A civil lawsuit accusing the Eden Prairie City Council of being “unreasonable, arbitrary, and capricious” in voting to reject a proposed gas station and auto-repair business in southeastern EP has been dismissed in Hennepin County District Court.
The petitioners, EP Land, LLC and Auto Care World, LLC, had asked the court to direct the city to approve the project or commence eminent domain proceedings. But Judge Thomas J. Conley, in an April 4 ruling, said the city’s 2021 denial of the project was reasonable and did not constitute a “regulatory taking” because alternative development options remain.
The legal action resulted from a development plan that called for a 24-hour, 16-pump Holiday service station and 10-bay Auto Care World auto-repair business on four acres near the intersection of County Road 1 (Pioneer Trail) and Hennepin Town Road.
That area has a checkered history, with at least two earlier projects never reaching fruition: a 2006 plan for a service station and car wash, and a 2016 plan for a Hy-Vee grocery store. Developers have been attracted by the site’s proximity to Highway 169, but stymied partly by the site’s irregular shape, homeowners living west and north of the property, and traffic issues exacerbated by Hennepin County control of access points.
The 2021 plan by Auto Care World was also met with neighborhood opposition that helped lead to unanimous rejection by the planning commission and city council, for a variety of reasons. Among them: City officials concluded that the project was oversized, given its close proximity to adjacent homes and reliance on neighborhood streets.
A final city council denial of the project in September 2021 was followed by the December lawsuit.
The lawsuit alleged that the city’s denial was unjustified because the land uses proposed by the developer were permitted by city code, and that denial was unfairly motivated by opposition to the project by residents who favor no development of the property.
The lawsuit further alleged an unconstitutional taking without compensation, and asked the court to direct the city to approve the project or commence eminent domain proceedings. Also, to award landowner’s fees, costs, and disbursements – including attorney, appraisal, and engineering fees – to the plaintiffs.
The judge disagreed, stating in his summary judgment that the city’s denial was “supported by the extensive factual record” and “does not eliminate all reasonable, economically viable use of the property.”
Conley noted that viable development alternatives include a coffee shop and retail building that were part of a 2007 plan and development agreement.
Reaction to the lawsuit dismissal was mixed.
“My clients have no comment other than to state they are very disappointed with the district court’s ruling,” Bryan Huntington, attorney for EP Land and Auto Care World, stated in an email.
“We’re pleased with Judge Conley’s decision,” said John Baker, an attorney who represented the City of Eden Prairie in the case. “There was a pretty strong record, frankly, to support city denial” of the project.
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