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Attorneys of the Year: Rob A. Stefonowicz

Rob Stefonowicz led a Larkin Hoffman litigation team to a successful Minnesota Supreme Court ruling that has been widely hailed in the development and home-building industries. In that case, the court struck down a $1.4-million “infrastructure charge” that the city of Woodbury was requiring developer Martin Harstad to pay as a condition of approval of his proposed residential development.

“It’s a fee that developers and builders have often begrudgingly paid because otherwise their developments are held up,” Stefonowicz said. “Mr. Harstad was just unwilling to pay a fee that he believed, and we believed, was unlawful.”

Stefonowicz and his team filed suit in January 2016 and prevailed in the district court and at the Court of Appeals. In August, the Minnesota Supreme Court affirmed the lower courts, striking down the fee and holding that statutory cities do not have the authority under state law to condition development approval upon payment of fees for future road improvement projects.

According to Stefonowicz, similar unlawful “infrastructure” or “roadway” fees have been charged by other municipalities and improperly “drive up the cost to build” and the impact the affordability of homes.

The Harstad ruling marks the second major victory for Stefonowicz and his team in recent years. In 2015, the Larkin Hoffman team was successful in striking down the so-called “Sprinkler Rule,” which required all newly constructed single- and two-family homes over 4,500 square feet to include fire sprinklers.

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