Airport commission's taking of property owner's land is lawful; Metro. Airports Comm'n v. Brandon Square III, No. A06-661 (Minn. Ct. App. May 8, 2007)

The Minnesota Court of Appeals held the Metropolitan Airport Commission properly took a property owner's land where the Commission demonstrated that the taking of the land was necessary to further noise abatement and ensure compliance with safety requirements.

The Metropolitan Airports Commission (MAC) approved the acquisition of residential properties in Bloomington, Minn., to mitigate harm caused by increased noise from airplanes landing on a newly constructed runway at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. An environmental impact statement conducted by MAC and the FAA recognized that 27 homes and 131 multi-family units would have to be acquired because of safety-zone concerns and exposure to excessive noise levels. Among the affected properties was an apartment complex owned by Brandon Square III.

MAC authorized condemnation proceedings against the residential properties, including Brandon Square, in 2005 and filed the condemnation in district court. MAC did not seek acquisition of properties adjacent to Brandon Square that were vacant or commercial in nature.

MAC and the city also enacted new zoning restrictions to prevent future residential development that was nonconforming to the runway use. These restrictions prohibited uses such as churches, schools, theaters, amphitheaters, campgrounds, fuel-storage facilities, medical facilities and all residential uses.

Brandon Square argued that MAC only needed to take the apartment buildings but that the land, without residential use, complied with safety requirements. Furthermore, Brandon Square indicated it would comply with those land-use requirements to profitably redevelop the land. But the district court held MAC demonstrated that taking the land "is necessary to further its legitimate public purposes of noise abatement and ensuring compliance with the safety zone requirements of the airport's new runway" and therefore granted the condemnation. Brandon Square appealed.

The appeals court affirmed the trial court's judgment. Because MAC's taking of Brandon Square's land was not speculative but a reasonably necessary and convenient part of the completed runway project, MAC had the ability to take the land.

Source: Municipal Litigation Reporter, 06/15/2007

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