Como-Falcon Coalition v. US Dept. of Labor

Decision Date11 December 1978
Docket NumberCiv. No. 3-78-64.
Citation465 F. Supp. 850
PartiesCOMO-FALCON COALITION, INC., Plaintiff, v. UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF LABOR, Raymond Marshall, United States Secretary of Labor, Richard C. Gilliland, Regional Administrator, United States Department of Labor, Rudy Perpich, Governor of the State of Minnesota, Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — District of Minnesota

Ronald J. Riach, St. Paul, Minn., for plaintiff.

Francis X. Hermann, Asst. U. S. Atty., Minneapolis, Minn., and Howard L. Robinson, Dept. of Labor, Washington, D. C., for the Federal defendants.

William P. Marshall, Sp. Asst. Atty. Gen., St. Paul, Minn., for Governor Perpich.


MacLAUGHLIN, District Judge.

This case presents the issue whether establishment of a Job Corps center on the former campus of Bethel College and Seminary in St. Paul constitutes a "major Federal action significantly affecting the quality of the human environment." National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA) § 102(2)(C), 42 U.S.C. § 4332(2)(C). If so, NEPA mandates preparation of an environmental impact statement by the responsible federal official. The Department of Labor determined on November 3, 1977, that an environmental impact statement was unnecessary. (Defs. Ex. 6) This Court on February 22, 1978, preliminarily enjoined establishment of the center. Plaintiff had at that time demonstrated probable success on its claim that the Department of Labor's negative assessment of environmental impact was unreasonable. Based on the administrative record then before it, the Court found that the Department had either failed to consider the environmental impact of the proposed center on the surrounding neighborhood or failed to develop a reviewable record of such external environmental effects. (Memorandum and Order, Feb. 22, 1978)

Since the date of the preliminary injunction, the Department of Labor has compiled the administrative record on which its initial negative assessment of environmental impact was based. In addition, it has conducted a supplemental study and reassessment of the environmental impact of the proposed center, and affirmed the original determination that an environmental impact statement was not required in the circumstances. On November 6 and 7, 1978, this Court held a hearing on the propriety of granting plaintiff permanent injunctive relief pending completion of an environmental impact statement. Based on the administrative record, the evidence adduced at the hearing, the memoranda of counsel, and all files, records and proceedings herein, the Court concludes that the Department of Labor's negative assessment of environmental impact was not unreasonable. Because the proposed Job Corps center is thus not a major federal action significantly affecting the quality of the human environment, no environmental impact statement need be prepared, and judgment will be entered for defendants. The preliminary injunction issued by this Court on February 22, 1978, is dissolved and of no further force and effect. This Memorandum constitutes the Court's Findings of Facts and Conclusions of Law.


Defendant United States Department of Labor through its Secretary, Raymond Marshall, and its Regional Administrator, Richard C. Gilliland, proposes to establish a Job Corps center on the former campus of Bethel College and Seminary, 1480 North Snelling Avenue, St. Paul. Enrollees at such enters are disadvantaged youths aged 16 to 21 who receive basic education, vocational skills training, work experience, and counseling and health services. (See, 29 U.S.C. §§ 911, 918, as amended, Comprehensive Employment and Training Act Amendments of 1978 §§ 450, 457; Defs. Ex. 52, at 8, 27-28) Job Corps centers are designed to provide a structured environment with round-the-clock supervision in which corps-members can develop marketable skills and a sense of responsibility. The proposed center is to be residential and coeducational with a maximum of 411 corpsmembers and a staff of approximately 140. The Department of Labor expended $1.86 million to purchase the site. Substantial additional federal funds will be required to refurbish the existing eight buildings ($1.01 million) and to operate the center ($2 million per year). (Fed. Defs. Answer, p. 3, ¶ 7).

The site chosen for the Job Corps center had been used since 1914 as the campus of Bethel College and Seminary. Bethel College is owned and operated by the Baptist General Conference, and is affiliated with Bethel Theological Seminary, a graduate professional school which has been located on the same campus. In September, 1972, the college and seminary completed a move to a new campus in suburban Arden Hills. Student enrollment at the Bethel campus during the 1971-72 school year numbered 1139, of whom 397 resided on campus. Since the fall of 1972, the college has continued to use the Snelling site as dormitory housing for 400 to 430 students, who must commute daily to classes on the new campus in Arden Hills. Besides the three dormitories, an administration building, library, seminary building, heating plant, and field house occupy the 8.3-acre campus in northwest St. Paul. (Defs. Exs. 4; 52, at 29, 31-32, 35-69) The Job Corps proposal contemplates no additional building construction. (Defs. Ex. 41, pt. 1, ¶ 1)

Plaintiff is a nonprofit corporation composed of residents and owners of residential property in proximity to the site of the proposed center. (Complaint, ¶ 1) Adjacent to the former Bethel campus on the north, east, and south are single-family dwellings comprising a middle-class residential neighborhood. Across Snelling Avenue to the west, in the City of Falcon Heights, lies the Minnesota State Fairgrounds. Como Park, a recreational complex featuring a zoo, golf course, conservatory, park, and lake, stands a half mile to the east. A small shopping plaza, Har Mar Mall, lies one-half mile to the north in the City of Roseville. Rosedale, a major regional shopping center located in Roseville, stands approximately one mile distant. The Bethel site and the adjacent St. Paul neighborhood are zoned R-4, a single-family residential district. (See generally, Defs. Ex. 52, at 75-96; Pltf. Ex. 42; testimony of the Hon. June Demos)

The thought of establishing a Job Corps center in Minnesota originated with the Governor's Council on Employment and Training. (Defs. Ex. 52, at 7) On March 30, 1977, the staff of the Governor's Manpower Office met with state CETA prime sponsors and selected seven potential sites for a Job Corps facility. In May, the regional office of the Job Corps conducted an initial site survey of two of the potential locations—the Bethel campus (Defs. Ex. 1) and a junior high school in a western Minneapolis suburb. The junior high school was found unsuitable because it lacked residential facilities. (See, Defs. Ex. 52, at 25, 399, A-59 to -68) The Bethel site, however, seemed suitable and a more extensive Site Utilization Study was conducted in early September. (Defs. Ex. 4) On May 25, 1977, representatives from the St. Paul Mayor's office explained at a meeting of community residents the proposal to establish a Job Corps center on the Bethel site, but it was not until October, 1977, that the proposal resurfaced and became the subject of public controversy.

On October 17, 1977, the Secretary of Labor informed Governor Perpich of his intent to establish a Job Corps center on the Bethel campus. Pursuant to 29 U.S.C. § 925(c), the Governor was given 30 days in which to disapprove the project. On October 20, a representative of the regional office of the Department of Labor attended a meeting of community residents in an effort to explain the operation of the proposed Job Corps center. The residents in attendance indicated resistance to the placement of the center within their neighborhood. On October 28, 1977, the Mayor of St. Paul pledged his support for the Bethel proposal, but the municipalities of Roseville and Falcon Heights adopted resolutions against the proposed center. (See, Defs. Ex. 26; Pltf. Exs. 36, 37; testimony of the Hon. June Demos; testimony of the Hon. Willis Warkentien) Neighboring residents continued to voice their opposition in a variety of public forums throughout the rest of 1977.

Because of the opposition in the local community, Governor Perpich desired to investigate the proposal before determining whether to exercise his right of disapproval. In an apparently unprecedented request, the Governor sought and received extensions of the 30-day period prescribed in 29 U.S.C. § 925(c). After meeting with neighborhood residents and investigating the impact of other Job Corps centers and the possibility of alternative sites (see, Defs. Ex. 52, at A-272 to -282), the Governor on December 29, 1977, conditionally approved establishment of the Job Corps center:

After a systematic and thorough investigation, I am satisfied that Bethel is the proper site and that the program will be beneficial to our state. As you know, this decision was not made hastily; and I think the process we followed in examining the Job Corps program and alternative sites was a useful one. The conditions of approval agreed upon by the regional office staff will, in my opinion, help us to make this center a model Job Corps facility....
Let me specify these conditions, as they were discussed, to avoid misunderstandings in the future. First, a community advisory council will be established to participate in the determination of center policies. Second, the community will have representation in the selection of the contractor and the screening of potential enrollees. Third, the center will serve Minnesota youth exclusively. Fourth, no felons will be admitted to the program. In conjunction with the establishment of the center, I have asked the Minnesota Crime Control Planning Board to monitor the impact of the center on neighborhood crime. If, over a period of time, there

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