An environmental organization’s lawsuit challenging Minneapolis’ Upper Harbor Terminal development project was dismissed Wednesday after a Hennepin County judge determined it was not filed in time.
Community Members for Environmental Justice (CMEJ) and its legal partner, the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy, sued the city on Oct. 28, 2021, claiming an environmental review of the Upper Harbor Terminal project was inadequate.
The Upper Harbor Terminal is 48 acres of city-owned land on the west bank of the Mississippi River. It is an obsolete barge loading and storage facility slated for demolition and redevelopment as multifamily housing, retail and office space, including a new 19-acre riverfront park that will connect north Minneapolis residents to the water for the first time in decades. Its centerpiece — and most controversial element — would be a large, publicly subsidized First Avenue concert venue. The entire project is estimated to cost $350 million.
Plaintiff CMEJ argued that the city’s alternative urban areawide review (AUAR) — a shorter method of environmental review than the environmental impact statement (EIS) — failed to account for socioeconomic impacts, health impacts on environmental justice communities, cumulative potential effects on air quality and climate-change impacts and mitigation.
But because the Minneapolis City Council approved the AUAR on Sept. 10, 2021 and a state rule considers that to be a final decision that may only be reviewed through a declaratory judgment action initiated within 30 days, Judge Lois R. Conroy determined that the environmental groups had missed their filing deadline by two weeks.
Plaintiffs had hoped to invoke a state law that provides a six-year statute of limitations for judicial review and EIS enforcement, but Conroy concluded the AUAR was guided by a separate set of rules.
“Today’s ruling does not mean the City has created a safe proposal for our community — we never even got to have the chance to have that discussion in court,” Community Members for Environmental Justice organizer Roxxanne O’Brien said in a statement. “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.”
The city did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday.