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2001-09-08
Buffalo, MN. Merchants Sue City Over Wal-Mart

First a Wal-Mart developer sued the city of Buffalo, Minnesota. Now it's the merchants turn. On April 3, 2001, newsflash recorded the results of my visit to the city of Buffalo, Minnesota, when the City Council refused to rezone land for a Wal-Mart supercenter. The developer, Stanley Kroenke, who was surprised that the City Council had accepted my arguments, sued the city, and on July 25, we reported that the City Council had reversed their vote and approved the rezoning of land from industrial to commercial. This total reversal of position, brought about by The Kroenke's Groups lawsuit against the City Council, did not sit well with local merchants, who see the decision to expand Wal-Mart as another effort to shrink the downtown. Five local businesses have now filed a suit in the Tenth Judicial District of Wright County against the city of Buffalo. The businesses note in their suit that the City Council voted on April 2nd. to deny the rezoning based on 5 express findings of fact, but came back on June 18th. (after a couple of executive session meetings with the developer) and voted to reconsider their decision. "The Buffalo City Council provided no written, articulable reasons in support of its decision" to reconsider, says the complaint. Then on July 16th.the Council approved the rezoning, this time coming up with 6 express findings of fact that obviously reversed their April findings of facts. Which set of "facts" do they believe? The lawsuit contends that the City did not give the public adequate notice of the reconsideration meeting, that the reconsideration was arbitrary, and that the final vote to rezone was "without additional information on which to rely, inconsistent with the council's prior decision denying the request." The suit adds that the Council approval was "inconsistent with the City's Comprehensive Plan" and "does not promote the public health, safety, morals, and general welfare" of the city. The decision also failed to "satisfy the evaluation criteria" in the city's zoning code. For all these reasons, the approval decisoin was "arbitrary, capricious and unreasonable." The lawsuit seeks a temporary and permanent injunction that prevents the city from issuing any building permit, or from taking any further administrative action on the property.

What you can do: The charges brought by local businesses against the city are similar to the charges the Kroenke Group brought against the city when the rezoning was denied. The City proceeded to have several executive meetings about the lawsuit, and one would assume they would do the same now with their own local merchants suing them. One would wonder what new findings were presented to the Council during Executive Session that made them totally reverse the findings of fact the Council made on April 2nd. It would appear that the motion to reconsider was based on something presented in a private session that the public was never told. From the outside, it appears as if the developer was able to reverse a decision by filing a lawsuit. Will the Council now huddle again, and reach an agreement with its local merchants? Don't bet the city's legal bill on it.










 
 
"Norman has become the guru of the anti-Wal-Mart movement" ~ 60 Minutes

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