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Tim Keane and Todd Guerrero Achieve Significant Victory In Minnesota Court Of Appeals

News | August 2015


On August 10, 2015 Kutak Rock Minneapolis lawyers Tim Keane and Todd Guerrero achieved a significant victory at the Minnesota Court of Appeals, where the court reversed the decision by the Lake Minnetonka Conservation District (LMCD) to issue a dock license to a commercial marina on Tanager Bay, a small bay of the lake. Surrounded by 13 different municipalities, Lake Minnetonka lies 15 miles southwest of Minneapolis, is the state’s 9th largest, and is one of the state's most popular lakes. The LMCD is a unique municipal corporation, authorized by state law with the exclusive authority to regulate the construction, operation and maintenance of commercial marinas, docks and related facilities on the lake.

Keane/Guerrero represented private homeowners on Tanager Bay concerned about the increased boat and jet ski traffic caused by the marina’s proposed expansion. After operating the commercial dock for almost 30 years in an illegal manner, the LMCD disregarded the homeowners’ concerns and issued the marina a new license and permit so it could bring its marina into compliance and even expand.

Keane/Guerrero filed a petition for review of the decision in the court of appeals, arguing, among other things, that the LMCD applied the wrong legal standard in issuing the marina its requested variance. The court of appeals agreed, and remanded the decision back to the LCMD, with instructions to apply the correct legal standard this time, a standard which the homeowners believe the marina will be unable to meet.

Because of legal standards which require the appeals’ court to provide municipalities with a high level of discretion in their official decision-making processes, it is extremely challenging to convince a court to reverse the decision of the LMCD, and long-time lake observers cannot remember the last time LMCD lost in court, if at all. Thus the decision is particularly satisfying to the homeowners – many of whom have lived on the bay for more than 30 years and have seen firsthand the damage caused by the increased boat and jet ski traffic.