A long-standing lakeshore dispute over a dock has landed in Carver County district court in a case involving the city of Waconia and residents Jayson and Cristine Dock.
The city is seeking a permanent injunction against the Docks under City Ordinance 707 that prohibits the construction of permanent docks on riparian, or lake/wetland lots within the city. In legal filings, the Docks contest the validity of the ordinance as it relates to Minnesota statutory codes.
A dismissal hearing on the case was held last Tuesday at the Carver County Courthouse in Chaska. The case is scheduled to go to trial March 26.
Here’s a summary of the case.
In July 2017, the city imposed a moratorium on construction of permanent docks in the city to study more formal city regulations for docks. In October 2017, the city adopted Ordinance 707 which distinguishes between permanent docks and seasonal docks. Under the ordinance, permanent docks are prohibited and seasonal docks require removal for 90 days between November and April.
During the same period, according to documents filed by city legal counsel in First District Court, the Docks began to construct a permanent dock on their lakeshore property. The city has subsequently taken several actions to try to halt construction, including a cease-and-desist order issued to the Docks’ attorney on Oct. 13, 2017.
The city has received numerous complaints from area residents about permanent dock construction at the property since then. Among them that construction interferes with adjacent property owners’ lake navigation and access to the lake. Dock issues also have been a point of contention in earlier court cases involving the Docks and the Waconia Landing Homeowners Association.
The city is now seeking judgment for a permanent injunction prohibiting the Docks from constructing a permanent dock in violation of Ordinance 707 and ordering removal of what has been constructed.
The Docks’ legal counsel contends that the Ordinance 707 is not valid because the city did not follow state statutes, which require that for the ordinance to be effective on a “multi-jurisdiction” lake like Lake Waconia it must also be reviewed and approved by other governing bodies with shared accountabilities on the lake – in this case, two other townships and the Department of Natural Resources.
The Docks’ legal argument also states that the ordinance is targeted at a single project; that the terms “permanent” and “seasonal” do not include all the different types of docks that exist; and that there are docks (like the Dock family’s year-round dock) that are neither “permanent” nor “seasonal.”
The city argues that the statutory codes noted in the filing are not applicable and that it does have the authority to regulate docks.
So, the case essentially boils down to interpretation of municipal law and the city’s authority to regulate docks, as well as semantics as to what constitutes permanent and seasonal docks.
Judge Eric Braaten has up to 90 days to rule on the dismissal motion, so for now the parties wait. If the motion is denied, a new trial date will be established. If granted, then the matter will be concluded in trial court, with the city having the right to appeal.
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