This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (1998).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
Sterling Ventures, Inc.,
Scott County Board of Commissioners,
Filed November 7, 2000
Scott County Board of Commissioners
Michael J. Patera, 2905 East Hennepin Avenue, Suite 10, 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 Stoneburner, Presiding Judge, Foley, Judge, and Mulally, Judge.**
U N P U B L I S H E D O P I N I O N
On August 10, 1999, respondent Scott County Board of Commissioners (county board) denied the application of relator Sterling Ventures, Inc. (Sterling) for a conditional use permit (CUP) to store polypropylene piping on a vacant lot adjacent to several of its developed lots. Sterling sought review. This court reversed the denial of Sterling’s CUP application and remanded. See Sterling Ventures, Inc v. Scott County Bd. Of Comm’rs, 2000 WL 228400, *2 (Minn. App. Feb. 29, 2000) (reversing county board’s denial and remanding for appropriate findings because, while reasons for board’s denial were unclear, board may have had a legally sufficient basis to deny CUP application). On remand, this court instructed the county board to “set forth in writing the reasons for its ultimate decisions, with specific reference to the relevant provisions of the controlling ordinances.” Id. at *2 (citation omitted).
Following a second hearing on the matter, the county board again denied Sterling’s CUP application on April 18, 2000. The county board set forth the following reasons for denial: (1) the use applied for is contrary to Scott County, Minn., Zoning Ordinance No. 7 § 1-7 (1998); (2) outside storage is not an authorized permitted or conditional principal use for property in the B-2 district pursuant to Scott County, Minn., Zoning Ordinance No. 3 § 6B-3 (1998); (3) Sterling failed to meet its burden of proof under Scott County, Minn., Zoning Ordinance No. 3 § 2-6 (1998); (4) Sterling attempted to circumvent the conditions of the original CUP by allowing a tenant to store merchandise on an outlot, despite being informed at the time the original CUPs were issued that no outside storage would be permitted; (5) the use is neither sufficiently compatible with the existing neighborhood nor sufficiently separated from a nearby residence under Scott County, Minn., Zoning Ordinance No. 3 § 2-6-1 (1998); (6) township officials do not want outside storage visible from Highway 169 and have been unsuccessful in obtaining Sterling’s cooperation in cleaning up the area surrounding its buildings on its adjacent lots; (7) screening outside storage of merchandise with an opaque chain link fence does not comply with zoning ordinance No. 3 § 2-6; and (8) granting the CUP would set the precedent of allowing the purchase of vacant lots for outside storage and make enforcement even more difficult than enforcing accessory outside storage. On May 16, Sterling petitioned this court for a writ of certiorari to review the county board’s decision.
When reviewing a county board’s decision on a writ of certiorari, this court’s review is limited to
whether the board had jurisdiction, whether the proceedings were fair and regular, and whether the board’s decision was unreasonable, oppressive, arbitrary, fraudulent, without evidentiary support, or based on an incorrect theory of law.
BECA of Alexandria, L.L.P. v. County of Douglas ex rel. Board of Commissioners, 607 N.W.2d 459, 462 (Minn. App. 2000) (quoting Radke v. St. Louis County Bd., 558 N.W.2d 282, 284 (Minn. App. 1997)).
When reviewing the denial of a permit, the court must determine if there is a rational basis for the municipality’s decision; this court may not substitute its judgment, if there is a legally sufficient reason for the decision, even if it would have reached a different conclusion.
Id. at 463 (citation omitted). County boards have broad discretion to grant or deny CUPs and a board’s decision will be upheld if it has a rational basis. Id.; SuperAmerica Group, Inc. v. City of Little Canada, 539 N.W.2d 264, 266 (Minn. App. 1995), review denied (Minn. Jan. 5, 1996).
Sterling contends the county board’s denial was erroneous as a matter of law because the proposed use of the outlot is consistent with zoning ordinances governing the county board’s review of CUP applications. We disagree. The Scott County Board of Commissioners is authorized to approve a CUP “upon a showing by the applicant that standards and criteria stated in the Ordinance will be satisfied.” Scott County, Minn., Zoning Ordinance No. 3 § 2-6-1 (1998).
Sterling applied for the CUP under Scott County, Minn., Zoning Ordinance No. 12 § 12-9 (1998), not for any of the conditional uses permitted under Scott County, Minn., Zoning Ordinance No. 3 § 6B-3 (1998). In nonresidential districts, section 12-9 allows the county to “require a Conditional Use Permit for any exterior storage if it is demonstrated that such storage is a hazard to the public health and safety.” Id. While Sterling argues that its proposed use is authorized by county zoning ordinances because it does not pose a public health or safety hazard, a county is not authorized to permit uses other than those specifically authorized by zoning ordinances. See Zylka v. City of Crystal, 283 Minn. 192, 195-96, 167 N.W.2d 45, 50 (1969) (explaining that special use permits only grant governing bodies discretion to allow property “to be used in a manner expressly authorized by the ordinance”).
Here, Sterling sought a CUP to allow it to use property located in the B-2 General Business District as an outdoor storage area. In addition to permitted agricultural, public utility, and railroad right-of-way uses, there are 17 conditional uses allowed in district B-2. Scott County, Minn., Zoning Ordinance No. 3 §§ 6B-2, 6B-3 (1998). While the ordinance lists “[p]ublic enclosed rental storage and garage” and “[w]holesaling, warehousing and storage operations” as conditional uses, outdoor storage, as a principal use of district B-2 property, is not listed. Scott County, Minn., Zoning Ordinance No. 3 § 6B-3 (1998). “Whenever, in any zoning district, a use is neither specifically permitted or conditional, the use shall be considered prohibited.” Scott County, Minn., Zoning Ordinance No. 3 § 3-1 (1998). Because outdoor storage is not a permitted or conditional principal use of district B-2 property, we conclude the county board did not err in interpreting its zoning ordinances to prohibit Sterling’s proposed use. See Chanhassen Estates Residents Ass’n v. City of Chanhassen, 342 N.W.2d 335, 340 (Minn. 1984) (suggesting reviewing court should give some weight to county board’s interpretation of county zoning ordinances).
Sterling contends its proposed use is consistent with zoning ordinances because there are numerous storage areas on other district B-2 property. Although Sterling correctly references several nearby businesses with outside storage areas, the record shows that each storage area is located on the same property as the business, authorized as a use incidental to the principal business use of the property, and permitted as a condition of a use or business permit. See Scott County, Minn., Zoning Ordinance No. 3 § 6B-4 (1998) (allowing “[u]ses incidental to the [property’s] principal uses such as * * * storage of merchandise, storage buildings and garages.”). Outdoor storage, unassociated with the principal use or business of the property, is not an authorized accessory use for district B-2 property.
Therefore, Sterling’s proposed use is neither a permitted, conditional, or authorized accessory nor compatible with other uses of district B-2 property. Because no zoning ordinance expressly authorized Sterling’s proposed use, the county board had a legally sufficient reason and rational basis for denying the CUP application. See Scott County, Minn., Zoning Ordinance No. 3 § 3-1 (prohibiting any use that is not specifically permitted or conditional). “[A] court should not interfere with a municipal zoning decision that has a ‘rational basis’ or is ‘reasonably debatable.’” R.A. Putnam & Assoc., Inc. v. City of Mendota Heights, 510 N.W.2d 264, 267-68 (Minn. App. 1994), review denied (Minn. Mar. 15, 1994) (citation omitted); see BECA of Alexandria, 607 N.W.2d at 463 (stating “this court may not substitute its judgment, if there is a legally sufficient reason for the decision, even if it would have reached a different conclusion”).
Sterling contends there is insufficient evidence to support the purported reasons for the county board’s denial of its CUP application. We disagree. In a challenge to a quasi-judicial decision made by a government body not subject to the Administrative Procedures Act, this court reviews the factual basis for the decision to determine whether evidence supports it. Molnar, 568 N.W.2d at 181.
While the record shows Sterling was informed at the time its original CUPs were issued that its property designs did not allow outside storage, it has (1) failed to comply with conditions of its existing CUPs; (2) failed to plan for adequate storage on adjacent property it leased; (3) stated it did not intend to lease to tenants requiring outside storage; (4) allowed its tenant to store piping outside without a CUP, contrary to conditions of the existing CUP; and (5) not cooperated with official requests to clean up the outdoor storage on the outlot. Therefore, evidence supports the county board’s findings regarding Sterling’s knowledge of and noncompliance with land use limitations and attempts to circumvent existing CUP conditions. In addition, testimony by county planning staff regarding Scott County’s intention to require new outside storage adjacent to Highway 169 to be screened by buildings to improve the appearance of the roadway further supports the finding that Sterling’s proposed use is unsightly and will hinder orderly and harmonious development.
As previously discussed, there is also legal and evidentiary support for the county board’s finding that Sterling’s proposed use is incompatible with the existing neighborhood and inconsistent with the purposes of county zoning ordinances and the authorized uses of district B-2 property. While Sterling correctly notes that several nearby businesses have outside storage areas, zoning ordinances authorize such storage because it is associated with the principal business use of each property. See Scott County, Minn., Zoning Ordinance No. 3 § 6B-4 (1998) (allowing storage and loading areas incidental to principal business use of property). Outside storage on an outlot not associated with a principal business on the property is not a permitted, conditional, or accessory use under Scott County, Minn., Zoning Ordinance No. 3 §§ 6B-2, 6B-3, 6B-4 (1998).
The record also shows that township and county officials had difficulty enforcing ordinances regarding existing outside accessory storage. Evidence supports the finding that allowing outdoor storage would exacerbate existing enforcement problems. In summary, the county board had sufficient evidentiary support for each of the reasons set forth in its decision.
Sterling also contends that the county board arbitrarily denied Sterling’s CUP application by failing to explain rationally its decision and ignoring record evidence and the legal standards governing CUP applications. A county has broad discretionary authority to deny a CUP application. BECA of Alexandria, 607 N.W.2d at 463. Denial of a land use request is not arbitrary when at least one of the reasons given for the denial satisfies the rational basis test. Trisko v. City of Waite Park, 566 N.W.2d 349, 352 (Minn. App. 1997), review denied (Minn. Sept. 25, 1997).
Sterling contends the county board denied the CUP application without a rational explanation. We are mindful that this case was expressly remanded to the county board to “set forth in writing the reasons for its ultimate decision, with specific reference to the relevant provisions of the controlling ordinances.” Sterling Ventures, 2000 WL 228400, at *2 (citation omitted). Because the county board complied fully with this court’s remand instructions, we find no error.
Sterling also argues the county board’s decision was arbitrarily based on a “selective, disjointed and overly restrictive, if not blatant misstatement, of its own ordinances.” As previously discussed, the county board’s reasons for denying Sterling’s CUP application were proper statements of the law, reasonably supported by the evidence, and rationally related to Scott County’s zoning authority and objectives. Accordingly, we conclude that the county board’s denial of the CUP application was not arbitrary.