This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2004).
IN COURT OF APPEALS
Dr. Mark Dahl, et al.,
Boris Popov, et al.,
Filed February 28, 2006
Reversed and remanded
Washington County District Court
File No. C0-04-2341
J. Patrick Brinkman, Stephen E. Yoch, Felhaber, Larson, Fenlon & Vogt, P.A., 444 Cedar Street, Suite 2100, St. Paul, MN 55101-2136 (for appellants)
Geoffrey P. Jarpe,
Winthrop & Weinstine, P.A.,
Kevin Quigley, Hamilton, Quigley, Twait & Foley, 332 Minnesota Street, Suite W-1450, St. Paul, MN 55101-1314; and
Pierre N. Regnier, Jardine, Logan & O’Brien, PLLP, Suite 100, 8519 Eagle Point Boulevard, Lake Elmo, MN 55042 (for respondent City of Afton)
Considered and decided by Dietzen, Presiding Judge; Willis, Judge; and Worke, Judge.
Appellants challenge the district court’s dismissal of their declaratory judgment action for failure to exhaust administrative remedies, arguing that the determination of whether a road on their property meets the elements of common-law dedication is a question for the district court rather than the city. Because we conclude that, in the absence of specific administrative procedures and remedies before the city, the determination of whether a road has been made public pursuant to common-law dedication is a matter for the district court, we reverse and remand.
Appellants Mark and Kathy
Dahl are owners of property located in
In January 2004, respondent Popov
filed a petition with the City of
Appellants commenced a declaratory
judgment action in district court on
Respondents then moved for summary judgment, arguing that appellants had not exhausted other available remedies, such as allowing the city to issue a final decision on the petition. The district court issued an order dismissing appellants’ complaint as premature for failure to exhaust remedies because the city must first make a decision on respondents’ petition. Appellants appealed the order, but this court dismissed for lack of jurisdiction because final judgment had not been entered by the district court. The district court entered a final judgment dismissing all claims, including respondents’ cross- and counterclaims. This appeal follows.
In August 2005, respondents moved to dismiss or stay the appeal as moot in light of the city’s apparent intent to exercise its power of eminent domain to establish the access which is the subject of the parties’ dispute. This court issued an order denying the motion because a “live controversy” existed, and declaratory judgment regarding whether a “public road” exists on appellants’ property is relevant in an eminent domain proceeding.
D E C I S I O N
raise one issue on appeal. They contend
that the determination of whether the road on their property meets the elements
of common-law dedication is a question for the court and, therefore, their
declaratory judgment action requesting such a determination was properly before
the district court. Appellants raise a
purely legal issue, i.e., whether the courts have original jurisdiction to
determine the controversy, which this court reviews de novo. Johnson
Consequently, appellants argue that the district court erred in dismissing its declaratory judgment action for failure to exhaust administrative remedies, i.e., allow the city to determine the common-law dedication issue in the first instance. Respondents contend that the district court properly dismissed appellants’ declaratory judgment action as premature because, before seeking a declaratory judgment, appellants are required to appear before the city council and have it first determine the common-law dedication issue.
Generally, a party is
required to exhaust its administrative remedies before seeking judicial relief
unless the remedies are inadequate or nonexistent. Amcon
Corp. v. City of
Respondents’ contention that
appellants’ declaratory judgment action is premature for failure to exhaust
administrative remedies presupposes that an administrative remedy and process regarding
common-law dedication is available at the city level. But
The absence of a statutorily
prescribed administrative remedy or process distinguishes this case from those cases
where the doctrine of exhaustion of remedies is applied. Typically, the exhaustion-of-remedies issue
arises in cases involving an administrative agency with specialized knowledge
that has been given statutory authority to conduct administrative proceedings
and provide administrative remedies over issues within its expertise. See,
e.g., AAA Striping Serv. Co. v. Minnesota Dep’t of Transp., 681 N.W.2d 706,
714-15 (Minn. App. 2004) (analyzing exhaustion of remedies in context of MnDOT’s
statutory authority to conduct administrative proceedings); Nw. Airlines, 672 N.W.2d at 382 (finding
failure to exhaust administrative remedies when appellant filed declaratory
judgment rather than filing petition under Minn. Stat. § 473.608, which specifically
addressed grievances against Metropolitan Airport Commission); see also McShane v. City of
Because no specific administrative procedure or remedy exists at the city level to determine whether a road has been made public under common-law dedication, and the city has no specialized knowledge pertaining to such determinations, the district court erred in dismissing appellants’ declaratory judgment action for failure to exhaust administrative remedies.
Reversed and remanded.
 A “statutory city” is a municipal corporation
that has not adopted a home rule charter as provided for under