Court of Appeals 04.14.09

The Court published a decision reversing an eminent domain order giving the City of Jordan some church-owned land for sidewalk and streetlight improvements.  The Court dusted off some century-old precedent to establish that sidewalks and traffic controls are “roads and streets” for the purposes of applying Minn. Stat. 315.42, an 1881 statute preventing the laying of roads and streets through church property without the consent of the religious corporation.  There is nothing fancy about this opinion – once “roads and streets” is defined, the application is straightforward.  The age of the precedents used by the Court here assure that just about any road-related improvement on church property can only be accomplished through negotiated approval.

The Court also released an unpublished opinion that adds to the canon of Cities Are Not Responsible For Their Mistakes.  The district court in Sibley County attempted to hold Gaylord responsible for confused and just plain incorrect advice concerning PUD and subdivision approval, granting the developer a writ of mandamus to approve a subdivision plat largely on a theory of estoppel.  The Court of Appeals reversed, taking less than three sentences to establish that estoppel is not a proper basis for mandamus.  It spent more time on whether a clear duty exists to approve a non-compliant plat (it doesn’t) and whether the developer has other remedies at law following an adverse zoning decision (it does).   In all of these cases, the developer/landowner/applicant is going to be charged with knowing the applicable laws and codes, regardless of what may be represented by a city or town staff.

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