The state Court of Appeals has partly reversed a District Court ruling that the owners of a Lake Minnetonka house had no say in the placement of a public dock on their own property that juts in front of their lakeshore.

Steven Schussler, who created the Rainforest Cafe chain, and his wife, Sunhi Ryan-Schussler, sued the city of Minnetonka Beach over the dock, which extends at a 45-degree angle across the water in front of their lakefront house. The Schusslers say it interferes with their use of the lake and their ability to build their own dock there.

A District Court judge ruled that the city's rights superseded those of the Schusslers. But the Appeals Court said the Schusslers and the city share rights to the water there and that their use of it must be "reasonable." The court did not take a stand on whether or not the public dock's configuration is reasonable.

"This is really a key clarification," said James H. Gilbert, an attorney representing the Schusslers, who said the decision could affect lakeshore property throughout the state.

Paul Reuvers, an attorney representing the city, said the public dock's configuration is reasonable and allows the Schusslers enough room for their own dock.

"The current configuration is the only manner in which both can co­exist," he said.

The public dock extends from an easement that follows the angled edge of the Schusslers' property. The easement was platted in 1889 as a "fire lane," giving fire trucks access to lake water for fighting blazes. Public docks built on easements are common around the lake.

One owner's rights "may not unduly interfere with another's enjoyment of riparian rights," or rights to use the water, Appeals Judge John Rodenberg wrote in the opinion filed last month.

"When riparian rights are in conflict, as they are here, the rights are held in common and must be shared," Rodenberg wrote. The city's exercise of its rights "must still be measured for its reasonableness."

The previous ruling, by Hennepin District Judge Thomas Fraser, did not address reasonableness. Nor did the Appeals Court take a stand on what exactly was reasonable — sending the case back to the District Court to decide.

"Factors to consider include the purpose of the use, the way in which the right is used, the necessity of the use, and the injury alleged by the other rights holder," Rodenberg wrote.

The Appeals Court also ruled that while the city's dock once met lake ordinances, changes to its orientation and length — it has been extended from 90 to 158 feet — might affect whether it still does. The Appeals Court again took no position on that question, leaving it up to the District Court.

Katy Read • 612-673-4583