A district court has ruled against the owners of a Lake Minnetonka house who sued Minnetonka Beach to take down a municipal dock that juts into the lake in front of their property.
Steven Schussler, who created the Rainforest Cafe chain and other theme restaurants, and his wife, Sunhi Ryan-Schussler, sued the city along with the Lake Minnetonka Conservation District. They said the dock, extending at about a 45-degree angle from the shoreline, hinders their use of the lake and prevents them from building a dock for their own three boats.
But the dock extends from a public easement that runs along the Schusslers’ property, and Hennepin District Judge Thomas Fraser ruled that the city’s right to use the land supersedes that of the property owner.
Schussler said Wednesday that he is considering whether to take the case further.
“We always knew from Day One that we might have to go to the Supreme Court,” he said. “But in the meantime we’re moving on, and we just want everybody to have a fantastic summer.”
In his decision, Fraser wrote that the couple knew what they were getting into when they bought the lakeshore property.
“Plaintiffs knowingly bought a lot with certain limitations, especially given the number and size of the boats that plaintiffs wish to dock in front of their property,” the judge wrote.
Schussler has acknowledged as much but said he and his wife moved in hoping to work out a solution with the city or his neighbors. “I was buying a problem I thought I could fix,” Schussler said in April.
The 40-foot public easement that follows the edge of the Schusslers’ property into the lake was platted in the late 1800s as a “fire lane,” allowing fire trucks access to lake water for fighting blazes. Similar fire lanes and public easements surround the 14,500-acre lake, and a number have municipal docks built on them.
Officials with the city and the conservation district said the dock sits at an angle because the Schusslers’ property is angled, or pie-shaped — narrower at the shore than on the street side.
The couple said the dock poses a safety hazard for swimmers off their 110 feet of shoreline. But Fraser ruled that the proximity of the dock to swimmers is not unusual.
In an e-mailed statement, Paul Reuvers, a lawyer representing Minnetonka Beach, said city officials were “pleased with the well-reasoned … decision from the district court.”