The city this week sued to block the owner of a controversial upscale apartment building in Uptown from pumping groundwater through the city sewer and into a nearby lagoon that's part of the Chain of Lakes, saying that makes ice unsafe.

The city asked Hennepin County District Court to declare illegal and bar the pumping of groundwater from the lower level of the upscale building's underground parking into the city's sewer, which enters the lagoon. The city also  asked for a penalty of $1,000 per day for allegedly violating the city's storm drain ordinance, and other unspecified damages.

The 56-unit apartment building opened two years ago at 1800 W. Lake St., a location that some residents regard as the western gateway to Uptown. The proposal stirred debate in 2009 over the appropriate height for buildings near lakes Calhoun and Isles under a land use plan adopted in 2008, after construction of a taller building across the street.

Developer Daniel Oberpriller said development firm Lake and Knox LLC is trying to figure out the right thing to do, but referred comment on the lawsuit to the firm's attorney.

Lake and Knox LLC obtained temporary state and city permits that allowed it to pump enough water to build the building's foundation several feet below the surrounding water table, according to the city lawsuit. But its application to the state said the temporary dewatering would end after 90 days, and the city permit was timed for the same period.

The city alleges that pumping to drain groundwater from the completed apartment building has continued at a rate of at least 240,000 gallons per day. That's impairing the lagoon, the city alleges, by causing thin ice and open water that imperils cross-country skiers and other lake users, while marring the scenic view. The city also alleges that the pumping uses sewer capacity that's needed for rain and snowmelt, and interferes with the operation and maintenance of a city grit chamber that's designed to reduce sediment flowing into the lake.

Ironically, the building's profile was lowered, pushing its garages deeper, in order to accommodate neighborhood objections. One sign of the intensity of the debate was that four adjoining neighborhoods took the unprecedented step of jointly appealing to the City Council the Planning Commission's approval of variances and other approvals the project needed. That appeal failed.

The rent for a one-bedroom apartment in the building ranges from $1,500 to $1,800 monthly, and a two-bedroom unit costs from $2,200 to $2,900 monthly.