Despite lawsuit victory, hurdles remain for DeLaSalle athletic field

From The Bridge

By Liz Riggs (January 15, 2008)

Despite a recent groundbreaking and favorable court ruling for DeLaSalle High School, several hurdles still remain in the school’s push to get an athletic field on Nicollet Island.

The Nov. 20 Minnesota Court of Appeals ruling upheld the Minneapolis City Council’s decision to approve the athletic field, which would be built partially on land now owned by the Minneapolis Park and recreation Board (MPRB). In October, even with the lawsuit pending, DeLaSalle held a private groundbreaking and celebrated the donation of $4 million for the cost of the field by DeLaSalle alum Philip “Skip” Maas.

In a release condemning the Nov. 20 decision, Friends of the Riverfront noted two other pending lawsuits, which the opposition group has filed at the state Court of Appeals with the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the Preservation Alliance of Minnesota.

One suit challenges the city’s approval of the project on the grounds that it doesn’t conform with the Minnesota Environmental Rights Act, which states that developers must demonstrate that no reasonable alternatives exist before altering natural or historic resources. The case could be decided in early 2008, states the Friends of the Riverfront release.

In a second suit, Friends of the Riverfront contends that a Metropolitan Council decision to release the restrictive use agreement on the 1.48 acre Nicollet Island site to allow uses beyond regional park purposes “without replacing it with equal value.” Friends of the Riverfront further asserts that the Metropolitan Council’s decision lacked transparency and public input.

Bonnie Kollodge, a spokeswoman for the Metropolitan Council, said in an e-mail, “Briefs have not yet been filed, and the Court of Appeals has not yet scheduled oral arguments. The Council objective is to work cooperatively with the regional park implementing agencies in creating and maintaining the region’s excellent parks system. We believe the exchange of restrictive covenants that occurred under the agreement with the Minneapolis Parks Board accomplishes that objective.”

Meanwhile, the MPRB still needs to review its reciprocal-use agreement with DeLaSalle on the MPRB-owned land. Dawn Sommers, the public information manager for the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board said a plan to alter the agreement was not brought before the Park Board at its last meeting, and that the two parties are still negotiating.

Representatives from DeLaSalle did not return phone calls regarding the status of the project.

last revised: January 15, 2008