This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2006).
IN COURT OF APPEALS
Dennis Winkelman, et al.,
Stearns County District Court
File No. C4-05-4483
Paul A. Jeddeloh, Gwen M. Anderson, Jeddeloh & Snyder, P.A., 803 West St. Germain Street, St. Cloud, MN 56301 (for appellants)
Thomas P. Carlson, Carlson &
Considered and decided by Hudson, Presiding Judge; Randall, Judge; and Wright, Judge.
U N P U B L I S H E D O P I N I O N
On appeal from a summary judgment for respondent-county in a declaratory judgment action in which appellants asked the district court to rule certain provisions of the county’s amended zoning ordinance unconstitutionally vague and subjective, and lacking a rational basis, appellants challenge the district court’s refusal to do so.
We conclude a reading of the ordinance in its entirety provides an adequate understanding of its intention. We affirm.
Appellants Dennis Winkelman and Brigid Murphy co-own approximately 37
acres of real property located in Agricultural District A-40 in
The county denied the CUP as requested but granted a permit on the condition that appellants build the house on the property’s northeast corner. Appellants appealed the county’s CUP denial to the Minnesota Court of Appeals and filed an appeal in Stearns County District Court challenging the constitutionality of the zoning ordinance. The district court granted summary judgment for the county.
D E C I S I O N
judgment is appropriate where there is no genuine issue as to any material fact
such that either party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.
constitutionality of an ordinance is a question of law” which this court
reviews de novo. State v. Castellano, 506 N.W.2d 641, 644 (Minn. App.
1993) (citations omitted). A municipal
ordinance is presumed constitutional. City
Appellants argue that the ordinance is void for vagueness because it is internally inconsistent and subjective. The district court found the ordinance constitutional, stating that “several provisions of the Ordinance clearly direct the reader back to the performance standards and the LESA score requirements. Therefore, all provisions of the Ordinance must be read in concert. . . .”
language in a statute does not make it vague.
State v. Christie, 506 N.W.2d
293, 301 (
section 9 of Stearns County Zoning Ordinance 209, Agricultural District A-40,
the ordinance directs a reader to the applicable sections. Appellants property is undisputedly located
in an A-40 district, and therefore, section 9.3 applies. The stated purpose of the A-40 district is
preservation of agricultural and rural character; however, construction of a
single-family dwelling is a permitted use.
Appellants argue that a property owner reading the ordinance cannot discern whether to apply for a building permit or a CUP. Constructing a single-family dwelling is a permitted use under section 9.3.2 but section 4.8, requiring a CUP in certain circumstances, is silent as to permitted uses. Section 4.8 addresses only conditional uses. A single-family dwelling is not listed in “the applicable primary district,” the A-40 district, as a conditional use; it is only listed as a permitted use.
Yes, the ordinance could be improved. We, like the district court, suggest the county clarify the zoning ordinance by either (1) adding single-family dwellings in the A-40 district with LESA scores of higher than 65 to the list of conditional uses in section 9.3.5, or (2) modifying section 4.8 to include both conditional and permitted uses. Creating and adopting good zoning ordinances are jobs for the municipality. See Odell v. City of Eagan, 348 N.W.2d 792, 796 (Minn. App. 1984) (“A municipality has broad discretion in zoning matters, particularly in enacting a zoning ordinance or rezoning.”).
When all relevant provisions are read together, the ordinance is not vague. As previously laid out, the ordinance cross-references and directs a reader to and through the relevant sections and subsections. The district court acknowledged the clarity provided by cross referencing: “[a]ny lack of clarity caused by the omission in Section 9.3.5 of ‘residential dwellings in Agricultural District 40 [et al.] with LESA scores higher than 65’ from the list of conditional uses, does not render the ordinance unconstitutionally vague, where, as here several cross references adequately clarify the point.” Because of the presumption of constitutionality, which is reinforced by reading the relevant provisions as a whole, the ordinance is not unconstitutionally vague. See Contos, 278 N.W.2d at 746.
that determining a LESA score is complex, subjective, and arbitrary. Appellants disagree with the rating system
because county employees are responsible for calculating a property’s LESA
score and therefore, the zoning of any particular property requiring a LESA
score. The district court found that
“the very purpose of the LESA score is to discourage arbitrary and discriminatory
enforcement.” The LESA system is a tool
assisting decision makers in accomplishing the county’s goal of promoting
“agricultural preservation” and management of “non-farm rural residential
that the zoning ordinance, in requiring the determination of a LESA score,
permits the county to circumvent rezoning requirements by causing a permitted
use to become a conditional use. “[I]t
is not the function of the courts to interfere with the legislative discretion
on [zoning matters].” State ex rel. Howard v.
contend that the ordinance should be construed in favor of the landowner. Normally, this is an argument made when
challenging the interpretation of an ordinance.
See Frank’s Nursery Sales, Inc. v.
City of Roseville, 295 N.W.2d 604, 608-09 (
Appellants argue that the ordinance fails to effectuate its (alleged) underlying policy. Appellants assert that granting a building permit, as requested, would have been consistent with the policy established in section 9.3.1 of approving single-family dwellings within the A-40 district.
court concluded that “Stearns County Ordinance 209 is rationally related to a
legitimate governmental purpose and is related to promoting the public health,
safety, moral or general welfare and is therefore valid.” The A-40 District seeks to preserve the
agricultural and rural character of its land, as does the LESA system.
 This court affirmed the Stearns County CUP
conditioned on appellants building the single-family dwelling in the northeast
corner of the property. Winkelman v.
 “Permitted use” is defined as “[a] use which may be
lawfully established in a particular district or districts, provided it
conforms with all requirements and performance standards (if any) of such