Two cases involving cities will be argued at the Court of Appeals tomorrow:
Brigewater Telephone v. Monticello, A08-1928. Discussed previously, Bridgewater seeks to block Monticello from issuing (now, from receiving the proceeds of) revenue bonds to support the creation of a city/private fiber-optic network. Bridgewater argues that the City acted outside the scope of Minn. Stat. 475.52, which it argues limits revenue bond issues to “traditional utilities.” In particular, Bridgewater argues that “internet service” is not one of these traditional utilities (though how is it separate from phone and/or cable? Never really answered.) The argument essentially seeks specific legislative authorization before a government body can enter a competitive marketplace. Bridgewater also seeks remand to the district court on evidentiary issues. The City replies that the language of 475.52 is very broad and allows bonds for “other public conveniences,” noting that there is little authority for what Bridgewater wants to define as “traditonal utilities.” The City also points to a broad expansion of the meaning of “public purpose” in court opinions in the past 30 years. The case drew an amicus brief from the National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors supporting the City’s “right” to expand broadband services, and noting the historical role of government intervention to promote the expansion on novel technologies, such as the telephone.
Three Putt, LLC v. Minnetonka, A08-1436. This case raises the question: what is a PUD, exactly? Three Putt owns one parcel in a two-lot PUD “district.” When the PUD was created, the same developer owned both lots, but entered into two separate PUD Agreements (one for each lot). Unfortunately, the two agreements do not exactly match up in terms of reserved rights for cross-parking, lot access, or visibility. Inevitably, these differences came to light when the parcels were sold off, and one developer (also a defendant/respondent in the action) built their property up in a way that steps all over the rights that the other owner thought they had. Three Putt sued both the City and their neighboring developer on contract, zoning, and trespass theories, but lost on all claims (except a temporary trespass by the neighbor) on summary judgment. At appeal, Three Putt frames the issue as involving a unitary PUD district (which does exist on the City’s map), thus making their claims of spot zoning and/or interference with a legal nonconforming use at least substantial enough to get to trial, if not prevail overall. The City and the other developer take the stance that the contracts (PUD Agreements) dominate the issue, creating complete separation between the two properties – thus, the City’s acts to amend or administer one contract have no impact upon the other, or at least do not grant the other contract holder any special say in the matter. The case also touches on who has the burden when challenging a grant of variance – the challenger (to show the request is unreasonable or lacks uniqueness) or the City/proponent (to establish that it made findings to support the grant of a variance)?