A state appeals court panel has affirmed the city of St. Paul’s decision that a more detailed environmental review is not needed to proceed with the demolition and rebuild of the historic Hamline-Midway Library.

In the 16-page ruling filed Monday, the panel of three judges agreed that an Environmental Impact Statement, or EIS, is not required and that the city’s decision is not “arbitrary and capricious or unsupported by substantial evidence,” as a coalition of neighborhood residents and historic preservationists contended.

The appeals court panel concluded the city took “a hard look” at the adverse impact of a demolition and “appropriately considered and reasonably” relied on mitigation measures recommended by the State Historic Preservation Office. The city also “genuinely engaged in reasoned decision-making,” the ruling said.

In a written statement, Mayor Melvin Carter said the appellate court’s decision “is a positive step forward. … We remain committed to the vision of a modern, accessible, one-story Hamline-Midway Library that will benefit families and residents for generations to come.”

In a separate matter, a trial was held in Ramsey County District Court last month over a lawsuit filed by the coalition, Renovate 1558, against the city and St. Paul Public Library to stop demolition of the library, which was shuttered in May 2023. Judge Stephen Smith’s decision is expected before the end of the year.

Two years ago, when the city announced plans to demolish the library at building at 1558 W. Minnehaha Ave. and build a new one on the site, the coalition objected. They successfully petitioned for the library, which was built in 1930, to be added to the National Register of Historic Places, and asked the state to require an environmental review of the project known as an Environmental Assessment Worksheet, or EAW.

The city was designated the responsible government unit to conduct the EAW review of its own plans, from stormwater and zoning to historic resources in and around the site. In September, following a 30-day public comment period, the city found that an EIS, which gives a more intense level of scrutiny, is not necessary.

“The record demonstrates that implementation of this Project does not have the potential for significant environmental effects, and that any adverse effects associated with this Project can be mitigated through ongoing public regulatory authority and permitting,” the city wrote in a notice of its decision.

The coalition then petitioned the court of appeals to review the city’s decision, arguing it failed to consider greenhouse-gas emissions associated with demolition, among other issues.

They challenged the city’s use of mitigation measures recommended by the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) — specifically, anticipated environmental impact on “historic resources” stemming from the project.

In its ruling, the appellate court wrote that for properties listed on the National Register of Historic Places, “there appears to be no more closely related state agency” than SHPO. “However, even assuming without deciding that SHPO itself is not an ‘ongoing public regulatory authority,’ the city is,” the ruling said.

The appeals court panel concluded that although the city did not include specific information in the EAW regarding greenhouse-gas emissions stemming from a demolition, the document outlined that the project as a whole would “work to implement any applicable state or local GHG goals as required.”

The appeals court panel said they are not convinced that the city took “the path of least resistance to demolish the library.”

“Instead, the record reflects that, as required by (the Minnesota Environmental Policy Act), the city appropriately considered the factors outlined under (state statute) to determine that the decided-upon project would not have the potential for significant environmental effects,” the ruling said.

Tom Goldstein, a spokesman for the preservation group and one of its co-founders, said he’s not surprised by appellate court’s decision, “as the standard of review is generally deferential to a city’s conclusion on the necessity of an EIS for a project like the proposed Hamline Library rebuild/renovation.”

However, he said had they not pursued an appeal, it might have “negatively impacted our ability to bring forward” their lawsuit that claims the city of St. Paul and the St. Paul Public Library would violate the Minnesota Environmental Rights Act with a demolition of the library.