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April 16, 2013

Appeals Court reverses ruling on Rochester Buffalo Wild Wings dispute

The owners of Rochester's Crossroads Shopping Center feel vindicated by a  Minnesota Court of Appeals ruling in their favor in a long-running battle over a proposed Buffalo Wild Wings.
Crossroadsbww"I've always said, 'If anyone in the courts follow the law, we'll win,'" says Bob Meek, who owns Crossroads with Vic Scott. "It gives me faith that the judicial system is functioning properly. I was starting to have my doubts."

After losing three battles at the planning commission, the Rochester City Council and then in Olmsted County District Court, Crossroads won the legal war in the end.

Monday's ruling reversed a June ruling by Olmsted County Judge Nancy Buytendorp that dismissed Crossroads' lawsuit against BWW owner Graf Enterprises and the city of Rochester.

The dispute was over the city's approval of  Rochester businessman Tom Graf's plan to build a 7,000-square-foot Buffalo Wild Wings in the lot in front of the Crossroads center. Graf introduced the development plan in 2011, when he purchased Pannekoeken Huis restaurant, demolished it and then filed to build his second Rochester BWW on the site.

"We are extremely disappointed in the appellate court ruling," Graf said Monday afternoon.

What does this mean for his plans to build a second Buffalo Wild Wings and his ownership of the land surrounded by Crossroads property?

"We are taking a look at our options," he said.

Parking is at the heart of this dispute . The city-approved plan called for 55 parking spaces — 35 on Graf's plot of land and 20 spaces in the surrounding Crossroads parking lot.

That calculation was made with the understanding that the proposed restaurant is part of the business center. Otherwise the proposed restaurant would require 88 parking spaces.

The Crossroads owners long have said that the city ordinances were not being followed and that the plan took their property away and gave it to Graf for his use.

"For a developer and a shopping center, excess parking is money in the bank," said Meek.

In the appeals court ruling, the judges sided with Crossroads' position, writing "Because Crossroads' protectable right to the parking spaces on its property is placed in jeopardy by the city's actions, Crossroads has standing, its claim is ripe and the district court erred by dismissing the claim on justiciability grounds."

The ruling stated that the city staff did not follow Rochester's own ordinances in regards to what is part of a business center and if Graf had enough control of the Crossroads' parking spaces to warrant allowing him to use 22 of them.

City Attorney Terry Adkins said that the ruling means that the city planning department will now need to "strictly" apply the ordinances.

For his part, Meek said he was relieved to have the case resolved after so long, though he still feels it should not have played out the way it did.

"I think it is terrible that a private party like us had to spend so much on a lengthy case just to prove the city wasn't following their own rules," he said.

Comments

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Very unfortunate for both parties. Had Crossroads actually allowed BWW to continue their plan, BWW would have attracted hundreds of additional potential shoppers to the center AND at the same time used a lot of the "money making" parking spots that have remained empty for years (not including Christmas trees). Now Crossroads is out the legal fees as well as BWW most likely building somewhere else, double loss for Crossroads.

Like i said before, i know times have changed with parking resrictions but Panakoken never had a problem with parking.

I stopped shopping at every store at Crossroads until the second BWW was built. I guess that self-imposed boycott will continue. I agree with Joe Trader, Crossroads decided they would rather remain a niche strip mall like the Silver Lake one instead of a bigger economic player like the Target and Walmart areas and Miracle Mile.

What happens to the lot that BWW bought? If you can't build a restaurant on that site what can you do with it? Is the city on the hook for the purchase of the lot since they gave the approval of the building site?

The parking lot in that area is never full. My theory would be people would go to BWW and than want to take the party home and stop at Andy's for booze, or shop at other business, i.e Office Max, etc. I would say that those businesses will lose out now, that there's nothing there. I for one will not shop at any business in that shopping center anymore. Great move Crossroads, great move.

Geez.....we're talking about a BWW here, not a new Viking stadium. Funny how all of you are taking out your frustration over the BWW decision at the expense of businesses that lease space at Crossroads when it should be directed at your local government officials for approving a plan proven in a Court of Law to be "illegal." You all act like your favorite "blankey" has been taken from you. Grow up! I'm sure another location will be found in the southend of town for you.

Can the BBW people rent parking spots for the fair?

If they would have thought this out before they bought the property it wouldn't have been an issue.

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