Judge Guthmann's Findings 4/10/2021
Documents from the 1/29/21 hearing
City's case, hearing document
NLSP Hearing notes. Not a Court Document
NLSP response to City's Attempt to Dismiss
Click on the pdf button below to open our response to the court. It is 16 pages long. This response has been accepted by the Court and will serve as the basis of our argument at the hearing on January 29th (see notice on this page).
If you haven't read the City's original response to Neighbor's writ it might be a good idea to just do so before you begin. It's 50 pages long so you might just sample the document. Link on HOME page, top left box.
NLSP Writ Explained
As many of you are aware, several Saint Paul residents affiliated with Neighbors For A Livable Saint Paul filed a Writ of Mandamus action under Minn. Stat. § 586.01 in Ramsey County District Court. The purpose of this action is to compel the City to follow their own law by applying the plain meaning of "open space" in the Zoning Code and Ford Site Master Plan. The City and Ryan are trying to count private apartment balconies and private decks within the limits of the building as "open space", conflating the clearly codified distinction between lot coverage by buildings and lot coverage for open space, and inflating the scale of this already out-of-scale project.
The City responded by filing a motion to dismiss arguing that the residents' claim is a land use dispute that is to be adjudicated under Minn. Stat. § 462.361. The City also argued that the court has no jurisdiction and the residents have no standing because the residents did not appeal within 10 days of the Zoning Administrator's failure to execute their
legal duty to apply the Code and the Master Plan in accordance with its plain meaning.
We will continue to keep you posted on this matter.
NLSP remains committed to promoting responsible community development that enhances the existing neighborhood and the City overall. we need your financial support to ensure that we have the resources to help fund this effort, the pending petition, and future legal action. Please consider making a contribution to support NLSP's Legal Action Fund by clicking HERE.
Updates after 4/15/2021
In his opinion, Judge John H. Guthmann agreed that it may be possible to conclude that the City of Saint Paul failed to perform an official duty imposed by law for enforcing the Ford Site Zoning and Public Realm Master Plan. This is a key conclusion that the City has consistently denied. Nevertheless, the judge ruled that we (Neighbors of a Livable St. Paul) will not be allowed to prove our case at trial because of chiefly procedural issues. This is concerning for multiple reasons.
First, the City appears to be using bureaucratic maneuvers to prevent anyone from challenging them as they change the rules to inflate and alter the scope of Ford site development, outside of the original codified plan. On the one hand they publicly acknowledge the open space definition is unclear and should be amended. Then on the other hand, they never address it, continue to count private rooftop balconies as open space and argue that we (citizens) should have appealed to them within 10 days of their decision to not follow their own rules. This can only be viewed as a pattern of bad faith behavior and is hardly consistent with sound public policy and good governance.
Second, Minnesota case law states, and we think fairness dictates, that resident taxpayers have an interest in making sure that the laws of their City are upheld which should be sufficient to confer proper standing in a case like this.
Finally, the City's municipal government holds power in trust for the benefit of its citizens. However, the City is knowingly violating their own laws that they themselves enacted and then deliberately use an appeals process to obfuscate. Although the building at issue is already half-built (at 2170 Ford Parkway), we are contemplating the best course of action going forward, including a possible appeal, to ensure that our municipal leaders are acting in the best interest of its citizens. In our view, the St. Paul variance request process is just a big rubberstamp by the City, supporting whatever developers want.