Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (1996).
COURT OF APPEALS
William J. Beck,
Barbara N. Beck,
Crow Wing County Board of Commissioners,
Filed October 7, 1997
Crow Wing County District Court
File No. C695508
William J. Beck, HC 83, Box 462, Pequot Lakes, MN 56472 (pro se appellant)
Donald F. Ryan, Crow Wing County Attorney, John J. Sausen, Asst. County Attorney, Crow Wing County Courthouse, 326 Laurel St., Brainerd, MN 56401 (for respondent)
Considered and decided by Kalitowski, Presiding Judge, Huspeni, Judge, and Amundson, Judge.
In September 1994, Robert Scharenbroich purchased a parcel of residential property on Pig Lake to expand his Black Pine Beach Resort. This parcel of property is adjacent to the permanent residence of appellant William J. Beck and his wife, Barbara N. Beck. Scharenbroich immediately petitioned for rezoning of the property from residential to waterfront commercial and for a conditional use permit to use the existing cabin as resort housing.
After holding a public hearing on Scharenbroich's petition, the Crow Wing County Planning Commission recommended granting the rezoning and the conditional use permit with a number of conditions: (1) upgrading the existing sewage system; (2) removing a nonconforming boat house and a nonconforming stairway; (3) restructuring a slope to prevent erosion; and (4) adding vegetative screening between the resort and appellant's property.
Appellant challenged the planning commission's decision at a public hearing before the Crow Wing County board of adjustments. After an on-site inspection of the property by the county administrator and two members of the planning commission, the board of adjustments recommended approving the rezoning and conditional use permit. In January 1995, respondent Crow Wing County Board of Commissioners gave final approval to the rezoning and conditional use permit by a vote of 3-2.
Appellant filed an appeal in the district court challenging respondent's decision to rezone. The court dismissed the appeal of the conditional use permit for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, but preserved the appeal of the rezoning decision for trial. After trial, the court upheld the rezoning decision and dismissed appellant's complaint. Appellant now challenges the trial court's decision.
D E C I S I O N
1. Standard of Review
Appellant asserts that the trial court, by using the rational basis test, applied the wrong standard of review in dismissing the rezoning appeal. Appellant contends that the correct standard of review is that set out in Honn v. City of Coon Rapids, 313 N.W.2d 409 (Minn. 1981):
The burden is on [landowners] to show either some mistake in the original zoning or that the character of the neighborhood has changed to such an extent no reasonable use can be made of the property in its current zoning classification.
Id. at 418 (citing Sun Oil Company v. Village of New Hope, 300 Minn. 326, 337, 220 N.W.2d 256, 261-62 (1974)). Appellant argues that this standard applies to any party, government or private, that attempts to rezone a piece of property. This argument, however, ignores other language in Honn:
[I]t should be remembered that the standard of review for legislative zoning decisions is narrow. As a legislative act, a zoning or rezoning classification must be upheld unless opponents prove that the classification is unsupported by any rational basis related to promoting the public health, safety, morals, or general welfare. * * * In other words, the test is a rational basis test.
Id. at 414-15 (citations and quotations omitted). It is well established that a municipality acts in a legislative capacity under its delegated police powers when it adopts or amends a zoning ordinance. Sun Oil, 300 Minn. at 333, 220 N.W.2d at 261.
The portion of Honn cited by appellant demonstrates the difficult standards that a private party must meet in order to force a municipal body to rezone. This standard, however, does not bind municipal bodies in the same way because they have broad discretion in making zoning decisions. See Sun Oil, 300 Minn. at 337, 220 N.W.2d at 263 ("The courts will reverse [zoning cases] only where there are no grounds for reasonable debate and where the action of the [municipal body] is arbitrary, capricious, discriminatory or illegal.").
Appellant's argument that respondent must demonstrate a substantial change in the neighborhood or a mistake in the original zoning in order to approve a rezoning decision is a misinterpretation of existing case law. The proper standard of review for a legislative zoning decision is the rational basis test applied by the trial court.
2. Rezoning Decision
In applying the rational basis test, courts must determine whether the decision was reasonable or whether it was arbitrary and capricious. Honn, 313 N.W.2d at 417. One valid reason is sufficient for a decision to satisfy the rational basis test. St. Croix Development, Inc. v. City of Apple Valley, 446 N.W.2d 392, 398 (Minn. App. 1989), review denied (Minn. Dec. 1, 1989).
In the present case, three county officials conducted on-site inspections of the property, and the planning commission, board of adjustments, and board of commissioners all conducted public hearings before final approval. In addition, members of the board of commissioners testified that they reviewed extensive evidence regarding the proposed rezoning before making the final decision.
Commissioner John Ferrari testified that because rezoning would eliminate nonconforming boat house use, upgrade the sewer system, and stabilize ground slope, rezoning was in the best interests of the county. In addition, Ferrari testified as to Crow Wing County's policy of promoting small resorts because of their positive effects on the tourism industry.
Commissioner Paul Thiede testified that after receiving extensive information from the other hearings, he decided that the welfare of the county would be served by correction of the nonconforming sewer system. Commissioner Arthur Wagner testified that he made the decision because, by limiting erosion, the property would be more ecologically sound. Commissioner Gilbert Dewes, who voted against the rezoning, testified that the majority had reasons for approving the rezoning even though he disagreed with its decision.
Respondent considered extensive evidence, including transcripts from the planning commission and board of adjustment meetings, before approving the rezoning. Respondent had a rational basis for reaching its decision because of Crow Wing County's policy favoring small resorts and the improvements that would be made to the property.
 Respondent filed a motion to strike appellant's reply brief asserting that the brief was not confined to new matters as required by Minn. R. Civ. App. P. 128.02, subd. 3, and that the brief's appendix included material not part of the trial court's record in violation of Minn. R. Civ. App. P. 110.01. In his reply brief, appellant factually distinguishes a case cited by respondent, and disputes respondent's assertion that the four conditions of the conditional use permit could be used to justify a zoning decision. Appellant's reply brief properly addresses respondent's arguments and does not violate Minn. R. Civ. App. P. 128.02, subd. 3. The appendix to the reply brief includes a chronological list of events of this case and a copy of a district court case. The chronological list is a response to respondent's statement of facts, and the district court case, though not part of the original record, is a matter of public record and therefore admissible. We deny respondent's motion to strike the reply brief and its appendix from the record.
 Appellant contends that respondent should not be able to use the conditions placed on the conditional use permit to justify the rezoning action. Appellant, however, cites no authority for this proposition. Even if this were the case, the county's policy of promoting tourism and small resorts would constitute "one valid reason" to support the rezoning action.