NE residents sue the city

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A recently-registered nonprofit corporation and 19 area residents are suing the City of Minneapolis, hoping to stop City and Hennepin County plans to build a waste-handling facility at 27th and University avenues NE.

The City’s Communications Department issued a statement Friday that said, “The City Attorney’s office feels this case has no merit and will be moving to dismiss it.”

The corporation, Don’t Dump on Northeast, registered with the State of Minnesota May 27. Residents near the proposed facility, which is on the former Wheeling Corrugating property at 340 27th Ave. NE, have used the phrase Don’t Dump on Northeast to identify their protest against the city and county plans.

City and County officials want to construct two buildings on the site. One, operated by the County, would process household hazardous waste, similar to existing facilities in Bloomington and Brooklyn Park. The other, operated by the City, would replace the city’s South Minneapolis transfer station, which operates the city’s residential construction and demolition debris voucher program and some other waste handling.

Nearby residents have argued that the property is zoned I-2, the city’s medium-intensity industrial zoning, and that the facility as the City and County have described it is a “waste transfer and disposal facility,” which is not allowed on a property with that zoning. The City argues that it will not be a “waste transfer and disposal facility,” but a “recycling facility,” which is allowed on a property with I-2 zoning.

Last November, the residents challenged the zoning in a letter to Minneapolis Zoning Administrator Steve Poor, who responded that the planned facilities are allowed in I-2 zoning. They appealed his decision to the City’s Zoning Board of Adjustment, and to the Minneapolis City Council, and both affirmed Poor’s determination.

Attorney Jim Peters, who has represented the residents and Don’t Dump on Northeast in their challenges to the City, said the case has not been filed in Hennepin County District Court. “In state courts, you don’t have to do that right away,” he said.

On Sept. 6 he asked the Hennepin County Sheriff office to serve the summons and complaint in the case to the Minneapolis City Clerk office. As of Friday, he said, he had not received confirmation that the papers were served.

Serving the papers without actually filing the lawsuit allows the attorneys for both sides to examine the legal issues; the summons calls for the City to respond within 20 days. It’s possible, Peters said, that serving the papers early “might lead to a resolution,” without ever filing it with the court.

“We’ll give it a chance,” he said.

According to the complaint, the residents are asking the court to declare that the planned facility is a waste transfer or disposal facility and not allowed under I-2 zoning. They’re also asking for a ruling reversing Poor’s determination and the actions of the Board of Adjustment and the City Council, and “permanently enjoining the City from operating the Project as proposed as a waste transfer or disposal facility in the I-2 zone.”

Peters said the residents and Don’t Dump on Northeast are “asking a judge to review the legal issues as to whether that’s an appropriate use” of the property. “Folks believe this is going to function as a waste transfer facility,” he said.

“If a private developer tried this, they would have been laughed out of the clerk’s office,” he said. “They wouldn’t have been able to apply. It’s not even close.”

The city government is “not being accountable,” he said. “You could charitably say they have a difference of opinion, legally.”

“The ends don’t justify the means,” he said. This kind of facility “doesn’t belong in this neighborhood unless they change the zoning or apply for a variance,” he said.