This opinion will be unpublished and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
HFC, LLP, et al.,
City of Minneapolis,
Timothy Rooney, et al.,
Hennepin County District Court
File No. AP018407
Robert J. Tansey, Jr., Mark D. Wisser, Anthony Ostlund & Baer, P.A., 90 South Seventh Street, Suite 3600, Minneapolis, MN 55402 (for appellants)
Jay M. Heffern, Minneapolis City Attorney, Carol Lansing, Assistant City Attorney, 333 South Seventh Street, Suite 300, Minneapolis, MN 55402-2453 (for respondent City of Minneapolis)
Cory J. Ayling, McGrann Shea Anderson Carnival Straughn & Lamb, Chartered, 2600 U.S. Bancorp Center, 800 Nicollet Mall, Minneapolis, MN 55402 (for respondents Timothy Rooney, et al.)
Considered and decided by Klaphake, Presiding Judge, Kalitowski, Judge, and Forsberg, Judge.*
U N P U B L I S H E D O P I N I O N
Appellants contend that because their pleadings established that they are “aggrieved persons” under Minn. Stat. § 462.361, subd. 1 (2002), they have standing to challenge the property variances given by respondent City of Minneapolis to respondent developer. Thus, appellants argue that the district court erred in dismissing their case with prejudice for failing to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. We reverse.
On appeal from a dismissal for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, “a reviewing court must only determine whether the complaint sets forth a legally sufficient claim for relief.” Geldert v. Am. Nat’l Bank, 506 N.W.2d 22, 25 (Minn. App. 1993), review denied (Minn. Nov. 16, 1993). Whether the plaintiff can prove the facts alleged is immaterial. Stead-Bowers v. Langley, 636 N.W.2d 334, 338 (Minn. App. 2001), review denied (Minn. Feb. 19, 2002). The facts in the complaint are accepted as true, and the plaintiff has the benefit of all favorable and reasonable inferences. Pullar v. Indep. Sch. Dist. No. 701, Hibbing, 582 N.W.2d 273, 275-76 (Minn. App. 1998). Dismissal of a complaint for failure to state a claim is only proper if there are no facts consistent with the pleading that support the relief demanded. Brakke v. Hilgers, 374 N.W.2d 553, 555 (Minn. App. 1985). An appellate court reviews the claim’s legal sufficiency de novo. Barton v. Moore, 558 N.W.2d 746, 749 (Minn. 1997).
Minn. Stat. § 462.361, subd. 1 (2002), gives standing to
[a]ny person aggrieved by an ordinance, rule, regulation, decision or order of a governing body or board of adjustments and appeals acting pursuant to sections 462.351 to 462.364 may have such ordinance, rule, regulation, decision or order, reviewed by an appropriate remedy in the district court, subject to the provisions of this section.
Id. This court interpreted this statute in Stansell v. City of Northfield, 618 N.W.2d 814, 819 (Minn. App. 2000), review denied (Minn. Jan. 26, 2001). The Stansell court defined the term “aggrieved person” to grant standing to a person when an action by a municipality adversely “operates on his rights of property or bears directly upon his personal interest.” Id. (quotation omitted).
It is undisputed that in granting respondent developer’s lot area variance of 40%, the City of Minneapolis violated its own city ordinance, § 525.520(2), which caps the available lot area variance at 20%. Appellants own or occupy property adjacent to that of respondent developer and have challenged this variance, along with several other variances approved by the city.
In their complaint, appellants allege that the allowed variances will be injurious to neighboring property; will increase congestion; will increase the danger of fire in adjacent apartments; and will increase the burden on the existing easement over their property held by occupants of respondent developer’s lot. With regard to the easement, it is undisputed that: (1) respondent developer seeks to develop a four-story, three-unit condominium next to the property of neighboring appellants; (2) respondent developer’s property enjoys a right-of-way easement to 12 feet of appellant HFC’s property for the purpose of ingress and egress onto respondent developer’s property; and (3) presently respondent developer’s property is the site of an abandoned laundromat.
Giving appellants the benefit of all favorable and reasonable inferences from these facts, we conclude appellants have established that they are “aggrieved persons.” Persons associated with respondent’s proposed building will bring more traffic to the neighborhood than did the abandoned laundromat. Likewise, the easement will likely experience an increase in use after the property development. Although appellants did not plead with particularity how much congestion will increase or how much the easement will be burdened, this is not required at the pleadings stage. Taken as true, it is sufficient that these facts demonstrate that the allowed variances will operate on the property rights of appellants. Thus, the district court erred in determining on the pleadings that appellants lacked standing as “aggrieved persons” under Minn. Stat. § 462.361, subd. 1.
We also conclude it was error for the district court to dismiss appellants’ case on the ground that appellants did not produce particular facts that established any actual injuries. This level of specificity is not required to defeat respondent’s motion for judgment on the pleadings. Minnesota is a notice-pleading state. See Barton, 558 N.W.2d at 749. The primary function of notice pleading is to give the adverse party fair notice of the theory on which the claim for relief is based. Id. (citation omitted). Under Minnesota law, the pleading of broad general statements that may be conclusory is permitted. Id.
In conclusion, appellants may not prevail on the merits at a later stage, perhaps even at summary judgment. But given the standing for “aggrieved persons” under Minn. Stat. § 462.361, subd. 1, and facts alleged in appellants’ complaint, the district court improperly dismissed this case on the pleadings.
* Retired judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals, serving by appointment pursuant to Minn. Const. art. VI, § 10.