This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2002).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
ABC Mini Storage, et al.,
Appellants Below (CX-02-1147),
Respondents (C7-02-1154, C9-02-1155),
Edward Prater, et al.,
City of Andover,
a municipal corporation,
Filed January 14, 2003
Anoka County District Court
File Nos. C4988925/C8988930
William G. Hawkins, Barry A. Sullivan, William G. Hawkins & Associates, 2140 Fourth Avenue North, Anoka, MN 55303 (for appellant City of Andover)
David D. Meyer, Steven J. Quam, Fredrikson & Byron, P.A., 1100 International Centre, 900 Second Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN 55402 (for respondents)
Considered and decided by Klaphake, Presiding Judge, Kalitowski, Judge, and Forsberg, Judge.
Appellant city challenges the district court’s order to assess one respondent’s property as a single parcel. Appellant also argues that the record does not support the district court’s findings on the before and after market value of respondents’ properties. We affirm.
In 1995, appellant City of Andover undertook a road and utility construction project. As part of the project, appellant constructed two new roads, a storm water management system, and water mains and sanitary sewer lines with hookup points available for the adjacent properties. In accordance with Chapter 429 of the Minnesota Statutes, appellant levied special assessments on the adjacent properties to finance a portion of the project’s cost.
Among the assessed properties were nine separate but contiguous parcels owned by respondents. Respondent ABC Mini Storage owns one parcel; respondent Kottke’s Bus Service, Inc., owns six parcels, and respondents Edward and Jean Prater own two parcels. Kottke’s used two of its six parcels for its school bus service, leased one parcel to a company that sells and services school buses, and reserved three vacant parcels for future expansion of the bus service.
Respondents contested the assessments in the district court, and the cases were consolidated for trial. The district court determined that the amount of the assessments levied against the properties exceeded the benefit conferred and declared the assessments invalid. Appellant challenged the district court’s determination, and this court concluded:
The district court correctly determined that the property owners rebutted the presumed validity of the special assessments. The court erred by failing to make findings on the properties’ before and after market value. It is not clear from the district court’s findings whether or not the court allowed the properties’ present uses to be the controlling factor in determining the properties’ highest-and-best use. Accordingly, the district court’s special benefit determinations regarding all the parcels are reversed and remanded for determination of highest-and-best use and for findings regarding the parcels’ before and after market value consistent with the highest-and-best use re-determination.
ABC Mini Storage v. City of Andover, No. CX-01-487, 2001 WL 1568873, at *4 (Minn. App. Dec. 11, 2001).
On remand, the district court found that the highest-and-best use of the properties was the same as the current use and explicitly stated that the present use of the property was not the controlling factor in its determination. The district court found that the market value of ABC’s property before and after the project was $96,000, concluded that the property received no special benefit, and ordered that appellant not assess the property. The district court found that the market value of Kottke’s property, considering all six parcels as one indivisible property, was $800,000 before the project and $825,000 after the project. Accordingly, the court ordered that appellant reassess the property in an amount not to exceed $25,000. Finally, the district court concluded that the Praters’ property should be assessed as two separate parcels but determined that there was insufficient evidence to make findings on the before and after market value of each parcel. Based on testimony of the appraiser for all respondents, however, the court ordered appellant to reassess the property as two separate parcels with the total assessment not to exceed $25,000.
Appellant again challenges the district court’s order, arguing that the court erred in treating Kottke’s parcels as one indivisible property and that the evidence did not support the court’s findings on the before and after market value of the properties.
1. Assessing Kottke’s Parcels as One Indivisible Property
When an appellate court has ruled on a legal issue and remanded for further proceedings on other matters, the issue becomes the law of the case and may not be relitigated by the parties on remand or reexamined in a later appeal. Sigurdson v. Isanti County, 448 N.W.2d 62, 66 (Minn. 1989).
Appellant argues that the district court erred in ordering that it reassess Kottke’s property as one indivisible parcel. The district court based its order on the appraisal report and testimony of respondents’ appraiser, and appellant already challenged the competence of the appraiser’s testimony on the prior appeal. This court held:
Any valuation method that fairly approximates the increase in a subject property’s market value after an improvement may be used in an assessment proceeding. DeSutter v. Township of Helena, 489 N.W.2d 236, 238 (Minn. App. 1992), review denied (Minn. Sept. 30, 1992). The weight and credibility of expert-witness testimony is for the trier of fact to determine, and this court will not reassess the experts’ opinions on appeal. Id. at 240.
ABC Mini Storage, 2001 WL 1568873, at *2. Having already held that the district court did not err in relying on the appraiser’s testimony, this court may not reexamine whether it was error to again rely on that same testimony.
Appellant argues that Kottke’s parcels were capable of “immediate, independent development” and could be used for purposes that would benefit from the improvement. But a district court should consider the interrelationship of an assessed parcel and the surrounding property when the parcel is “an integral part” of the surrounding property. Southview Country Club v. City of Inver Grove Heights, 263 N.W.2d 385, 388 (Minn. 1978). In Southview Country Club, the city assessed a portion of a golf course; the court noted that the assessed parcel could not be developed without “destroying the function” of the remaining golf course. Id. The court concluded:
[W[here an assessment is levied on part of a landholding which is devoted as a totality to some specific use, the inquiry into whether the portion assessed has increased in value must take into account the function of that portion as part of the whole. Otherwise, the increased value of the assessed portion may not represent a “benefit” * * * .
Id. Similarly, there was evidence that all of Kottke’s parcels were an integral part of the bus service. Kottke’s owner testified that the company’s central location was a key factor in its success, that it would probably go out of business if forced to move, and that it needed the extra parcels for future expansion. The district court did not err in ordering appellant to reassess Kottke’s parcels as one indivisible property.
2. Before and After Market Value Findings
An appellate court reviews the record to determine if the evidence as a whole supports the district court’s findings. Carlson-Lang Realty Co. v. City of Windom, 307 Minn. 368, 373, 240 N.W.2d 517, 521 (1976). “The evidence must be against the findings to justify a reversal.” Dosedel v. City of Ham Lake, 414 N.W.2d 751, 756 (Minn. App. 1987) (citation omitted). The weight and credibility of expert-witness testimony is for the trier of fact to determine, and this court will not reassess the expert’s opinion on appeal. DeSutter v. Township of Helena, 489 N.W.2d 236, 240 (Minn. App. 1992), review denied (Minn. Sept. 30, 1992).
On remand, the district court found that the market value of ABC’s property was $96,000 both before and after the project and that the market value of Kottke’s property was $800,000 before the project and $825,000 after the project. Evidence supports these findings: respondents’ appraiser testified that the market value of ABC’s property before and after the project was $96,000 and that the market value of Kottke’s property was $800,000 before the project and $825,000 after the project. Although appellant disputes the valuation method used by respondents’ appraiser, any valuation method that fairly approximates the increase in a subject property’s market value after an improvement may be used in an assessment proceeding. See id. at 238. The district court did not err in adopting respondents’ appraiser’s before and after market value determinations.
Further, because these determinations were not erroneous, appellant’s argument that the district court erred in making a special benefit determination of $25,000 for the Praters’ two parcels fails. Respondents’ appraiser concluded that the fair market value of the entire Prater property, both parcels, was $100,000 before the project and $125,000 after the project. The district court found this testimony regarding the actual real estate market to be more persuasive than that of appellant’s appraiser, who did not consider that appellant was selling comparable land nearby at a lower per-foot price than the appraiser used in his valuation of the Praters’ parcels. Again, the weight and credibility of expert-witness testimony is for the trier of fact to determine. Id. at 240. The district court did not err by ordering appellant to reassess the Praters’ property as two separate parcels with the total assessment not to exceed $25,000.
* Retired judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals, serving by appointment pursuant to Minn. Const. art. VI, § 10.