., 254 N.W.2d 385, 387 (Minn. 1977).
No cases have addressed when sufficient cause exists to accept the commissioners’ report after the established deadline. But whether cause exists presents a question of fact that can be reviewed by examining the record to see if it reasonably supports the court’s findings. See Minn. R. Civ. P. 52.01 (stating that factual findings should not be reversed unless clearly erroneous); Rogers v. Moore, 603 N.W.2d 650, 656 (Minn. 1999) (stating that findings of fact should be reversed only if we are “left with the definite and firm conviction that a mistake has been made” (quotations omitted)).
Appellants contend that there was insufficient cause for the filing delay because they did not deliberately attempt to delay the proceedings and because their affidavits contradict respondent’s affidavits regarding the difficulties in setting a hearing date. First, whether cause exists for extending the deadline does not depend on whether appellants deliberately delayed the proceedings, but on whether the commissioners’ delay was justified. Thus, the fact that appellants may not have deliberately delayed the proceedings does not cast doubt on the court’s finding that the commissioners had sufficient cause to file the report late. Second, appellants’ and respondent’s affidavits do not conflict insofar as cause is concerned because they are consistent in reflecting the difficulties in finding a mutually acceptable hearing date. Even if conflicting, it is the duty of a fact-finder to resolve conflicting evidence and we find no error in the court’s findings. See Dang v. St. Paul Ramsey Med. Ctr., 490 N.W.2d 653, 659 (Minn. App. 1992) (stating that this court will not reverse the district court’s resolution of conflicting evidence if the record reasonably supports the findings), review denied (Minn. Dec. 15, 1992).
The affidavits indicate that appellants were able to attend a hearing on any date from October 17-21, 2000, but that respondent was available only on November 21 and December 8, 12, 20, or 21. Respondent obtained an order from the court to set a hearing for December 19, but the commissioners rescheduled the December 19 hearing so that appellants could be present. The commissioners eventually held the hearing on March 15 and issued their report less than 60 days later. Nothing in the record suggests that respondent or the commissioners acted in bad faith or otherwise intentionally delayed scheduling a hearing. To the contrary, the commissioners acted with reasonable diligence in trying to set a hearing date that would include all the interested parties, and they issued their report soon after the hearing. The record reasonably supports the district court’s finding that sufficient cause existed to accept the late filing.
Appellants next argue that the district court erred in finding that appellants failed to file their motion in a timely fashion. Minn. Stat. § 117.105, subd. 2, permits a property owner to move to set aside the commissioners’ award if the commissioners’ report is not filed within the deadline set by the district court. The property owner has the burden to bring the motion and must do so “within a reasonable time” after the report is filed. City of Woodbury, 254 N.W.2d at 387. In City of Woodbury, the court found that the property owner failed to move to set aside the award within a reasonable time when the owner filed the motion 11 months after the commissioners issued their report. Id. at 387. No other cases have interpreted what constitutes a “reasonable time” in the context of section 117.105, subdivision 2. But what constitutes a “reasonable time” generally depends on the facts and circumstances of each case. Nathe Bros., Inc. v. Am. Nat’l Fire Ins. Co., 615 N.W.2d 341, 347 (Minn. 2000). Thus, our review again is limited to whether the record supports the district court’s findings.
Here, appellants moved to set aside the award approximately four months after the commissioners filed their report and after appellants discovered that they had not perfected their appeal. As the district court noted, the timing suggests that appellants filed the motion to set aside the award as a means of challenging the award rather than to contest the timeliness of the report. While this four-month delay is considerably less than the 11-month delay in City of Woodbury, it nevertheless represents a lengthy delay in the context of chapter 117. While not governing, Minn. Stat. § 117.145 (2000) is instructive in that it requires property owners to appeal an award within 40 days after its filing. Appellants contend that some people might not find their delay “unreasonable,” but this does not refute the court’s finding that it was unreasonable in this case. See Minn. R. Civ. P. 52.01 (stating that factual findings are reversed only if clearly erroneous). In light of our deferential standard of review, we conclude that the district court did not clearly err in finding that appellants failed to move to set aside the award within a reasonable time.
Because we find that the record supports the denial of appellants’ motion on the grounds that the commissioners had cause to file the report late and that appellants’ motion was untimely, we decline to address appellants’ argument that the court erred in denying the motion on the basis that appellants waived their right to bring the motion. See Doan v. Medtronic, Inc., 560 N.W.2d 100, 107 (Minn. App. 1997), review denied (Minn. May 14, 1997) (declining to address other grounds supporting the trial court’s directed verdict after concluding that one sufficiently supported the court’s ruling).