Randolph Township Can't Tack on $31,000 Fee to Property Tax Bill

Minnesota case law summary by Attorney Richard Clem: municipalities, collection of unpaid service charges.

Great Western Industrial Park, LLC, v. Randolph Township. MN municipalities, collection of unpaid service charges

Recovery Technology Solutions, LLC (RTS) had an option to buy some land in Randolph Township, Minnesota from Great Western Industrial Park, LLC. RTS planned to build a facility for recycling asphalt shingles, and applied to the township board for a conditional use permit. The board denied that application. It then sent RTS a letter stating that RTS should reimburse the township for the expenses incurred in the review of that application. Those expenses totalled over $31,000, including over $28,000 in legal and consulting fees. RTS objected, claiming that the expenses were unreasonable. No further action was taken to collect from RTS.

Instead, the township sent a letter to Great Western stating that it would certify these charges to the county auditor for inclusion in Great Western's property tax bill, pursuant to Minnesota Statute 366.012, and followed up by certifying those fees. Displeased by this action, Great Western brought a certiorari appeal to the Minnesota Court of Appeals.

The Court of Appeals began by looking at the statute, which authorized the board to certify unpaid charges only if the town "is authorized to impose a service charge." In other words, the appeals court concluded that this statute does not authorize any charges. It merely creates a method of collecting charges authorized by some other law.

While fees for a Conditional Use Permit might be charged, they must be authorized by ordinance. In this case, even if RTS had agreed to pay a fee, the large fee in this case was not set by any ordinance. Therefore, the appeals court agreed with Great Western and held that it was improper to add this fee to the tax bill.

No. A13-2142 (Minn. Ct. App. Sept. 8, 2014).

Please see the original opinion for the court's exact language.


Richard P. Clem is an attorney and continuing legal education (CLE) provider in Minnesota. He has been in private practice in the Twin Cities for 25 years. He has a J.D., cum laude, from Hamline University School of Law in St. Paul and a B.A. in History from the University of Minnesota. His reported cases include: Asociacion Nacional de Pescadores a Pequena Escala o Artesanales de Colombia v. Dow Quimica de Colombia, 988 F.2d 559, rehearing denied, 5 F.3d 530 (5th Cir. 1993), cert. denied, 510 U.S. 1041 (1994); LaMott v. Apple Valley Health Care Center, 465 N.W.2d 585 (Minn. Ct. App. 1991); Abo el Ela v. State, 468 N.W.2d 580 (Minn. Ct. App. 1991).

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