Posted by: Patricia Salkin | January 5, 2020

MN Supreme Court Reverses Dismissal of Zoning Variance Case as Joinder and Service of Process of Neighboring Property Owners was Feasible

This post was authored by Matthew Loeser, Esq.

The Billes, joint owners of real property in Duluth, sought a zoning variance to build a home on their property. The Neighbors, joint owners of land adjacent to the Billes, opposed the Billes’ variance because they alleged that construction of the Billes’ home would obstruct their view of Lake Superior. The Commission granted the variance, and the Neighbors appealed to the Town of Duluth Board of Supervisors. The Board granted the Neighbors’ appeal and denied the Billes’ variance application. The Billes then filed an amended variance application with the Commission. The Commission granted the Billes’ variance soon thereafter, and the Neighbors again appealed. The Board denied the Neighbors’ appeal and granted the Billes’ variance application. The district court dismissed the Billes from the case, because they had not been timely served, and then dismissed the entire action. The court of appeals affirmed, and the Neighbors timely appealed.

On appeal, the court noted that although the 30-day appeal period had run under the local Duluth ordinance, the district court was not prevented from adding the Billes to the case since the court had jurisdiction by way of the Neighbors’ proper service on Duluth. Additionally, as the parties had already appeared before the court, joinder and service of process were feasible. Moreover, the district court was aware of the Billes’ presence and was therefore required by Rule 19.01 of the Minnesota Rules of Civil Procedure to join them as parties. As such, the court reversed the decision of the court of appeals and remanded to the district court with instructions to reinstate the action.

Schulz v. Town of Duluth, 2019 WL 6519674 (MN 12/4/2019)

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