G&I VIII WF Plaza LLC v. Cnty. of Hennepin, 27-CV-20-907

CourtTax Court of Minnesota
Writing for the CourtBradford S. Delapena, Judge
PartiesG&I VIII WF Plaza LLC, Petitioner, v. County of Hennepin, Respondent.
Decision Date10 November 2021
Docket Number27-CV-21-11021,27-CV-21-2321,27-CV-20-907

G&I VIII WF Plaza LLC, Petitioner,
v.

County of Hennepin, Respondent.

Nos. 27-CV-20-907, 27-CV-21-2321, 27-CV-21-11021

Tax Court of Minnesota, Regular Division, Hennepin County

November 10, 2021


These matters came before the Honorable Bradford S. Delapena, Judge of the Minnesota Tax Court, on petitioner G&I VIII WF Plaza LLC's motion to consolidate.

Thomas R. Wilhelmy and Gauri S. Samant, Fredrikson & Byron, P.A., represent petitioner G&I VIII WF Plaza LLC.

Jeffrey M. Wojciechowski and Rebecca L.S. Holschuh, Assistant County Attorneys, represent respondent Hennepin County.

ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART PETITIONER'S MOTION TO CONSOLIDATE

Petitioner G&I VIII WF Plaza LLC moves to consolidate three valuation cases (Pay-20, Pay-21, and Pay-22) for a single property, and to place the consolidated matter on the existing Scheduling Order for the Pay-20 case. Respondent Hennepin County objects to consolidation solely with respect to the Pay-22 matter, arguing that the Pay-20 litigation deadlines would prevent it from properly preparing its Pay-22 case. We grant G&I's motion as to the Pay-20 and Pay-21 petitions but deny it as to the Pay-22 petition.

Based upon all the files, records, and proceedings herein, the court now makes the following:

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ORDER

1. Petitioner G&I VIII WF Plaza LLC s motion to consolidate is granted with respect to the Pay-20 and Pay-21 petitions (File Nos. 27-CV-20-907 and 27-CV-21-2321) but is denied with respect to the Pay-22 petition (File No. 27-CV-21-11021).

2. The consolidated Pay-20 and Pay-21 matter shall proceed in accordance with the February 1, 2021 Scheduling Order for the Pay-20 case.

IT IS SO ORDERED.

MEMORANDUM

Bradford S. Delapena, Judge

I. Background

On January 14, 2020, Petitioner G&I VIII WF Plaza LLC filed a property tax petition challenging the assessor's estimated market value as of January 2, 2019 (for taxes payable in 2020) for a property located in Bloomington, Minnesota.[1] On February 1, 2021, the court filed a Scheduling Order for the Pay-20 matter (File No. 27-CV-20-907), establishing numerous litigation and trial preparation deadlines.[2] As relevant here, the Order required the parties: (1) to complete

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service of written discovery requests by October 1, 2021, [3] and (2) to exchange written appraisal reports by November 29, 2021.[4] Like all of the court's standard scheduling orders of this vintage, the Pay-20 Order furnished the parties approximately eight months to complete service of discovery and ten months to prepare and exchange appraisal reports.

G&I subsequently filed two additional property tax petitions pertaining to the same property. Approximately eight months ago, on February 26, 2021, G&I filed a petition challenging the assessor's estimated market value as of January 2, 2020, for taxes payable in 2021 (File No. 27-CV-21-2321).[5] And approximately eight weeks ago, on September 9, 2021, G&I filed a petition challenging the assessor's estimated market value as of January 2, 2021, for taxes payable in 2022 (File No. 27-CV-21-11021).[6] The court has not filed a scheduling order for either of these additional cases.

Seven days after filing its petition in the Pay-22 matter, on September 16, 2021, G&I filed a motion to consolidate the Pay-20, Pay-21, and Pay-22 petitions, and to place the consolidated matter on the Scheduling Order for the Pay-20 case.[7] Respondent Hennepin County does not object to consolidation of the Pay-20 and Pay-21 petitions.[8] It opposes inclusion of the Pay-22

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petition, however, arguing that the deadlines contained in the Pay-20 Scheduling Order would deprive it of an adequate opportunity to conduct discovery and to prepare its case.[9] The County also notes that the commercial real estate market was likely affected during calendar year 2020 by the COVID-19 pandemic, and conjectures that data quantifying that impact (and thus relevant to the January 2, 2021 valuation date for taxes payable in 2022) is likely to improve over time.[10]

II. Governing Law

The Minnesota Rules of Civil Procedure "govern the procedures in the Tax Court, where practicable." Minn. Stat. § 271.06, subd. 7 (2020). Those rules specifically address consolidation:

When actions involving a common question of law or fact are pending before the court, it may order a joint hearing or trial of any or all the matters in issue in the actions; it may order all the actions consolidated; and it may make such orders concerning proceedings therein as may tend to avoid unnecessary costs or delay

Minn. R. Civ. P. 42.01. The tax court generally favors consolidation "for the sake of judicial economy." Zirp-IC, L.L.C. v. Cnty. of Hennepin, No. 29185, 2003 WL 21729716, at *4 (Minn. T.C. July 3, 2003). This preference must yield, however, "when consolidation would...

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