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Brian S. McCool
Brian S. McCool

The POWER 30: Brian S. McCool

Fredrikson & Byron P.A.

The saga of Sartell illustrates the potential intensity of land use disputes. The unresolved case has made three appearances at the appellate courts, including a Supreme Court case in 2020.

In that case, AIM Development v. City of Sartell, the court said the owner of a facility for nonhazardous, nontoxic industrial waste that accepted waste from a single source may accept waste from additional sources without expanding its nonconforming-use rights. The question was whether a landfill that was created to accept waste from a paper factory could accept nonhazardous, nontoxic waste from another source after the paper factory was demolished. The Supreme Court said yes.

The attorney for the property owner, Brian McCool of Fredrikson & Byron, said the type of waste that went into the landfill was consistent with earlier use, and it didn’t matter that the source was different. The question was how closely the court was going to “zoom in” to define the use. But it zoomed out in a direction of flexibility in determining use. “It’s good news for nonconforming uses. There’s a lot of value that can be lost if you lose a right to a nonconforming use,” McCool said.

In the rest of his practice, McCool likes to work with project development from the sight of the first blade of grass on the property to the finish.

The best contractors and subcontractors work together and not in court, McCool said. Some projects may begin to use the “next tier” of experience and leadership and that may lead to more litigation, he said. Smaller projects may not get the best workers, experience and leadership, he said. Fights happen when people are working outside their ability, he said.

“When everybody is making money, they don’t stop to fight,” McCool added.