The drama continues, off screen, in the fight for the St. Michael movie theater.
The City of St. Michael is now being sued by Riverside Church after its decision not to approve an ordinance change allowing the purchase of the structure last fall. Court records show the motion suit was filed Monday, March 24 in Minneapolis District Court.
The St. Michael Planning Commission and St. Michael City Council both voted, unanimously, not to approve a zoning ordinance amendment request filed by Riverside Church and its attorneys in 2014. The city ruled on grounds the structure couldn’t accommodate traffic flows created by church services, and broke off negotiations with church attorneys when the church’s legal counsel determined St. Michael could not place limitations on the amendment request, such as building capacity limits and future intersection improvements (i.e. traffic controls), saying it was “unconstitutional.”
According to a report shared by City Attorney David Lenhardt at Tuesday’s regular meeting of the St. Michael City Council, Riverside has filed the church in Federal Court. The Crow River News reports the city council decided Tuesday (after a closed session) agreed to hire attorney George Hoff to represent the city, as recommended by the League of Minnesota Cities.
The theater was set to open as St. Michael Cinema in May or June, according to a social media site set up by the current owners. However, the newspaper reports the church has implied it’s attempting to enter into a new purchase agreement for the building.
The former purchase agreement arranged between the church and the building’s current owners – who own the Woodbury 10 Theater in that community – was contingent on the outcome of the ordinance request. Once that request was denied, the owners moved forward with a plan for St. Michael Cinema only weeks later.
Work has been done inside the building – including the placement of new theater seats, masonry work, painting, cleaning and general maintenance and repair. The owners had worked with city leaders on inspections and fire codes.
It’s unclear if that plan is now on hold pending the lawsuit.
North Wright County Today has attempted to contact the ownership group and the City of St. Michael regarding the issue and will update with any new information.