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City wins College Drive appeal

A three-judge panel with the Minnesota Court of Appeals has found that a claim against Brainerd by the owners of the Colonywood Apartment complex concerning the validity of the city’s College Drive project is without merit.

The owners of the apartments, Roger and Betty Anda and Kathleen and James Martin, claimed in a lawsuit filed Dec. 14, 2010, in Crow Wing County District Court that a petition received by the city from Central Lakes College in favor of the project was invalid because the college wasn’t an actual landowner according to Minnesota law. Because the petition was from a property owner of at least 35-percent of abutting property, it meant the project could be approved with a simple majority rather than a super majority vote by the Brainerd City Council.

District Court Judge Erik Askegaard ruled in favor of the city and dismissed the lawsuit. The appellate court affirmed Askegaard’s decision Monday.

In rejecting the Andas’ and Martins’ claim, the appeals court stated, “we conclude that the district court properly determined that CLC’s petition was valid” and “under the common definition of the word, ‘owner,’ CLC is the owner of at least 35 percent of the real property frontage abutting College Drive for purposes of (Minnesota Statute) was valid.”

A site of controversy for nearly three years, the case surrounded Brainerd’s pursuit of a project to reconstruct a one-mile portion of College Drive into a four-lane road with roundabouts at intersections.

As the city explored options for the project, it became evident that city taxes or special assessments would be necessary to cover a portion of the costs to fund the project. Properties that were adjacent to the project and that would benefit from the project would be assessed to help cover the cost of the project. Some of these properties that would be assessed were the apartment complex owners.

In 2011 the council, by a narrow margin, approved increasing the project from $6.9 million to about $9.4 million. More than $4.335 million in federal finding has been received for the project. The majority of the remaining costs will be funded with the city’s state aid money.

The project will include four lanes from Crow Wing County Road 48 to South Fourth Street; reconstruction of College Drive and Crow Wing County Road 48 intersection; roundabouts at Mississippi River Parkway, Southwest Fourth Street and South Fourth Street; a stop light at Quince and South Fifth streets; repaving Quince Street to South Sixth Street; trails; sidewalks; bridge improvements; pedestrian crosswalks, flashers and deterrents; lighting improvements; and a backage road to accommodate the apartment buildings.