Burger v. City of St. Paul, 36011

CourtSupreme Court of Minnesota (US)
Citation64 N.W.2d 73,241 Minn. 285
Docket NumberNo. 36011,36011
PartiesBURGER v. CITY OF ST. PAUL et al.
Decision Date26 February 1954

Syllabus by the Court.

1. Landowners within a restricted residence district, established pursuant to L.1915, c. 128, as amended, possess rights, accruing out of condemnation proceedings, in the nature of easements. Easements are property within the meaning of the Minnesota constitution, and, as such, cannot be taken, destroyed, or damaged for public use without just compensation therefor.

2. 'Taking' by condemnation proceedings in Minnesota includes every interference, under the right of eminent domain, with the ownership, possession, enjoyment, or value of private property.

3. The negative easements created by establishment of a restricted residence district pursuant to L.1915, c. 128, as amended, vest in the city In trust for a limited public use, for the special benefit of private landowners, and such easement rights may be enforced in equity either by the city or the private landowners so benefited.

4. Zoning ordinances, if less stringent, neither diminish, nullify, nor supersede the legal effect of a valid restriction upon the use of real property which in no way threatens or endangers the safety, health, comfort, or general welfare of the community.

5. The property rights created by the establishment of a restricted residence district pursuant to L.1915, c. 128, as amended, are comparable to the rights possessed by a landowner under a private restrictive covenant whose title is derived from a common grantor, and such restrictions, if in no way adverse to the public welfare, remain in effect unless there is such a change in conditions as to practically destroy the essential objects and purposes of the restrictive use applied under the original plan.

6. The police power may not be utilized to nullify lawful agreements or restrictions unless such agreements or restrictions operate to the detriment of the Public welfare.

7. Injunctive relief is a proper remedy available to a landowner within a restricted residence district created by condemnation proceedings when violation of the building and use restrictions are threatened.

Timothy P. Quinn, Corporation Counsel, Louis P. Sheahan, Sp. Asst., St. Paul, for City of St. Paul.

D. D. Daly, St. Paul, for Jansen.

Faricy, Burger, Moore & Costello and Leonard J. Keyes and B. Warren Hart, St. Paul, for respondent.

NELSON, Justice.

Plaintiff instituted suit against the city of St. Paul and others on December 13 1951, to have certain resolutions and a building permit issued thereunder declared null and void; to restrain the defendants from publishing, enforcing, or otherwise giving effect or acting pursuant to the final resolution; and to enjoin the defendant Alvin J. Jansen from remodeling or occupying his structure as a fourplex dwelling unit. The court below found in favor of the plaintiff, enjoining the defendant city, its commissioners, and members of the city council from issuing any permits for remodeling the structure on the premises of defendant Jansen into a fourplex and enjoining the defendant Jansen from using his premises involved in this litigation as a dwelling for more than two families. The defendants moved in the alternative for amended findings of fact and conclusions of law or for a new trial, which motions were denied by order of the trial court. Defendants appeal from that order.

Plaintiff was in the year 1951 and still is one of the owners of lot 11, block 1, Summit Park Addition, known as 666 Summit avenue in St. Paul, which lot was improved with a duplex in 1925. The defendant Jansen in 1951 became and still is the owner of lots 17 and 18 in block 16, Holcombe's Addition, known as 669 Summit avenue, lot 18 of which had been improved with a single residence in 1894. The two structures belonging to plaintiff and defendant Jansen are approximately opposite each other on Summit avenue.

It appears that between the years 1917 and 1922 the council of the city of St. Paul, pursuant to L.1915, c. 128, M.S.A. § 462.12 et seq., created a restricted residence district along Summit avenue in St. Paul from the intersection of Summit avenue and Selby avenue to the Mississippi River by condemnation proceedings. These proceedings affected and included properties now owned by plaintiff and defendant Jansen. Those who were then the owners of said lots joined in a petition for the creation of the 'Restricted Residence District.' Assessments for benefits were levied and awards for damages made as provided in condemnation proceedings. The restrictions established were in full force and effect at the time plaintiff and defendant Jansen acquired their respective properties.

In the fall of 1951, defendant Jansen obtained a permit from the council of the defendant city of St. Paul to remodel his single-family dwelling unit into a duplex, but later he applied for a permit to remodel the same structure into a fourplex, and this latter application was granted December 6, 1951, over objections entered by the plaintiff. Authority was granted to the defendant Jansen by the city council under resolution, council file No. 158173, later merged in resolution, council file No. 158242; the latter duly approved December 12, 1951, and published in the 'Saint Paul Legal Ledger,' an official newspaper, December 15, 1951. These resolutions were passed after the board of zoning had unanimously recommended that permission to remodel into a fourplex be denied and the council of the city of St. Paul had overruled the recommendation of the board of zoning. Plaintiff commenced his action a week later.

L.1943, c. 246, M.S.A. § 462.12, amended L.1915, c. 128, by providing that under certain circumstances existing structures of a stipulated size within the restricted residential districts created pursuant to L.1915 could be altered to accommodate up to four families by special permission of the city council. Pursuant to said L.1943, c. 246, St. Paul Zoning Ordinance No. 8550 was enacted August 26, 1944; and St. Paul Zoning Ordinance No. 5840, which had been enacted on August 22, 1922, was thereby amended to enable structures in the restricted area to be remodeled and reconstructed into three or four multiple dwellings although the restrictions had at all times theretofore limited the area to single dwellings or duplexes except for such apartment houses and otherwise multiple dwellings which existed and were permitted to remain when the restrictions were originally applied under L.1915, c. 128.

It appears that defendant Jansen was granted his permit and authority to remodel his single structure into a fourplex pursuant to said Zoning Ordinances Nos. 5840 and 8550.

In 1923 the 1915 act was amended by L.1923, c. 133, which provided that the restrictions created under the 1915 act could be removed in the same manner as they had been originally imposed. The properties involved in this case have never been removed from the restrictions of the 1915 act under the process prescribed in the 1923 amendment.

The trial court made findings in effect declaring that the council of the city of St. Paul had no authority to permit Jansen to remodel his single structure residence into a fourplex due to the restrictions made effective by condemnation proceedings and that the permit for remodeling defendant Jansen's residence was and is null and void; enjoining the council from issuing any permit for remodeling Jansen's residence into a fourplex; and enjoining defendant Jansen from using his residence for more than two families.

The defendants assert in effect that conditions where these properties are located have changed in character to the extent that it is no longer suitable for only single- or double-unit dwellings and that owning residence property such as defendant Jansen purchased in 1951 becomes a burden upon the resources of the owner and unprofitable unless he be permitted to by-pass the restrictions and recondition the residence on his lots into a multiple dwelling sufficient to house four families or what is commonly called a fourplex. The defendants contend that this may now be lawfully attained under the amendment of L.1915, c. 128, § 1, to be found in L.1943, c. 246, and Zoning Ordinance No. 5840, as amended, supplemented by Zoning Ordinance No. 8550 proceeding under police powers.

The amendment contained in L.1943, c. 246, reads in part as follows:

'* * * nothing herein contained shall be construed so as to prohibit the council of any such city of the first class from permitting the remodeling or reconstruction of the interior of any structure in any such restricted residence district which possesses a gross ground area delineated by its foundation walls of at least 1,000 square feet, so that the same shall contain separate accommodations for several, not in excess of four, families; provided that the substantial alteration of the exterior of any such structure shall not be authorized in any such case; and provided further, that such city council shall expressly find in each such case that such remodeling or alteration shall be consistent with the public health and safety.'

L.1915, c. 128, § 1, provides that any city of the first class may through its council, upon petition of 50 percent of the owners of the real estate in the district sought to be affected, designate and establish by proceedings thereunder restricted residence districts within its limits wherein no building or other structure shall thereafter be erected, altered, or repaired for any of the purposes therein enumerated. Section 1 further states: 'No building or structure erected after the creation of such district shall be used for any purpose for which its erection shall be prohibited hereunder.' The council of the city of St. Paul was given power of eminent domain under § 2 to proceed to designate and establish restricted residence districts. It...

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