Last Thursday, the Supreme Court granted the State’s petition for review in the Lakeland bluff-line variance case. Briefly, the City of Lakeland approved a bluffline variance for an owner in the Lower St. Croix Scenic River area, over DNR objections. DNR, in turn, declined to certify the variance. The matter went before an ALJ, who recommended denial of the variance. In its opinion, the Court of Appeals found the case to be determined by the DNR’s failure to act on the ALJ’s recommendation within 60 days of closing the record as required by Minn. Stat. 15.99.
Given that the timeline is tough to dispute, and the appeals court’s reading of the statute is not complex, the Supreme Court’s decision to hear this case signals a possible shift in policy on the 60-day rule. The CoA opinion exposes some inconsistencies between 15.99 and administrative contested-case procedures under Chapter 14 (in particular, when the ALJ’s decision is “final” and whether that ends the debate for 15.99 purposes). More to come as the case is briefed out.