Court Dismisses UHT lawsuit following technical dispute
PRESS RELEASE: July27, 2022
Roxxanne O’Brien, CMEJ, email@example.com;
Evan Mulholland, MCEA, firstname.lastname@example.org
MINNEAPOLIS, MINNESOTA – Today, the Hennepin County District Court dismissed CMEJ and MCEA’s lawsuit on the City of Minneapolis’ proposed Upper Harbor Terminal (UHT) redevelopment, adding another impediment to community members continued efforts to ensure environmental concerns with the proposal are remedied.
The case was dismissed on the question, raised by the City, whether an out-of-date rule applied to this kind of appeal, not because of any substantive issue or finding related to community members’ arguments. No arguments about the merits of the case were ever heard by the court. The decision means questions and serious concerns over the flawed environmental study (called an AUAR) that was conducted on the massive redevelopment plan remain unaddressed, and that the City has avoided subjecting the incomplete study to review by a judge.
CMEJ organizer, Roxxanne O’Brien, said this in response to the Court’s decision:
“Today’s ruling does not mean the City has created a safe proposal for our community – we never even got the chance to have that discussion in court. That’s because the City opted to once again find a way to dismiss community members’ concerns, just as they have throughout this entire process. They still haven’t looked at the cumulative pollution impacts Upper Harbor would have on our neighborhood, or its climate impacts. They still aren’t listening. From the start, the City has put the interests of wealthy developers ahead of the health, dreams, and desires of community members. That has to change.
North Minneapolis community members will continue to push for a real seat at the table about what the City does with this public land. The City still has an opportunity and obligation here to right past and present wrongs. We stand ready for the City to step up. Until then, we will continue to fight for what’s right.”
MCEA’s Attorney Melissa Lorentz said the following of the decision:
“Instead of taking CMEJ and MCEA's concerns seriously, the City crafted a procedural argument to dodge having a judge review the Upper Harbor Terminal environmental study.
The City has a responsibility to community members in the development of this 48 acres of public riverfront in one of Minneapolis' most polluted neighborhoods. The Court’s ruling today does not change that responsibility.”
MCEA and CMEJ are reviewing the decision and will continue discussions to decide how best to proceed in their continued commitment to ensuring community members’ concerns over this unprecedented redevelopment plan for the Northside are considered and addressed by the City.
Questions about today’s decision can be directed to the contacts listed at the top of this release. Copies of the decision are available upon request.
Over five years ago, the City released a concept plan for the redevelopment of the UHT site that included a several thousand seat music venue. This music venue and other cornerstone characteristics of the Upper Harbor Terminal proposal were never up for debate, and the community engagement process that followed was designed to ratify that concept. An authentic community engagement process should have started by asking the community what was needed, not by telling the community the plan before starting to engage people.
Many North Minneapolis residents feel the process was disingenuous, and that it failed to address the environmental and social impacts the proposal will have on the overburdened North Minneapolis community.
In October 2021, The Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy (MCEA) and Community Members for Environmental Justice (CMEJ) filed a lawsuit targeting the city’s failure to adequately study the cumulative environmental impacts the proposal will have on the surrounding community and on the rapidly accelerating climate crisis, and demanded a full accounting of the project’s greenhouse gas emissions as required by law.
Robust environmental analysis is particularly critical given North Minneapolis’ location within one of the City’s designated Green Zones due to the disproportionate amount of toxic development that has been concentrated in the area over the years.
The designation means the city has committed to improving the physical, environmental and economic health of the community, in collaboration with the community. But, like developments proposed for Green Zones elsewhere in Minneapolis, the UHT proposal ignores many of those promises.
About CMEJ: CMEJ is a coalition of caring community members, mothers, and youth who are committed to addressing the environmental injustices occurring disproportionately in pollution-burdened neighborhoods in the City of Minneapolis. CMEJ is deeply invested in the future of North Minneapolis and members have been closely following the plans to redevelop the Upper Harbor Terminal site.
About MCEA: MCEA works to enact and enforce smart environmental laws in Minnesota. With offices in St. Paul and Duluth and a team that includes some of the state's foremost environmental law and policy professionals, MCEA educates about issues and supports communities in their fight to protect their environment. MCEA is unique in Minnesota in its use of top legal expertise in the pursuit of environmental justice. For more information, visit www.mncenter.org