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Skyline Lawsuit "Dismissed without prejudice"

Duluth News Tribune -- Published February 18, 2010

Judge tosses suit against Duluth on blocked scenic views

Duluth preservationist Eric Ringsred says he will amend his complaint about residences built on Skyline Parkway and the lakefront and refile his lawsuit.

By: Mark Stodghill, Duluth News Tribune

A Duluth judge on Wednesday threw out a lawsuit accusing the city of Duluth of violating state environmental laws by allowing development that blocks scenic views.

However, 6th Judicial District Judge Eric Hylden dismissed the suit without prejudice, which means preservationist Eric Ringsred can amend his complaint and refile it. Ringsred said he will do so and also will add the owners of a controversial new house on Skyline Parkway as defendants.

Ringsred alleges that the city violated the provisions of the Minnesota Environmental Rights Act and the Minnesota Environmental Policy Act by allowing the home to be built on Skyline Parkway and by allowing the Beacon Pointe condominiums to be built near the Lakewalk.

One of the problems Hylden had with the lawsuit is that Ringsred sought abatement of the new home at 3800 Skyline Parkway but didnít make the home owner part of the process. The judge told Ringsred that it seemed if he was looking to knock down the new home, the owner would have a "very keen interest" and was a necessary party to the action.

Deputy City Attorney M. Alison Lutterman argued in a written motion that Ringsredís environmental law claims cannot be asserted against the city because the city is not the entity engaged in the conduct allegedly impairing the environment.

"Good conscience and equity requires that the person who owns the home and whose ownership interests are directly affected by the litigation should be made a party and be allowed to defend their property rights before the court can consider any action limiting or depriving the owner of their property rights," Lutterman wrote.

Ringsred told the court that he would clean up the complaint and refile it. After formally dismissing the complaint, Hylden told the parties: "Letís get all the folks in here that we need to have along on this case to be ready and go forward."

Ringsred, an emergency room physician, represented himself without an attorney at the hearing. He was accompanied by co-plaintiff Marilyn Campetti, his aunt, who has lived for 53 years near where the new Skyline home was built.

"Iíve had many people come with me from out of town and we take that drive [along Skyline] and they are just amazed at what they can see from up there; and I donít want to lose it," Campetti said. "This is a place where Iíve grown up, and to see it slowly being melted away by a little piece here, a little piece there hurts."

After the hearing, Ringsred said he will reluctantly add William Agenter, owner of the home at 3800 Skyline Parkway, to his lawsuit.

"To tell you the truth, I hate going after individuals," Ringsred said. "They would have been better off not being part of this. Then if the city was ordered to do the abatement it would be at the cityís expense, I believe. Now the homeowner is going to incur expense for attorneyís fees and any abatement ordered."

Agenter couldnít be reached for comment Wednesday.

Outside the courtroom, Lutterman said the plaintiffs should reconsider bringing the suit again.

"It would be the cityís hope that the plaintiffs ó prior to deciding to reinitiate this action ó really take a look at the quality of their claims and also perhaps participate in some of the public processes that drive public policy rather than coming in after the fact and suing people," Lutterman said.

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