This opinion will be unpublished and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
Rottlund Homes, et al.,
Filed August 10, 2006
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
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
In June 2001, respondent city of
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
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“an environmental review of the entire [Rottlund] project as presently proposed” and asserting that the 2001 AUAR was no longer valid because the Rottlund proposal involved “significant changes” to the development studied under the AUAR and that “important contamination findings” had been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
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
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
reviewing municipal land use decisions,” this court utilizes “a rational basis
standard of review.” See Mendota Golf, LLP v. City of
1. Comprehensive-Plan Amendment
Appellant argues that
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
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.”
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.”
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
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
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.”
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
(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.”
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).
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.
4410.3610, subp. 7 (2005). Appellant
argues that, therefore, “the  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
must be revised if “[a] comprehensive plan amendment is proposed that would
allow an increase in development over the levels assumed in the environmental
Here, the development
proposed in the Rottlund project does not exceed the development levels assumed
for the entire
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
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.
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 (
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 (
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.