may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (1996).
Wellington Township Board,
File No. C196884
Patrick A. Lowther, Mueller, Lowther & Vickery, 125 Main West, P.O. Box 303, Sleepy Eye, MN 56085-0303 (for respondent)
C. Todd Koebele, Peter B. Tiede, Murnane, Conlin, White & Brandt, 1800 Piper Jaffray Plaza, 444 Cedar Street, St. Paul, MN 55101 (for appellant)
Considered and decided by Kalitowski, Presiding Judge, Short, Judge, and Foley, Judge.[*]
This declaratory judgment action arises out of a boundary line dispute on land used for row crop farming. In 1996, one property owner requested a partition fence under Minn. Stat. § 344.04 (1996). When the Wellington Township Board ordered each owner to install and maintain half of the barb-wire fence, Timothy Keicker refused and brought this lawsuit to declare the board action void. On cross-motions for summary judgment, the trial court granted summary judgment in Keicker's favor, vacated the board's order, and remanded for the board to reconvene the fence viewers for the purpose of making a determination of "need." On appeal, the board argues the statute does not require specific factual findings. We reverse.
D E C I S I O N
On appeal from summary judgment, we determine whether there are any genuine issues of material fact and whether the trial court erred in its application of the law. Minn. R. Civ. P. 56.03; Offerdahl v. University of Minn. Hosps. & Clinics, 426 N.W.2d 425, 427 (Minn. 1988). The construction of a statute is a question of law, which we review de novo. Hibbing Educ. Ass'n v. Public Employment Relations Bd., 369 N.W.2d 527, 529 (Minn. 1985).
The board argues the trial court erred in interpreting the applicable statutes to require specific factual findings on the issue of "necessity." Minn. Stat. §§ 344.03, 344.04 (1996). Minn. Stat. § 344.03 provides:
[i]f all or a part of adjoining Minnesota land is improved and used, and one or both of the owners of the land desires the land to be partly or totally fenced, the land owners or occupants shall build and maintain a partition fence between their lands in equal shares.
Minn. Stat. § 344.04 provides in relevant part:
[i]f a person fails to build, repair, or rebuild a partition fence which the person is required to build or maintain, the affected party may complain to the fence viewers. The fence viewers shall give notice to the parties and examine the fence or look into the need for a proposed fence. If they determine that an existing fence is insufficient or a new fence is necessary, they shall notify the delinquent owner or occupant in writing to that effect and order the owner or occupant to build, repair, or rebuild the fence within a reasonable time.
The plain language of these statutes requires a determination that a new partition fence is necessary, however, there is no statutory requirement that the fence viewers make specific written findings. Under these circumstances, we decline to interpret the statutory sections to require specific factual findings on "need." See Railroad & Warehouse Comm'n v. Chicago & Northwestern Ry. Co., 256 Minn. 227, 230-32, 98 N.W.2d 60, 63-64 (1959) (holding trial court not required to make findings when statute did not require such findings); see also Metropolitan Sports Facilities Comm'n v. Hennepin County, 561 N.W.2d 513, 516-17 (Minn. 1984) (holding court will not read provision into statute that legislature purposely omits or inadvertently overlooks). Our holding is consistent with the guidelines published by the Minnesota Association of Townships, which suggest that the fence viewers issue specific written findings only when the board determines that a partition fence need not be built.
It is undisputed that the board: (1) gave notice to all relevant parties; (2) met as fence viewers; and (3) issued an order concluding "a partitioned fence, pursuant to Minnesota Statute Chapter 344, is necessary and shall be constructed." Given these facts, the trial court erred in applying the law to require specific findings on "need." The board's order is reinstated.
[ ] * Retired judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals, serving by appointment pursuant to Minn. Const. art. VI, § 10.