Rainforest Cafe founder loses lawsuit over dock on Lake Minnetonka

Steven Schussler and his wife sued Minnetonka Beach over the municipal dock.
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The Schusslers' home, and to the south, the city-owned lane at the end of which a dock is place in the summer.

The Schusslers' home, and to the south, the city-owned lane at the end of which a dock is place in the summer.

The founder of the Rainforest Cafe has lost a lawsuit he brought against the City of Minnetonka Beach over the placement of a municipal dock near his Lake Minnetonka property.

Steven Schussler and his wife Sunhi Ryan-Schussler sued the city and the Lake Minnetonka Conservation District, arguing that the siting of the city lot prevented them from building their own dock and hindered their lake access.

The lawsuit noted that the unusual wedge-shape of the Schusslers' plot of land combined with the shallow water along their shoreline limits their options for building a dock that is long enough to reach navigable depth.

They argued that the city's dock is "disproportionately long" compared to the 41-feet of shoreline owned by the city, and extending at a 45-degree angle into the lake, it impacts their efforts to build their private dock due to its proximity to their own shoreline.

However on Thursday, Hennepin District Judge Thomas Fraser ruled in the city's favor.

The court ruling said that the Schusslers were well aware of the problem with the dock before buying the property and that they were "willing to take the fight on."

They discarded the dock sections that came with the property and pushed ahead with plans to build their own, 175-foot-long, three-boat dock.

Schussler intended to use the dock for storage of a jet ski he described as a "jet ski on steroids," a 31-foot Sea Ray Amberjack, and a 42-foot cruiser.

Since they bought the home, they'd kept their crafts moored at a home they own in Orono which has a dock and slips.

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A long battle over a dock

The dock on the city's land had initially extended south, cutting across the shoreline of the neighbor on the south side with their permission until 2007, when the neighbor withdrew permission.

The dock was then realigned to extend eastward onto the lake, lining up parallel with a 100-foot dock that had been installed by previous owners of the Schusslers' property to the north. 

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These thrice-removed owners also unsuccessfully sued, and sold the house in 2014 claiming the dock placement caused their home's valuation to dip by up to $1 million.

The next owner installed their own dock with a single slip, but said they couldn't moor their boat there due to the shallow water and the placement of the city dock.

They too sold, in 2016, with an unnamed owner taking over before the Schusslers bought the property in 2017.

Speaking to the Star Tribune, Schussler said they plan to take the case further, saying he always thought it might end up before the Minnesota Supreme Court.

You can find the court ruling here.

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