After more than a year in legal limbo, the final fate of a plan to build a second Buffalo Wild Wings in Rochester could possibly be officially resolved in the next few months.
On Thursday morning, the Minnesota Court of Appeals is slated to hear the dispute between the owners of the Crossroads Shopping Center and BWW owner Graf Enterprises and as well as the City of Rochester.The Crossroads owners, Bob Meek and Vic Scott, are once again taking their objections to a higher court. They object to Tom Graf's development plan to build a 7,000-square-foot sports bar and eatery in front of the shopping center.
This all started when Graf purchased Pannekoeken Huis restaurant and then demolished it in September 2011 to clear space to build a south side version of his very popular, north Rochester Buffalo Wings sports bar.
He submitted a building plan to the city, which approved the project in December 2011. The Crossroads folks say the plan does not actually meet the city's requirements and should never have been OKed as it is.
The approved plan calls for 55 spaces — 35 on Graf's plot of land and 20 spaces in the surrounding Crossroads parking lot. The mall owners contend that that the 20 parking spaces on their property could limit future expansion plans. They say they would welcome the Buffalo Wild Wings, if all of the parking was restricted to land owned by Graf.
Meek and Scott first took their objections to the Rochester Zoning Board of Appeals. When the board ruled in favor of the Graf project, Crossroads appealed to the Rochester City Council. The council backed the zoning board's decision.
Next the mall owners filed the lawsuit against Graf and the city of Rochester to appeal the council's ruling. In June, Olmsted County Judge Nancy Buytendorp dismissed the lawsuit saying, "Crossroads has no justifiable controversy to pursue this lawsuit against the city of Rochester or Graf…"
Crossroads responded by filing for an appeal of Buytendorp's ruling claiming she applied the wrong standard of judgment to the case.
As the case has been batted around courtrooms by attorneys, Graf has repeatedly said that no matter how case is finally resolved, he still plans to build a BWW on his land in front of Crossroads.
If he loses, he'll adjust the plans to meet the rules. If he wins definitively, then Graf will turn Weis Builders loose to start work on the square of dirt surrounded by Crossroads pavement and in the shadow of "Coming Soon" sign.
On Thursday, a panel of three judges in St. Paul will give both sides 15 minutes each to make their case. Graf's attorney and the City of Rochester's attorney will split their side's 15 minutes.
The appeals court will have up to 90 days to issue a ruling on whether Judge Buytendorp's erred in her judgment in favor of Graf and the city.
One possible course of action that could stretch out this case even more would be a ruling that sends the case back to Olmsted County to be decided by a jury trial.
Even if that doesn't happen, it could still be a while before Graf's plan to build moves ahead.