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White v. City of Elk River

Supreme Court of Minnesota

December 4, 2013

Lorraine White, Trustee for the Lorraine M. White Trust, et al., Appellants,
v.
City of Elk River, Respondent.

Office of Appellate Courts.

Katherine L. MacKinnon, Sarah J. Demers, Law Office of Katherine L. MacKinnon, PLLC, Saint Louis Park, Minnesota; and James G. Robin, Wayzata Law Group, LLC, Wayzata, Minnesota, for appellants.

George C. Hoff, Shelley M. Ryan, Hoff, Barry & Kozar, P.A., Eden Prairie, Minnesota, for respondent.

Jarod M. Bona, Ann A. Parmley, DLA Piper, LLP, Minneapolis, Minnesota; and Luke A. Wake, National Federation of Independent Business Small Business Legal Center, Washington, D.C., for amici curiae National Federation of Independent Business Small Business Legal Center and Minnesota Vacation Rental Association.

Susan L. Naughton, League of Minnesota Cities, Saint Paul, Minnesota, for amicus curiae League of Minnesota Cities.

SYLLABUS

1. A municipality may terminate a nonconforming use of land in accordance with Minn. Stat. § 462.357, subds. 1d-1e (2012) or Minn. Stat. § 465.01 (2012). But a municipality lacks the authority to terminate a nonconforming use by requiring the property owner to obtain a conditional-use permit to continue the use and then revoking the conditional-use permit. Respondent therefore lacked the authority to terminate appellants' nonconforming use by revoking the conditional-use permit.

2. Respondent has the authority to require appellants to obtain an interim-use permit before replacing the destroyed accessory building and resuming its regulated use.

OPINION

WRIGHT, Justice.

In this zoning dispute, appellant Wapiti Park Campgrounds, Inc., owned by appellant Lorraine White, Trustee for the Lorraine M. White Trust, operates a campground on land in respondent City of Elk River. After Wapiti Park began operating the campground, the City enacted a series of zoning ordinances regulating use of the land—first rendering campgrounds a non-permitted use, then allowing campgrounds as a conditional use subject to a conditional-use permit, and finally removing campgrounds as either a conditional or permitted use. While campgrounds were allowed as a conditional use, Wapiti Park obtained a conditional-use permit from the City. When Wapiti Park later violated the conditions of the conditional-use permit, the City revoked the permit and asserted that Wapiti Park was no longer authorized to operate the campground. Wapiti Park sued the City. Ruling on cross-motions for summary judgment, the district court concluded 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. We subsequently granted review to address two issues: a municipality's authority to terminate a nonconforming use of land by revoking a conditional-use permit, and a municipality's authority to require an interim-use permit before approving replacement of a destroyed accessory building and resumption of the regulated use. For the reasons that follow, we reverse and remand.

I.

Wapiti Park operates a campground on approximately 52 acres of land in the City of Elk River. When Wapiti Park opened the campground in 1973, no zoning ordinance regulated use of the land. In 1980, the City enacted a zoning ordinance that rendered campgrounds a non-permitted use in the district where Wapiti Park was located. Wapiti Park did not conform to the new zoning ordinance. Rather, its lawful use of the land as a campground before the City enacted the ordinance allowed it to continue operating the campground as a legal, nonconforming use.[1]

In 1983, the City amended the zoning ordinance to allow campgrounds as a conditional use in Wapiti Park's district. Still a nonconforming use, Wapiti Park could have continued to operate the campground without a conditional-use permit. But Wapiti Park sought several licenses from the City, including a liquor license, and subsequently applied for and was granted a conditional-use permit in 1984. The conditional-use permit imposed nine conditions on Wapiti Park's operation of the campground. To address concerns that people were residing permanently at Wapiti Park, one of the conditions prohibited "permanent units for rental purposes" and required "wheels [to] remain on vehicles parked in the campground." Four years later, in 1988, the City amended the zoning ordinance to remove campgrounds as either a conditional or permitted use.

Wapiti Park originally had one building, which contained an office, bar, laundry, restroom, and gathering space for campers. The building was completely destroyed by fire in 1999. In 2000, Wapiti Park sought to replace the building. Before issuing a construction permit and allowing resumption of the use of the building, however, the City required Wapiti Park to apply for an interim-use permit because the building was an accessory structure to the nonconforming use as a campground. The City approved an interim-use permit that was valid for ten years or until the property was redeveloped or sold. After obtaining the permit, Wapiti Park constructed the replacement building.

When the interim-use permit expired in 2010, Wapiti Park requested renewal of the permit to continue service at the replacement building. The City approved the renewal request for the interim-use permit, subject to compliance with numerous conditions, including those set forth in the 1984 conditional-use permit. The City later inspected Wapiti Park and discovered that many individuals "consider[ed] it their permanent residence" and that "there [were] several . . . vehicles without wheels within the campground." The City determined that this permanent occupancy violated the conditions of the conditional-use permit and posed a "threat to the public health, safety, morals, comfort, convenience, and general welfare" of the City's residents.[2]

The City gave Wapiti Park several months to comply with the conditions. When Wapiti Park failed to do so, the City adopted resolutions denying renewal of the interim-use permit for the replacement building and revoking the conditional-use permit for the campground.

Subsequently, Wapiti Park sued the City, seeking declarations that its operation of the campground was a nonconforming use; that it did not need to obtain the conditional-use permit to continue that use; that the conditional-use permit was no longer in effect and enforceable against it; and that, even if the campground had not been a nonconforming use, the City's revocation of the permit was unreasonable and arbitrary. Wapiti Park also sought a declaration that it had a right in 2000 to replace the original building and resume its use without obtaining the interim-use permit because the building was an accessory to the campground and the value of its destruction was less than 50 percent of the ...


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