Friends of the Eagan Core Greenway

City Sued in Golf Course Squabble
Developer Sought Parcel for Housing

St. Paul Pioneer Press
Friday, November 5, 2004

by Laura Yuen

An Eagan homebuilder and the owner of Carriage Hills Golf Course have jointly sued the city for rejecting a proposal to develop the nearly 40-year-old course into an upscale subdivision.

The lawsuit, filed last week by Wensmann Realty and golf course owner Rahn Family LP, asks that the city either reverse its decision or condemn the property. It accuses the City Council of depriving the failing 18-hole course of an "economically viable" future by refusing in August to change the land-use designation from park to residential.

John Baker, an attorney representing the city, said the argument took on an extreme interpretation of the golf course owner's constitutional rights. Unlike other court cases, in which cities are accused by developers of changing a parcel's zoning to add restrictions, the city in this case stuck to its comprehensive guide plan, he said.

"It's a very unusual allegation, and it seemed to be on the notion that (the golf course) was losing money, and they wanted the city to change the law for that basis," Baker said.

An attorney representing the plaintiffs did not return a phone call for comment.

Wensmann was hoping to build 480 units, including single-family homes and town houses, on 120 acres. The tiff marked the second time in eight years neighbors organized to defeat plans for developing the greens and fairways.

The lawsuit should come as no surprise. After losing the fight in council chambers this summer, homebuilder Terry Wensmann and golf course owner Ray Rahn hinted they'd take their battle to the courts.

In Mendota Heights, a similar legal squabble is brewing over an 18-hole course. In that case, the city's comprehensive plan slated the parcel as a golf course, but its zoning ordinance allowed housing. Because of that inconsistency, an appeals court last week upheld a lower court's ruling that the city should change the plan to permit residential development.

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