This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. ß 480A.08, subd. 3 (1998).

STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
C8-99-1524

Sterling Ventures, Inc.,
Relator,

vs.

Scott County Board of Commissioners,
Respondent.

Filed February 29, 2000
Reversed and remanded
Harten, Judge

Scott County Board of Commissioners

Michael J. Patera, Michael J. Patera, Chartered, Suite 10, 2905 East Hennepin Avenue, Minneapolis, MN 55413 (for relator)

Thomas J. Harbinson, Scott County Attorney, Susan K. McNellis, Assistant County Attorney, Scott County Government Center, 200 West Fourth Avenue, Shakopee, MN 55379 (for respondent)

Considered and decided by Lansing, Presiding Judge, Davies, Judge, and Harten, Judge.

U N P U B L I S H E D   O P I N I O N

HARTEN, Judge

On appeal by certiorari, relator argues that respondent countyís denial of a conditional use permit (CUP) was arbitrary and capricious because the county board failed to make written findings, relator fully complied with the zoning ordinance standards for issuance of a CUP, and the boardís reasons for denying the CUP were not legally sufficient or supported by facts in the record. We conclude that the boardís denial of the CUP without written findings was error, and therefore reverse and remand to the board for written findings in accordance with law.

FACTS

A number of years ago, relator platted a parcel of property in Scott County, zoned for business, known as Emerald Park 2nd Addition. Relator subsequently received two conditional use permits (CUPs) to develop Lots 1, 2, and 3 on the land. The CUPs specifically provided that no outdoor storage was allowed. Relator built commercial office/warehouse buildings on the lots. Today, two lots remain undeveloped, one of which is Outlot A, located next to Lot 3.

Relator leased the building on Lot 3 to a tenant in need of outdoor storage. In 1999, relator applied for a CUP from the county to allow the tenant to use Outlot A for outdoor storage. Relator attended a meeting of the town board and presented a memorandum outlining his request for a CUP. The town board recommended denial of the CUP "because outside storage is not allowed on original CUP and other CUPs issued in township."

Relator then submitted a formal CUP application to the county. A hearing was held before the county planning commission (commission). The commission recommended denial of the CUP, adopting the recommendation of the township without further explanation.

Relator next submitted his CUP application to respondent Scott County Board of Commissioners (board). A hearing before the board was held on August 10, 1999, which culminated in the board voting to deny the CUP. The board expressed concerns about relatorís non-compliance with the CUPs on Lots 1, 2, and 3, the visibility of the outside storage from Highway 169, and the disallowance by county ordinance of outside storage on an outlot. The board made no written findings. This appeal followed.

D E C I S I O N

A county boardís denial of a CUP is reviewed by writ of certiorari to the court of appeals. Molnar v. County of Carver Bd. of Commírs, 568 N.W.2d 177, 180 (Minn. App. 1997). We consider whether the decision was "arbitrary, oppressive, unreasonable, fraudulent, under an erroneous theory of law, or without any evidence to support it." Id. at 181 (citing Dietz v. Dodge County, 487 N.W.2d 237, 239 (Minn. 1992)).

This court must assess the legal sufficiency and factual basis of the reasons for the boardís decision. Id. The reasons for denying a CUP must be reduced to writing in more than a conclusory fashion. Honn v. City of Coon Rapids, 313 N.W.2d 409, 416 (Minn. 1981). It is reversible error for a county board to deny a CUP without adequate findings. White Bear Rod and Gun Club v. City of Hugo, 388 N.W.2d 739, 742 (Minn. 1986).

It is undisputed that no formal findings of fact were made by the board. The board argues that its reasons for denying the CUP were enunciated and recorded at the board meeting. See Honn, 313 N.W.2d at 416 (not necessary to prepare formal findings of fact, but municipal body must, at a minimum, have the reasons for its decision recorded or reduced to writing in more than just a conclusory fashion). The record reveals that the board discussed (1) the aesthetic aspects of the proposed outdoor storage; (2) relatorís noncompliance with, and attempts to circumvent, the requirements of the CUPs issued for Lots 1, 2, and 3; (3) the boardís belief that outside storage on an outlot is not permitted by the county subdivision ordinance; and (4) the fact that nearby businesses utilizing outdoor storage are storing finished product rather than materials. The planning manager, apparently responsible for notifying CUP applicants of the boardís decisions, sent a written memorandum to relator stating that his CUP application had been denied because "[t]he outside storage * * * area is more visible from roads and adjacent properties than an area behind the building which should have been designed as part of the development of Lots 1, 2, and 3 of Sterling Ventures." On appeal, the board argues that it denied the CUP because the zoning ordinance and the land subdivision ordinance, when read together, prohibit outside storage on a vacant lot not associated with some business. It is, however, unclear to this court why the board actually denied the CUP application. See Kehr v. City of Roseville, 426 N.W.2d 233, 237 (Minn. App. 1988) (failure to provide findings inhibits effective judicial review), review denied (Minn. Sept. 16, 1988).

The board argues that, should this court find the reasons for its denial unclear, the matter should be remanded for findings. Relator argues that the absence of written findings by the board is itself a sufficient basis to order issuance of the requested CUP. While a decision-making bodyís failure to record any legally sufficient reason for its decision may make a prima facie showing of arbitrariness "inevitable," see Zylka v. City of Crystal, 283 Minn. 192, 198, 167 N.W.2d 45, 50 (1969), here we cannot say with confidence that the board did not have a legally sufficient basis for denying the CUP.

We reverse and remand to the board to prepare appropriate findings on relatorís CUP application. In the proceedings on remand, the board must set forth in writing the reasons for its ultimate decision, with specific reference to the relevant provisions of the controlling ordinances. See Earthburners, Inc. v. County of Carlton, 513 N.W.2d 460, 463 (Minn. 1994) ("[A]long with a clearly articulated rationale for its decision, specific reference to the local ordinance is essential to facilitate effective judicial review.").

Reversed and remanded.