Stenehjem, ex rel. v. Crosslands, Inc.

20090199 Wayne Stenehjem, Attorney General,
ex rel., State of North Dakota, Petitioner and Appellant
Crosslands, Inc., Respondent and Appellee

Appeal from: District Court, Southeast Judicial District, Griggs County
Judge James M. Bekken
Nature of Action: Real Property
Appellant: Charles M. Carvell , Att. General Office
Appellee: C Nicholas Vogel
Term: 12/2009   Argument: 12/01/2009
ND cite: 2010 ND 91
NW cite: 782 N.W.2d 632

Listen to recording of oral argument in MP3 format

Issues: Appellant's Statement of the Issues:
1.What is agricultural land under the corporate farming law? More specifically, does the land here constitute agricultural land, the land having been used predominantly for agriculture when purchased but that did contain wetlands and, now, restored wetlands? Also, does evaluating agricultural land status require a soil analysis for erosion potential and crop productivity?
2.Is the corporate farming law's "business purpose exception"-which exempts acquisitions of agricultural land adjacent and ancillary to non-agricultural land-available to conservation corporations?

Appellee's Statement of the Issues:
Crosslands wishes to restate the issues on appeal as follows:
Two preliminary issues that were discussed by the State in its brief (see State's Brief, pp. 13-14), but not specifically listed as separate issues on appeal in its Brief involve (1) the scope of the terms "farmland" and "ranchland" for purposes of the corporate farming laws, and (2) the appropriate standard of review for the two issues that the State listed in its Notice of Appeal. These preliminary issues can be stated as follows:
1. Does the Section 10-06.1-10 prohibition against the acquisition by nonprofit corporations of "farmland or ranchland" in North Dakota encompass less than all rural land in North Dakota and thereby still allows a nonprofit to acquire or retain certain tracts of rural real estate that are neither ranchland nor farmland?
2. What is the proper standard of review for an appeal from Judge Bekken's findings (a) that the large and medium sized wetland areas in Sections 10 and 11 are neither farmland nor ranchland for purposes of Section 10-06.1-10 of the North Dakota Century Code, and (b) that portions of the farmland adjacent to the wetlands that Crosslands had acquired are for "uses supportive of or ancillary to..." those nonagricultural wetlands for purposes of Section 10-06.1-07 of the North Dakota Century Code?
The remaining issues can be restated more clearly as follows:
3. Was Judge Bekken's determination that Lake Fieberger and the large and medium sized permanent and semi-permanent wetlands in Sections 10 and 11 are neither farmland nor ranchland clearly erroneous?
4. Was Judge Bekken's determination that various small, largely nonproductive tracts of land adjacent to the nonagricultural lake and wetlands in Sections 10 and 11 are for uses supportive of and ancillary to Crosslands' purpose of providing suitable habitat for ducks and other wildfowl clearly erroneous?
5. Does the possibility that the Business Purpose Exception may allow future nonprofits to avoid some of the Section 10-06.1-10 prohibitions against acquiring farmland or ranchland require a reversal of Judge Bekken's decision in this case?

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Docket entries:
107/08/2009 NOTICE OF APPEAL: 07/07/2009
207/08/2009 ORDER FOR TRANSCRIPT: 07/07/2009
307/08/2009 ANNOUNCED DISQUALIFICATION: Kapsner, Carol Ronning
408/05/2009 RECORD ON APPEAL (2 vols) and Separates (Entry Nos. 43, 60 (transcript dated 2/23/07), 65, 67-71).
508/05/2009 DISK - TRA 02-23-09 (part of the ROA)
608/21/2009 TRANSCRIPT DATED MARCH 12, 2009, & C.O.S.
708/21/2009 DISK-TRA (3/12/09) E-MAILED
809/11/2009 Clerk's Supplemental Certificate of Record dated 9/10/09 (Entry Nos. 81-84).
909/30/2009 APPELLANT BRIEF & Addendum
1110/30/2009 APPELLEE BRIEF & Addendum
1210/30/2009 DISK - aeb (e-mailed)
1311/04/2009 Handwritten corrections were done by AT on copies of ATB.
1411/04/2009 DISK-Corrected ATB (e-mailed)
1611/16/2009 REPLY BRIEF
1711/16/2009 DISK - RYB (e-mailed)
1811/19/2009 SITTING WITH THE COURT: Haskell, Bruce B.
1911/30/2009 Request for Radio/TV Coverage (ND Public Radio, Bismarck Tribune, Associated Press) approved
2012/01/2009 APPEARANCES: Charles M. Carvell, Asst. Atty. Gen/C. Nicholas Vogel
2112/01/2009 ARGUED: Carvell/Vogel
2405/13/2010 UNANIMOUS OPINION: Sandstrom, Dale V.
2505/13/2010 Costs on appeal taxed in favor of appellant
2605/13/2010 Judgment Sent to Parties
2706/04/2010 MANDATE

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