The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources will not pursue legal action against the city of Lakeland for approving the construction of a large home along the protected bluffs of the St. Croix River, the state agency said.
DNR land use supervisor Jennie Shillcox said Wednesday in an e-mail to the Star Tribune that the agency disagreed with the council’s decision, but decided against appealing the ruling in court and “plan to arrange training and/or meetings with the Planning Commission and City Council to work through issues and challenges with redevelopment in the Riverway.”
Kathleen and Michael Quinn, the homeowners, bought the property in 2011 with designs to tear down the existing house and put up a two-story home overlooking the river. The City Council first drew the DNR’s ire after it overruled its own planning commission and approved variances earlier this year allowing the Quinns to build a house that state conservation officials felt was taller and closer to the bluff than permitted under state law.
“While the DNR disagrees with the City Council’s decision, our only recourse is to appeal the decision in court,” Shillcox said, but added that given the circumstances and “the nature of the development at issue, the DNR will not challenge this particular variance.”
The DNR threatened to file suit in June, but later backed away after the council agreed to take another look at the matter.
“They indicated after they filed suit the first time, that if the city of Lakeland agreed to hold another hearing on the request, they would drop the litigation,” said Joe Paiement, the city’s acting mayor.
The DNR, the state agency charged with protecting important natural areas, was to some degree defanged by a landmark Minnesota Supreme Court case in 2010, which ruled that it didn’t have authority over zoning rules.