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.
"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.