The trial on a lawsuit by Rebecca Prochaska and the Spring Valley Friends, already continued several times, was scheduled to get under way Nov. 18. Hennepin County District Court Judge Edward Wahl’s order Nov. 16 further postpones its start pursuant to “agreement of the parties.”
A jury trial for a civil lawsuit claiming the City of Eden Prairie acted too hastily in approving the construction of homes near the Minnesota River Valley bluffs and the historic Fredrick-Miller Spring, has been continued to March 20, 2023.
James Peters, the attorney representing Prochaska and Spring Valley Friends, said the main reason the parties agreed to the postponement is that an expert witness for the plaintiffs is ill and has been hospitalized, calling into question the expert’s ability to testify in the Nov. 18-23 window the judge had scheduled to hear the case. The witness is expected to testify on the stability of the slopes where homes are proposed to be built. Peters said the length of the continuance is partially due to the courts being backed up with cases, due to the pandemic.
An attorney for the city, John Baker, confirmed the postponement and expressed disappointment, but added that there’s a chance the trial could be held in December, if there’s a settlement in another case the judge has scheduled for next month.
The 50-home, 28-acre development called Noble Hill, proposed by Pulte Homes of Minnesota, won zoning and plat approval from the Eden Prairie City Council last year, with city officials contending that evidence proved that neither the spring, Riley Creek, nor a nearby natural area would be damaged by the residential project.
The lawsuit, which claims the city should have conducted more environmental study before making a decision, was filed by opponents in June 2021. Six months later, in January 2022, Pulte Homes and the property owner mutually canceled the purchase agreement. However, city approvals stay with the land regardless of its developer. Plaintiffs in the court case are seeking to prohibit city permits for the project until additional environmental review is completed.
A similar lawsuit against the Riley Purgatory Bluff Creek Watershed District for approving permits to construct Noble Hill was dismissed Oct. 3 by District Court Judge Susan Burke on procedural grounds. The judge said Spring Valley Friends did not follow the timely steps needed to appeal the watershed district’s permitting decision.
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