This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2004).







Friends of Twin Lakes,





City of Roseville,



Rottlund Homes, et al.,




Filed August 10, 2006

Affirmed in part and reversed in part

Willis, Judge


Ramsey County District Court

File No. C3-05-44


Alexandra B. Klass, 229 19th Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN 55455 (for appellant)


Paul D. Reuvers, Jason J. Kuboushek, Iverson Reuvers, 9321 Ensign Avenue South, Bloomington, MN  55438 (for respondent City of Roseville)


Robert R. Weinstine, Matthew D. Spohn, Winthrop & Weinstine, P.A., 225 South Sixth Street, Suite 3500, Minneapolis, MN  55402 (for respondents Rottlund Homes, et al.)


            Considered and decided by Lansing, Presiding Judge; Randall, Judge; and Willis, Judge.

U N P U B L I S H E D   O P I N I O N


In this appeal from summary judgment, appellant argues that respondent city’s approvals for a development project in the Twin Lakes area, including amending the Twin Lakes Business Park Master Plan (master plan) to incorporate the development project without also amending the city’s comprehensive plan, were arbitrary and capricious and requests that those approvals be set aside under Minn. Stat. § 462.361 (2004).  Appellant also argues that under the Minnesota Environmental Policy Act and its implementing rules, respondent city is required to either revise its 2001 alternative-urban-areawide review (AUAR) or prepare an environmental-impact statement (EIS) before beginning the development project in the Twin Lakes area.  Because we conclude that the incorporation of the challenged development project in the city’s master plan, which is a part of the city’s comprehensive plan, requires that the city amend its comprehensive plan and that this particular development-project amendment would allow an increase in development over the development levels assumed in the 2001 AUAR, thereby triggering the requirement that the 2001 AUAR be revised, we reverse in part.  Because we conclude that the city’s other approvals of the development project are reasonable, we affirm in part.


            In June 2001, respondent city of Roseville (the city) adopted the Twin Lakes Business Park Master Plan (master plan) and made the master plan an amendment to its comprehensive plan.  The master plan describes the redevelopment of approximately 170 acres in the city (Twin Lakes area).  The redevelopment is to “replace existing trucking, outdoor storage and industrial uses with new multi-level office, medical, high tech, showroom, multi-family and supporting commercial uses.”  The city prepared an alternative-urban-areawide review (AUAR) of the Twin Lakes area.  The AUAR separated the 170 acres to be developed under the master plan into 12 separate “redevelopment blocks” and proposed “two scenarios for each block: Future Land Use Scenario 1 (hi-tech flex option) and Future Land Use Scenario 1a (retail option).”  The AUAR reflected “the ‘worst case scenario’ in reporting the environmental impacts – in other words, the most intensive development scenario that would occur.” 

            Two and a half years later, in December 2003, the city designated respondent Rottlund Company, Inc. (Rottlund) as the “Master Developer” for the redevelopment of the Twin Lakes area.  In September 2004, Rottlund submitted two “concept plans” for the redevelopment area, along with applications for a planned-unit development (PUD) and a preliminary subdivision plat.  Although Rottlund looked at a “redevelopment plan for the larger Twin Lakes area,” because of financial considerations, it focused its attention on a “first phase” of redevelopment for a smaller portion of the Twin Lakes area.  Consequently, Rottlund submitted a “generalized land use scheme for the broader redevelopment area” and a “phase I redevelopment plan” that “identifies in greater specificity the mix of residential, office and retail commercial land uses” for the smaller area consisting of blocks 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 8, identified in the AUAR and totaling 80 acres.

            In October 2004, appellant Friends of Twin Lakes (appellant), a nonprofit corporation consisting of Roseville residents, filed with the Minnesota Environmental Quality Board (MEQB) a citizens’ petition for an environmental-assessment worksheet (EAW), requesting “an environmental review of the entire [Rottlund] project as presently proposed” and asserting that the 2001 AUAR was no longer valid because the Rottlund proposal involved “significant changes” to the development studied under the AUAR and that “important contamination findings” had been made since the 2001 AUAR. 

The MEQB designated the city as the responsible governmental unit (RGU) for the petition.  In November 2004, the city council held a public hearing on the merits of the EAW petition.  In December 2004, the city council voted to dismiss the EAW petition on the ground that the 2001 AUAR remained valid and therefore exempted the proposed project area from further environmental review.  In January 2005, the city council (1) amended the master plan to incorporate the Rottlund project; (2) approved Rottlund’s preliminary plat and subdivision; (3) rezoned the area for the Rottlund project to “Planned Unit Development with an underlying zoning of B-6, Mixed Use Business Park District”; and (4) approved the PUD for the Rottlund project.

            Appellant subsequently sued the city, Rottlund, and respondent Rottlund Homes.  The complaint contains four counts:  Count I requests (1) “a declaratory judgment that the City failed to comply with the requirements of [the Minnesota Environmental Policy Act (MEPA)], Minn. Stat. §§ 116D.01, et seq., and its implementing rules, Minn. Rules ch. 4410, and that the City must either revise the AUAR or prepare an EAW and/or an [environmental-impact statement (EIS)] under the requirements of MEPA” and (2) “an injunction requiring the City to revise the AUAR or prepare an EAW and/or an EIS for the [Rottlund project], invalidating any and all governmental approvals of the [Rottlund project] . . . and enjoining any future City approvals of the [Rottlund project].”  Count II alleges that the city’s “approvals for the [Rottlund project were] arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion and/or without legal authority” and requests that its approvals “be set aside pursuant to . . . Minn. Stat. § 462.361.”  Counts III and IV allege that the Rottlund project and the city’s “associated proposed public facilities . . . will result or is likely to result in material adverse effects on protectible natural resources” and request “declaratory and equitable relief” under the Minnesota Environmental Rights Act (MERA), Minn. Stat. §§ 116B.01, et seq.

In May 2005, appellant and the city both moved for summary judgment on counts I and II, and all respondents moved for summary judgment on counts III and IV.  In June 2005, the district court held a hearing on the motions, and in August 2005, the district court issued an order granting the city summary judgment on counts I and II and denying respondents summary judgment on counts III and IV.  With regard to count I, the district court concluded that the proposed development fits within the general outlines of the AUAR assumptions and that as a matter of law, the city “could consider the impacts of the changes in deciding whether a revised AUAR or EWS was required.”  With regard to count II, the district court concluded that appellant lacks standing to raise its claims under Minn. Stat. § 462.361 (2004), but that regardless, “the overall planning guidance contained in the comprehensive plan is not violated by the Development.”  This appeal from the district court’s grant of summary judgment to the city on counts I and II follows.



            Appellant challenges several of the city’s zoning decisions involving the Rottlund project.  In Minnesota, “[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.”  Minn. Stat. § 462.361, subd. 1 (2004).  Here, the district court concluded that appellant is not a “person aggrieved” and therefore lacked standing to seek review of the city’s zoning decisions regarding the Rottlund project and that even if appellant had standing, the city’s zoning decisions were not arbitrary or capricious. 

A.        Standing

            Appellant argues that it has standing to challenge the city’s zoning decisions.  Statutory construction is a question of law, which this court reviews de novo.  See Brookfield Trade Ctr., Inc. v. County of Ramsey, 584 N.W.2d 390, 393 (Minn. 1998).  This court has “interpret[ed] the term ‘person aggrieved’ in Minn. Stat. § 462.361 to grant standing to a person when an action by the municipality adversely ‘operates on his rights of property or bears directly upon his personal interest.’”  Stansell v. City of Northfield, 618 N.W.2d 814, 819 (Minn. App. 2000) (quoting In re Getsug, 290 Minn. 110, 114, 186 N.W.2d 686, 689 (1971)), review denied (Minn. Jan. 26, 2001).  In Stansell, residents challenged the city’s authority to adopt zoning ordinances that would allow large retail establishments in highway commercial districts.  Id. at 817.  But the court in Stansell concluded that these residents lacked standing because they did not qualify as “persons aggrieved,” noting that in their complaint, the residents failed to allege that they have suffered “any specific injuries as the result of the city council’s actions.  Instead, they seem to be litigating a matter of public interest.  Indeed, both their complaint and their brief on appeal claim they are prosecuting this action ‘on behalf of themselves and the State of Minnesota.’”  Id. at 818.  “[A] party must allege ‘particularized injuries’ to his or her property rights or personal interests.”  Citizens for a Balanced City v. Plymouth Congregational Church, 672 N.W.2d 13, 18 (Minn. App. 2003).  In Citizens, the court concluded that the appellant organization, which challenged a city’s zoning decision to allow a residential facility for disabled persons, had standing because it articulated particularized injuries to its members when it alleged that a high concentration of mentally ill or chemically dependent persons would erode neighborhood diversity, increase crime, and deter new business development and new families from moving into the area.  Id. at 18-19.

            Appellant argues that this case is similar to Citizens and different from Stansell, stating that it alleged specific injuries to its members in its complaint, in which appellant claims that a majority of its members are “current residents of the neighborhood, visit Langton Lake Park and Langton Lake on regular basis to enjoy the wildlife, solitude and recreational opportunities these public amenities provide, and will be directly and adversely impacted by the defendants’ actions that are the subject of this lawsuit.”  Later in its complaint, appellant states that the city’s approvals for the Rottlund project (1) “will have detrimental effects on the health, safety, morals, and general welfare of the community as a whole and persons living in the vicinity of the proposed project” and (2) “adversely impacts the property rights and personal interests of the members of Friends of Twin Lakes.” 

Any particularized injury, regardless if it is shared by the community as a whole, satisfies the standard set in Citizens for a party to qualify as a “person aggrieved.”  We conclude that because appellant articulated specific alleged injuries to its members, even though the alleged injuries might be shared by the general public, appellant is a “person aggrieved” and therefore has standing under Minn. Stat. § 462.361. 

B.        The City’s Land-Use Decisions

“When reviewing municipal land use decisions,” this court utilizes “a rational basis standard of review.”  See Mendota Golf, LLP v. City of Mendota Heights, 708 N.W.2d 162, 179 (Minn. 2006).  This court will “uphold a city’s land use decision unless the party challenging that decision establishes that the decision is unsupported by any rational basis related to promoting the public health, safety, morals, or general welfare.”  See id. at 180 (quotations omitted).  This court makes an independent examination of the local authority’s record and decision, without deference to the district court’s review of the same record.  City of Barnum v. County of Carlton, 394 N.W.2d 246, 248 (Minn. App. 1986), review denied (Minn. Dec. 17, 1986).  But “even if the city council’s decision is debatable, so long as there is a rational basis for what it does, the courts do not interfere.”  Honn v. City of Coon Rapids, 313 N.W.2d 409, 415 (Minn. 1981).  This court reviews a city’s interpretation of its own ordinance de novo.  See Frank’s Nursery Sales, Inc. v. City of Roseville, 295 N.W.2d 604, 608 (Minn. 1980).

1.         Comprehensive-Plan Amendment

            Appellant argues that Minnesota law requires the city to amend its comprehensive plan to incorporate the Rottlund project.  Specifically, appellant argues that because “the City incorporated the [master plan] into its Comprehensive Plan, it cannot amend the Master Plan without amending the Comprehensive Plan.”  The city does not address the facts that it made the master plan an amendment to its comprehensive plan and, thereafter it amended the master plan to incorporate the Rottlund project.  Instead, the city argues that the Rottlund project is not inconsistent with the goals of the master plan and the comprehensive plan, both of which planned for the “redevelop[ment] [of] the Twin Lakes area with a mixture of uses, including residential, office and retail.”

The record shows that in determining that it did not need to amend its comprehensive plan to incorporate the Rottlund project into the master plan, the city relied on an attorney’s opinion that a master plan is “nothing more than a contract, or could be looked at as a site specific ‘official control’ which governs development in the area . . . , [and] it is not part of a comprehensive plan.”  But this ignores the fact that the city made the master plan a part of its comprehensive plan by amendment.  We decline to address the nature of a master plan that has not been amended into a comprehensive plan because that is not the issue before us.

A “comprehensive plan” is defined by statute as “the comprehensive plan of each local governmental unit described in sections 473.858 to 473.862, and any amendments to the plan.”  Minn. Stat. § 473.852, subd. 5 (2004) (emphasis added).  No one disputes that here the master plan is an amendment to the city’s comprehensive plan.  Therefore, the master plan is within the statutory definition of a “comprehensive plan.” Thus, we conclude that an amendment to the master plan is an amendment to the comprehensive plan.  An amendment to a comprehensive plan requires a two-thirds vote of all of the members of the city council.  Minn. Stat. § 462.355, subd. 3 (2004).  The master plan was amended to include the Rottlund project by only a simple three-to-two majority vote of the city council.  The inclusion of the Rottlund project into the master plan, and therefore into the comprehensive plan, is ineffective until its inclusion is approved by a two-thirds vote by the city council.

2.         City Shoreland Ordinance

            Appellant argues that the Rottlund project violates the city’s shoreland ordinance, claiming that the heights of the proposed condominium buildings in the Rottlund project exceed the ordinance building-height limitations and “the intensity of development will exceed the maximum floor area coverage allowed by the Ordinance.”  Appellant argues that the ordinance’s provisions regulating planned-unit developments (PUDs) apply to development within 1,000 feet of Langton Lake; the city argues that these provisions apply only to development within 300 feet of Langton Lake.  

The city’s shoreland ordinance provides that structures in residential districts “shall not exceed thirty feet . . . in height” except for “steeples and chimneys from churches and institutional uses.”  Roseville, Minn., City Code § 1016.17(G) (1994).  But because the Rottlund project area is zoned as a B-6 mixed-use business park, the building-height restriction, which applies only to structures in residential districts, does not apply to the structures in the Rottlund project. 

The city’s shoreland ordinance also provides that residential and commercial PUDs are allowed in “shoreland areas” but that “[t]he maximum floor area coverage of the site shall be thirty percent (30%) . . . within the overlay district.”  Id. § 1016.24 (1994).  “Overlay district” is not defined in the city’s code.  The city code defines “Shoreland District” as “[a]ll land meeting the definition of shoreland adjacent to the public water listed in Section 1016.13 of this Chapter,” which includes Langton LakeId. §§ 1016.12(A)(2) (1994) and 1016.13 (1994) (emphasis added).  “Shoreland” means “[l]and located within one thousand feet . . . from the ordinary high water level of the lakes classified in section 1016.13 of this chapter.”  Id.§ 1016.05 (1994).  “Shoreland management district” is defined as “[l]and located within three hundred feet . . . from the ordinary high water level.”  Id. The ordinance provides that “[t]he ‘shoreland area’ for . . . [Langton Lake] shall be as defined in this Chapter and shown on the Official Zoning Map.”  Id. § 1016.13.  The city zoning map indicates that the overlay-district boundary is 300 feet for “City Shoreland.”  City of Roseville, Water Mgmt. Overlay Dists. (map) (Feb. 1999).  This zoning map is part of the city’s code.  Id. § 1003.04 (1959).  The city argues that the city has a “long established practice of applying the 300 foot requirement” and that this practice is entitled to deference.  A city’s interpretation of its own ordinance is not determinative but “is entitled to some weight.”  Chanhassen Estates Residents Ass’n v. City of Chanhassen, 342 N.W.2d 335, 340 (Minn. 1984).

We conclude that the city’s ordinance is ambiguous as to whether the regulated shoreland area is within 300 feet or 1,000 feet of the lake and that because the rules of construction require that the code be construed in favor of the owner of the land at issue, the 300-foot designation found on the city zoning map prevails.  See Frank’s Nursery Sales, 295 N.W.2d at 608 (providing that “zoning ordinances should be construed strictly against the city and in favor of the property owner”).  It does not appear that the residential and commercial development in the Rottlund project is located in the area within 300 feet of Langton Lake.  Therefore, the city’s conclusion that the Rottlund project does not violate the city’s shoreland ordinance is reasonable.  See White Bear Docking & Storage, Inc. v. City of White Bear Lake, 324 N.W.2d 174, 176 (Minn. 1982) (“The setting aside of routine municipal decisions should be reserved for those rare instances in which the City’s decision has no rational basis.  Except in such cases, it is the duty of the judiciary to exercise restraint and accord appropriate deference to civil authorities in the performance of their duties.”).

3.         B-6 Zoning Designation

            Appellant argues that the Rottlund project is inconsistent with a B-6 zoning designation.  The city code describes a B-6 mixed-use business park as “a geographically identifiable area containing a consistent architectural mix of office, office-laboratory, office-showroom-warehousing, biotechnical, biomedical, high-tech software and hardware production uses with support services such as limited retail, health, fitness, lodging and multifamily housing.”  Roseville, Minn., City Code § 1005.07(A) (1995).  This same code provision also lists permitted uses, including “retail sales” and “multi-family housing.”  Id. § 1005.07(C).  The city code does not specify any maximum or minimum land-use ratio for the different types of permitted uses within a designated B-6 zone.  And although the city’s comprehensive plan does not recommend big-box retail, the comprehensive plan does not prohibit such retail stores.  Generally, this court “narrowly construe[s] any restrictions that a zoning ordinance imposes upon a property owner.”  See Mendota Golf, 708 N.W.2d at 172.  Therefore, any “restrictions on land use must be clearly expressed.”  Id.  (quotation omitted).  Because the B-6 zoning designation does not prohibit retail, including big-box retail, or multi-family housing, or provide any restriction on the amount of these land uses in proportion to other allowed land uses, we conclude that it was not unreasonable for the city to determine that the Rottlund project, which includes retail, multi-family, and office land uses, is consistent with the B-6 zoning designation.


            Appellant also argues that the city’s dismissal of appellant’s petition for an EAW should be reversed because (1) the 2001 AUAR is not a valid substitute form of environmental review of the Rottlund project for the Twin Lakes area; (2) the city “deferred environmental review to future proceedings”; and (3) appellant provided “material evidence that there may be significant environmental effects associated with the [Rottlund] project.”

When reviewing actions by a governmental body, this court focuses on the proceedings before the decision-making body and not on the findings of the district court.  See Carl Bolander & Sons Co. v. City of Minneapolis, 502 N.W.2d 203, 207 (Minn. 1993).  This rule applies when reviewing a district court’s summary judgment affirming a governmental body’s negative declaration regarding the need for an EIS.  Iron Rangers for Responsible Ridge Action v. Iron Range Res., 531 N.W.2d 874, 879 (Minn. App. 1995), review denied (Minn. July 28, 1995).  We review a “governmental body’s determination on the basis of whether it was unreasonable, arbitrary, or capricious.”  See Carl Bolander & Sons, 502 N.W.2d at 207.  A decision is arbitrary and capricious if the governmental body:

(a) relied on factors not intended by the legislature; (b) entirely failed to consider an important aspect of the problem; (c) offered an explanation that runs counter to the evidence; or (d) the decision is so implausible that it could not be explained as a difference in view or the result of the agency’s expertise.


White v. Minn. Dep’t of Natural Res., 567 N.W.2d 724, 730 (Minn. App. 1997) (quotation omitted), review denied (Minn. Oct. 31, 1997).  This court will reverse a governmental body’s decisions “when they reflect an error of law, the findings are arbitrary and capricious, or the findings are unsupported by substantial evidence.”  Id. (quotation omitted).  If the governmental body “engages in reasoned decisionmaking,” this court may affirm, “even though it may have reached a different conclusion had it been the factfinder.”  Id. (quotation omitted).  But this court may intervene “where there is a combination of danger signals which suggest the [governmental body] has not taken a hard look at the salient problems and the decision lacks articulated standards and reflective findings.”  Id. (quotations omitted).

            An environmental-impact statement (EIS) must be completed for projects that have the “potential for significant environmental effects.”  Minn. Stat. § 116D.04, subd. 2a (2004); see also Minn. R. 4410.1700, subp. 1 (2005).  An environmental-assessment worksheet (EAW) is a “brief document prepared in worksheet format which is designed to rapidly assess the environmental effects which may be associated with a proposed project” and is intended to help determine if a proposed project will require an EIS.  Minn. R. 4410.1000, subp. 1 (2005).  Minnesota statutes, however, authorize the MEQB to “identify alternative forms of environmental review which will address the same issues and utilize similar procedures as an [EIS] in a more timely or more efficient manner to be utilized in lieu of an [EIS].”  Minn. Stat. § 116D.04, subd. 4a (2004).  The MEQB created by rule the alternative-urban-areawide review (AUAR), which may substitute for an EIS.  Minn. R. 4410.3610, subp. 1 (2005).  An AUAR “must provide for a level of analysis comparable to that of an EIS for impacts typical of urban residential, commercial, warehousing, and light industrial development and associated infrastructure.”  Id., subp. 4 (2005).  For an AUAR “[t]o remain valid as a substitute form of review . . . , [it] must be revised” if any one of several circumstances applies, five of which appellant argues exist here:

B.  A comprehensive plan amendment is proposed that would allow an increase in development over the levels assumed in the environmental analysis document.


C. Total development within the area would exceed the maximum levels assumed in the environmental analysis document.


D. Development within any subarea delineated in the environmental analysis document would exceed the maximum levels assumed for that subarea in the document.


E. A substantial change is proposed in public facilities intended to service development in the area that may result in increased adverse impacts on the environment.


. . . .


G. New information demonstrates that important assumptions or background conditions used in the analysis presented in the environmental analysis document are substantially in error and that environmental impacts have consequently been substantially underestimated.


Minn. R. 4410.3610, subp. 7 (2005).  Appellant argues that, therefore, “the [2001] AUAR cannot serve as a substitute form of environmental review for the Rottlund project and the City must either prepare an EAW or amend the AUAR.”  There is no Minnesota caselaw interpreting or applying subpart 7. 

            An AUAR must be revised if “[a] comprehensive plan amendment is proposed that would allow an increase in development over the levels assumed in the environmental analysis document.”  Id., subp. 7.B.  Because we have already concluded that the inclusion of the Rottlund project into the master plan, which is a part of the comprehensive plan, is essentially a proposal to amend the comprehensive plan, subpart 7.B. requires the city to amend its 2001 AUAR if the Rottlund project would allow an increase in development over the development levels assumed in the 2001 AUAR.

Here, the development proposed in the Rottlund project does not exceed the development levels assumed for the entire Twin Lakes area in the 2001 AUAR.  The record shows that for the total 170 acres in the Twin Lakes area, the 2001 AUAR contemplated a maximum of 919 residential units and 618,319 square feet of retail; the Rottlund project consists of 730 residential units and 305,363 square feet of retail. 

But the development proposed in the Rottlund project does exceed the development levels assumed in the 2001 AUAR for the 80 acres making up blocks 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 8.  The record shows that for these 80 acres, (1) the AUAR studied a maximum of 358 units of housing and the Rottlund project provides for 730 units of housing; (2) the AUAR studied 240,000 square feet of retail development and the Rottlund project provides for 305,363 square feet of retail development; and (3) the AUAR studied 1,341,626 square feet of office development and the Rottlund project provides for 221,150 square feet of office development.  MEQB explains in its Guide to Minnesota Environmental Review Rules that, when defining development scenarios for an AUAR, an “RGU should keep in mind the fundamental principal that if actual development – in total or in any subarea – exceeds the ‘maximum development’ scenario, the AUAR is invalid as a substitute for an EAW and EIS; therefore, the RGU should include one that represents the maximum development expected or allowed.”  Envtl. Quality Bd., Guide to Minnesota Environmental Review Rules 16 (1998).  Because the Rottlund project, if incorporated by amendment into the comprehensive plan, would allow an increase in development over the development levels assumed in the 2001 AUAR for the 80 acres making up blocks 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 8, we conclude that the city must revise the 2001 AUAR or, in the alternative, complete an EAW to determine if the project will require an EIS.  See Minn. R. 4410.1000, subp. 1; Minn. R. 4410.3610, subp. 7.B.

The city does not dispute that the Rottlund project contains higher levels of residential and retail development and a lower level of office development than the levels for these different types of development studied for this 80-acre area in the 2001 AUAR.  But the city argues, and the district court agreed, that a difference in the levels of the development types alone does not trigger the need for further environmental review; rather the focus is whether the proposed development affects the environment differently from the development studied under the AUAR.  And the city argues that the proposed development in the Rottlund project for the 80 acres poses “a lesser environmental impact than contemplated in the AUAR” for the same 80 acres, supporting its conclusion by stating that the proposed development has “1) less square footage of building space; 2) less impervious surfaces; 3) more green space; 4) inclusion of infiltration and treatment ponds; and 5) less traffic and less traffic-related impact (noise, light, air pollution).”  Appellant argues that the decrease in office development cannot be assumed to offset the environmental impact caused by the increase in retail and residential development but that the impacts of each type of development must be considered separately. 

To support their positions, both appellant and the city rely on statements made by Gregg Downing, an environmental-review coordinator for the MEQB, in two e-mails.  But Downing’s e-mails are not entitled to deference as a formal rule or agency adjudication.  See Martin ex rel. Hoff v. City of Rochester, 642 N.W.2d 1, 21-22 (Minn. 2002) (refusing to defer to agency letters and directives that include interpretation of statute); see also Christensen v. Harris County, 529 U.S. 576, 587, 120 S. Ct. 1655, 1662 (2000) (holding that agency opinion letter is not entitled to deference because it lacks force of law).  Therefore, we decline to defer to Downing’s statements in his e-mails.

Because the language of Minn. R. 4410.3610, subp. 7.B., providing that an AUAR must be revised if a comprehensive-plan amendment is proposed that would allow “an increase in development over the levels assumed” in the AUAR, is unambiguous and because nothing in the rule’s language suggests that “levels” refers to environmental impacts, we decline to read that antecedent into the rule.  See Phelps v. Commonwealth Land Title Ins. Co., 537 N.W.2d 271, 274 (Minn. 1995) (stating that courts should not read into statute words or meaning that are not included in its language). 

Because we conclude that the 2001 AUAR must be revised under Minn. R. 4410.3610, subp. 7.B., we do not need to address appellant’s remaining arguments.

            Affirmed in part and reversed in part.