This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2004).
IN COURT OF APPEALS
In the Matter of Clayton & Theresa Skretvedt's
Application for Preliminary Plat Approval
Reversed and remanded
Gerald W. Von Korff, Rinke-Noonan,
Michael J. Ford, John H. Wenker, Quinlivan & Hughes, P.A., P.O. Box 1008, St. Cloud, MN 56302 (for respondent Morrison County)
Considered and decided by Minge, Presiding Judge; Halbrooks, Judge; and Parker, Judge.*
Relators appeal the denial of their preliminary plat application. Because the plat proposed a permitted use and complied with the land use control ordinance and because the principles in the comprehensive plan that were relied upon by the Morrison County Board of Commissioners were not actual limits on use, the Board’s denial for incompatibility of land uses and violation of the comprehensive plan was arbitrary and capricious. We reverse and remand to the Board for approval of the preliminary plat.
Relators Clayton and Theresa Skretvedt, Richard and Mary Porwoll, and Weston Stradtman bring this certiorari appeal from the Morrison County Board of Commissioners’ (Board) denial of their preliminary plat application. On September 26, 2005, the Morrison County Planning Commission (Commission) considered relators’ application at a public hearing. After a presentation of the application and testimony from neighbors, the Commission voted to deny approval of the preliminary plat. On October 4, 2005, the Board considered the Commission’s recommendation, adopted the Commission’s findings, and denied the application. Relators challenge this determination.
Skretvedt and Porwoll own an 84-acre tract of land in
relators’ property is not currently used for agricultural endeavors; rather, it
is a pine grove. However, the property
is located adjacent to a number of active agricultural enterprises. A large poultry operation is approximately
one-half mile away. Nearby is a potato
farm, which uses an early morning aerial-spraying during the growing season, and
operates a comprehensive irrigation system with numerous center pivots. Of the 22 property owners notified of the
proposed development, two came to testify at the public hearing, as did the
The Commission voted to deny the preliminary plat because members felt that the application was not in conformity with the goals or spirit of the comprehensive plan and would be an incompatible use. The Board considered the application at its next meeting and adopted the findings of the Commission. This certiorari appeal followed.
issue in this case is whether the Board arbitrarily and capriciously denied
relators’ application for preliminary plat approval where the plat application
proposed a permitted use. “A court
issues a writ of certiorari ‘to review the proceedings of a tribunal exercising
judicial or quasi-judicial functions.’” In re Application of Merritt, 537 N.W.2d
289, 290 (Minn. App. 1995) (quoting Honn
v. City of Coon Rapids, 313 N.W.2d 409, 414 (
land use decisions must have a rational basis.
I. Role of the Comprehensive Plan and Official Controls
comprehensive plan contains objectives, policies, standards, and programs to
guide public and private land use. Minn.
Stat. § 473.859, subd. 1 (2004). Zoning
ordinances execute the policies and goals of the comprehensive plan. See
Minn. Stat. § 462.357, subd. 1 (2004).
A municipality should not adopt zoning in conflict with its
comprehensive plan, and a zoning ordinance that conflicts with a comprehensive
plan should be amended. Minn. Stat. § 473.865, subds. 2, 3 (2004). The
Minnesota Supreme Court has characterized this as “the statutory priority of
comprehensive plans over zoning ordinances.”
Mendota Golf, LLP v. City of
Morrison County Comprehensive Plan acknowledges that
II. Bases for Denial of Preliminary Plat
[W]hen a city designates a specific use as permissible in a particular zone or district, the city has exercised its discretion and determined that the permitted use is consistent with the public health, safety, and general welfare and consonant with the goals of its comprehensive plan. Until the district is rezoned or the zoning ordinance is either amended or successfully challenged, that determination is conclusive.
Estates Residents Ass’n v. City of
When it comes to reviewing an application for a permitted use, the local government’s review is limited to determining whether the application conforms to the technical requirements of the ordinance, including whether the preliminary plat has the correct setbacks and open-space requirements. Chanhassen Estates, 342 N.W.2d at 340 (stating that “review of an application for a permitted use need go only to the applicant’s compliance with the specific” standards and requirements of the ordinance). “Subject to such compliance, approval of a permitted use follows as a matter of right.” Chase v. City of Minneapolis, 401 N.W.2d 408, 412 (Minn. App. 1987) (quotation omitted).
court has considered a case with remarkably similar facts. See PTL,
656 N.W.2d at 569-70. In PTL, the Chisago County Board of
Commissioners considered an application for preliminary plat for five-acre lots
for single-family residences located in a district zoned agricultural.
PTL, we reversed the board’s
decision, holding that the board exceeded its authority in denying PTL’s
application for preliminary plat approval because it proposed a permitted use
that conformed to all regulatory standards.
Here, the record indicates that the preliminary plat conformed to the technical requirements of the land use and subdivision ordinances. The reasons for denying approval are similar to those found to be insufficient as a matter of law in PTL. The Board denied relators’ preliminary plat for four reasons: the proposed plat was not in harmony with the intent of the comprehensive plan, it constituted “spot development,” it was in conflict with surrounding land uses, and it was not supported by the Bellevue Town Board. At oral argument the county noted that it no longer considers the development to constitute spot development. Therefore, we only consider the other three bases for denial.
First, with respect to the intent of the comprehensive plan, we note that the subdivision regulations are intended to provide for development of land within the county’s comprehensive plan. The plan is more general; it promotes the health, safety, and general welfare of the county’s inhabitants. Such language does not give the comprehensive plan regulatory effect such that it may be a basis for preliminary plat denial. See id. at 574-76. Its goals and policies are too vague and subjective to provide an objective, rational basis for denial or for review. Here, the record indicates that the Board was advised that it could deny the plat even though it complied with the zoning standards if it believed the plat did not contribute to the general health, welfare, and good of the community. This reliance on the comprehensive plan is too vague and subjective and not an acceptable basis for rejecting a permitted use.
second basis for denial is that relators’ residential development conflicts
with the surrounding agricultural use.
The record indicates that there was a large poultry operation one-half
mile away. However, the
Finally, the Board considered the opposition of the township. Although certainly of interest, in this appeal the Board does not claim that the position of the township constitutes an adequate, independent basis for denial of plat approval. The record indicates that the county attorney recognized this in advising the Board at an earlier meeting.
court recognizes that by law the county board has authority to regulate land
use by its zoning ordinance. See Minn. Stat. § 394.21, subd. 1
We are mindful of the demands of land-use management. It is certainly proper for the board of commissioners to consider aesthetics, historical uses of the land, and the public cost of providing services for a given land use. But these considerations must be reflected with sufficient specificity in the land-use ordinances. This decision does not preclude future revision of the zoning and subdivision ordinances to address these considerations.
PTL, 656 N.W.2d at 575-76 (emphasis added).
In sum, we conclude the Board’s denial of the plat lacks a rational basis and is arbitrary and capricious, and we therefore reverse the decision of the Board and remand with an order to approve relators’ preliminary plat.
Reversed and remanded.
* Retired judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals, serving by appointment pursuant to Minn. Const. art. VI, § 10.
 The PTL
opinion is limited to permitted uses, but the opinion does recognize that
statements of purpose, as well as provisions of the comprehensive plan, are
permissible bases for denial where the board has greater discretion, such as
when the board considers applications for rezoning or conditional use