Justia Minnesota Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Zoning, Planning & Land Use
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The Supreme Court held that a letter contesting a notice of zoning violation was not a "request" as defined by Minn. Stat. 15.99, subd. (1)(c) and therefore did not entitle respondent property owners to the benefit of the automatic approval provision in Minn. Stat. 15.99, subd. (2)(a).The automatic approval provision requires agencies to, within sixty days, approve or deny a written zoning request. Failure to deny such a request within sixty days is deemed an approval of the request. Respondents received notice of a zoning violation from the City of Shorewood after installing a dock and contested the zoning violation in a written letter to the city planning commission. The City did not respond. Thereafter, Respondents were charged by criminal complaint with two misdemeanor violations of the city code. The district court granted Respondents' pretrial motion to dismiss, concluding that Respondents' letter was a "request" under Minn. Stat. 15.99, subd. 1(c), and therefore, Respondents' request for zoning action was automatically approved by operation of law. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the letter was not a "request" under the statute. View "State v. Sanschagrin" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals defining AIM Development, LLC's nonconforming-use rights on a property containing a facility for nonhazardous, non-toxic industrial waste based on the terms of a state permit in effect at the time that it purchased the property, holding that a property owner's nonconforming-use rights are defined by the uses lawfully existing at the time of the adverse zoning change.In 2013, AIM Development purchased the property containing the waste facility, which had operated as a nonconforming use since 1989. At issue was the scope of AIM Development's nonconforming-use rights and whether the waste facility may accept waste from more than one source. Based on the terms of a state permit in effect when AIM Development purchase the property the court of appeals determined that the facility was limited to accepting waste from a recently demolished paper mill. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the court of appeals erred in defining the scope of the nonconformity by the state permit; and (2) accepting waste from more than one source does not, standing alone, constitute an impermissible expansion of AIM Development's nonconforming-use rights. View "AIM Development (USA), LLC, Appellant, v. City of Sartell" on Justia Law

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In this challenge to a zoning ordinance prohibiting industrial mineral operations within Winona County the Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals affirming the order of the district granting summary judgment to the County on all of Minnesota Sands, LLC's claims, holding that the ordinance was constitutional.Minnesota Sands, a mining company, sought to mine and process silica sand in the County. Minnesota Sands sued the County requesting declaratory, injunctive, and monetary relief. The district court granted summary judgment to the County. The court of appeals affirmed, concluding that the ordinance did not violate the dormant Commerce Clause or work an unconstitutional taking of Minnesota Sands' property interests. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Minnesota Sands had standing to bring this case; (2) the County's ordinance did not violate the dormant Commerce Clause on its face, in purpose or in effect; and (3) Minnesota Sands' takings claims failed because the property interests it claimed were taken by the County had not yet accrued. View "Minnesota Sands, LLC v. County of Winona, Minnesota" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals affirming the judgment of the district court dismissing Appellants' action seeking judicial review of a zoning variance granted by the Town of Duluth to Charles and Carol Danielson-Bille (the Billes), holding that the Billes should have been joined as a necessary party under Minn. R. Civ. P. 19.01.The Billes sought to build a retirement home on Lake Superior. The Town of Duluth Board of Supervisors granted a zoning variance. In appealing the decision, Appellants properly served Duluth within the thirty-day appeal period set forth in the local Duluth ordinance that authorized judicial review of the zoning variance decision but failed to serve the Billes within the same thirty-day period. Duluth and the Billes filed motions to dismiss, asserting that service was improper. The district court dismissed Billes from the case because they had not been timely served and then dismissed the entire action with prejudice, determining that the Billes were a necessary and indispensable party under Rule 19.01 and that the action could not proceed without them. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the district court erred by dismissing the action rather than joining the Billes to the action under Rule 19.01. View "Schulz v. Town of Duluth" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals reversing the order of the district court vacating the order of the Chief Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) that approved an annexation of certain property by the City of Proctor, holding that an orderly annexation agreement does not limit the authority of non-parties to the agreement to annex by ordinance property subject to the agreement.The City of Duluth and Midway Township entered into an orderly annexation agreement pursuant to Minn. Stat. 414.0325 regarding designated property in Midway and governing future annexations of that property by Duluth. Later, the owners of some of the designated property petitioned Proctor, a non-party to the agreement, to annex their property by ordinance pursuant to Minn. Stat. 414.033. Proctor did so, enacting an ordinance to that effect. The Chief ALJ issued a decision ruling that Proctor's annexation by ordinance was valid. The district court vacated the ALJ's decision, holding that Minn. Stat. 414.0325(1)(e) prevents annexations-by-ordinance of property within a designated area. The court of appeals reversed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that orderly annexation agreements created under section 414.0325 do not prevent non-parties from annexing property by ordinance under section 414.033. View "In re Annexation of Certain Real Property to the City of Proctor from Midway Township" on Justia Law

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Two churches (the Churches) located in the City of Saint Paul were subject to a right-of-way assessment (ROW assessment) that the City assessed to nearly every owner of real property within the city limits to pay for public right-of-way maintenance services. The Churches appealed their 2011 ROW assessment, arguing that the charge was a tax and was not imposed uniformly upon the same class of property and that the assessed amount improperly exceeded the special benefit to the Churches’ properties. The district court upheld the assessments after applying a reasonableness test, concluding that the ROW was not a tax imposed under the City’s taxing power but was a fee imposed under the City’s police power and, therefore, was not subject to constitutional restrictions on taxation. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the ROW assessment was imposed as an exercise of the City’s taxing power rather than its police power; and (2) summary judgment was inappropriate because a genuine issue of material fact existed regarding the extent of special benefits to the Churches’ properties attributable to the right-of-way services. View "First Baptist Church of St. Paul v. City of St. Paul" on Justia Law

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In 2005, the City of Winona enacted the thirty-percent rule, which limits the number of lots on a block in certain areas of the City that are eligible for certification as rental properties. Appellants brought this action challenging the rental ordinance, claiming that the thirty-percent rule is a zoning law that exceeds the City’s power authorized by Minn. Stat. 462.357 and violates their equal protection and substantive due process rights. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the City, concluding that the ordinance is not unconstitutional and that the City had authority to enact it. The court of appeals affirmed. Appellants filed a petition for review. The Supreme Court dismissed the appeal for lack of jurisdiction, holding that Appellants' claims had become moot because, under the facts and circumstances of this case, the alleged harm to Appellants’ interests had ceased. View "Dean v. City of Winona" on Justia Law

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RDNT, LLC, which provided assisted living and skilled nursing services, owned a campus consisting of two buildings. RDNT submitted an application to the City of Bloomington for a conditional use permit, seeking to expand its services by adding a third building to the campus. The City Council denied RDNT’s application, giving four reasons for its decision. The district court reversed the denial of RDNT’s application, holding that the City misapplied certain standards, misrepresented the impact of certain studies, and ignored certain evidence. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that the City appropriately exercised its discretion. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the City’s decision was not unreasonable arbitrary or capricious, as the City based its decision on a legally and factually sufficient ground, and the City properly considered RDNT’s proposed traffic-mitigating conditions. View "RDNT, LLC v. City of Bloomington" on Justia Law

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Skyline Materials applied for a variance from the setback requirements of Houston County's zoning ordinance. The County granted the variance. Respondents, owners of property that was adjacent to the property owned by Skyline, sought to exercise their statutory right of appeal. The parties, however, disagreed as to the proper method of service. The district court concluded that Minn. R. Civ. P. 5.02, rather than Minn. R. Civ. P. 4.03, controlled, and therefore, the court had jurisdiction over Respondents' appeal. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Respondents were required to effect service pursuant to Rule 4.03, and because they did not do so, the district court lacked jurisdiction to hear their appeal. Remanded for dismissal. View "In re Application of Skyline Materials, Ltd. for Zoning Variance" on Justia Law

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Wapiti Park Campgrounds, Inc. operated a campground on land in the City of Elk River. The City enacted a series of zoning ordinances that first allowed campgrounds as a conditional use and then removed campgrounds as either a conditional or a permitted use. Wapiti Park obtained a conditional-use permit from the City while campgrounds were allowed as a conditional use. The City later revoked the conditional-use permit and asserted that Wapiti Park was no longer authorized to operate the campground. Wapiti Park filed this action against the City. The district court determined that Wapiti Park's operation of the campground was a nonconforming use that could not be terminated by revocation of the conditional-use permit. The court of appeals reversed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the City lacked the statutory authority to terminate Wapiti Park's nonconforming use as a campground by revoking the conditional-use permit; and (2) the City acted within its authority when it required Wapiti Park to obtain an interim-use permit before approving replacement of a destroyed accessory building and resumption of the regulated use. View "White v. City of Elk River" on Justia Law