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AIM Development (USA), LLC v. City of Sartell

Court of Appeals of Minnesota

March 4, 2019

AIM Development (USA), LLC, Appellant,
v.
City of Sartell, Respondent.

          Stearns County District Court File No. 73-CV-16-8962

          Brian S. McCool, Joseph J. Cassioppi, Jonathan P. Baker, Fredrikson & Byron, P.A., Minneapolis, Minnesota (for appellant)

          John M. Baker, Aaron P. Knoll, Greene Espel, PLLP, Minneapolis, Minnesota (for respondent)

          Considered and decided by Rodenberg, Presiding Judge; Reilly, Judge; and Bratvold, Judge.

         SYLLABUS

         A landowner seeking to continue a prior permitted nonconforming use of property is bound by the uses allowed under the terms of the land-use permit in effect at the time of the property transfer to the landowner.

          OPINION

          REILLY, JUDGE

         Appellant-landowner challenges the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of respondent-city. Because appellant's right to continue the prior nonconforming use is determined by the uses allowed under the terms of the permit transferred to appellant, we affirm.

         FACTS

         Appellant AIM Development (USA), LLC (AIM) is a subsidiary of American Iron & Metal, specializing in the demolition of structures and metal recycling. AIM currently owns a former paper mill site and landfill in Sartell, Minnesota. Respondent City of Sartell (Sartell) is a municipality located primarily in Stearns County and is the local permitting authority for the land-use permit at issue in this case.

         In 1984, AIM's predecessor-in-title[1] received a permit from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (the MPCA) to construct and operate an industrial solid waste land disposal facility in Sartell. The landfill was used to deposit and store waste generated in conjunction with a paper mill, situated at a nearby, but detached location. The permit provided for a 70-acre site, within which 27 acres were engineered for ash disposal. The permit only authorized the deposit of non-hazardous industrial waste. The permittee was required to give advance notice to the MPCA of "alterations or additions" to the facility, or "activity that may result in noncompliance with . . . a condition of the permit." The permit was transferrable only with the "express written approval of the MPCA," and provided that "[a] person to whom the permit has been transferred shall comply with the conditions of the permit." The initial permit was valid for a period of five years.

         Facilities for the disposal of non-hazardous and nontoxic industrial solid waste, such as the facility approved in the 1984 permit, were considered a permitted use of land in I-1 Light Industrial district in Sartell from 1984 to 1989. During that time, Sartell's zoning ordinance defined "Industrial storage and disposal facility" as "[a] facility permitted by [the MPCA] . . . for the disposal of non-hazardous and nontoxic industrial solid waste." "Industrial solid waste" was defined as "[n]on-hazardous, nontoxic waste material resulting from an industrial operation" and explicitly excluded "garbage, refuse and other discarded materials, animal waste, fertilizer or solid or dissolved material from domestic sewage."

         Sartell amended its zoning ordinance in 1989. The amendment rendered industrial, non-hazardous landfills a non-permitted use of the land where the landfill was located.[2]While the landfill did not conform to the new zoning ordinance, it continued to operate as a legal nonconforming use in Sartell between 1989 and May 2012, collecting waste generated exclusively in conjunction with the operation of the paper mill. No other industrial waste from any other sources was accepted at the facility between 1984 and 2012.

         The MPCA reissued permits for the landfill in 1992, 1997, 2004 and 2009.[3] The 1997 permit reissuance application noted that the landfill was only permitted to accept wood yard waste, boiler ash, and scrubber cake from the paper mill. The application limited the use of the landfill as follows: "Public Access: The Solid Waste Storage and Disposal Facility will be used solely by [the permittee] and will not be made available to the public or municipal waste haulers." The application identified certain activities prohibited at the facility, including "[d]isposal of any wastes not identified in [the 1984 permit] without written approval from MPCA." The application noted that the landfill was "privately and solely owned" by AIM's predecessor-in-title, and "[n]o other industrial waste from any other generator is accepted at this facility." The permittee represented ...


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