may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (1996).
IN COURT OF APPEALS
City of Chanhassen,
Thomas M. Scott and Matthew J. Foli, Campbell, Knutson, Scott & Fuchs, P.A., 317 Eagandale Office Center, 1380 Corporate Center Curve, Eagan, MN 55121 (for respondent)
Considered and decided by Crippen, Presiding Judge, Lansing, Judge, and Amundson, Judge.
Appellants John R. Fisher, et al., (developers), sued respondent City of Chanhassen (city) because the city denied the developers' planned unit development (PUD) application to amend the existing comprehensive plan for a 45-acre parcel. The city brought a motion in district court to affirm the city council's findings and to dismiss the developers' complaint. The district court granted the city's motion. The developers appeal alleging that the city council's denial was arbitrary or capricious. Because the city's decision to deny the developers' application was rationally based on factually sufficient findings, we affirm.
In May 1996, the developers submitted an application to the city to develop a 45-acre parcel into a PUD that combined 120-140 townhouses with an office/industrial use. Approximately 60% of the townhouses were considered affordable housing. Under the PUD, half of the parcel would be zoned office/industrial and the other half would be zoned medium density residential. The developers sought amendment of the comprehensive plan and rezoning of the property. The neighborhood opposed the developers' proposal.
Since 1991, the city's comprehensive plan designated the 45-acre parcel as office/industrial. In 1995, the city denied a different developer's comparable application because it was inconsistent with the comprehensive guide's office/industrial designation. In the present case, the city denied the developers' mixed-use PUD application. The city council's written findings of fact included the following reasons for denial: the parcel was designated office/industrial in 1991 because at that time there was only 95 acres of vacant industrial land and the city sought to balance land uses; the 1991 parcel designation as office/industrial occurred because it was adjacent to Chaska's expanding industrial area, and it was adjacent to two collector roadways, providing high levels of access; in 1995, a different applicant withdrew its application after the planning commission recommended denial and the city council tabled the matter; the original office/industrial designation was not a mistake and there has been no change in circumstances since that time which necessitates a redesignation of the property; and to allow a portion of the parcel to be rezoned for residential purposes would be inconsistent with the comprehensive plan.
The district court affirmed the city council's findings. This appeal followed.
In the present case, the developers' primary argument is whether the denial of a rezoning request is arbitrary or capricious if it is based solely or primarily on the proposed application's inconsistency with the existing comprehensive plan. The developers argue that mere inconsistency with a comprehensive plan is an insufficient basis for denial. Minnesota courts have decided this issue more than once. The supreme court specifically held that when a municipality refuses to rezone because it would be inconsistent with its comprehensive land use plan, that action does not, "without evidence to the contrary, constitute arbitrary or capricious action on the part of the village council." Sun Oil Co. v. Village of New Hope, 300 Minn. 326, 337, 220 N.W.2d 256, 263 (1974); see also City of Mounds View v. Johnson, 377 N.W.2d 476, 478 (Minn. App. 1985) (holding inconsistency with comprehensive plan is legally sufficient reason for denial) (citing Hubbard Broadcasting, Inc. v. City of Afton, 323 N.W.2d 757, 763 (Minn. 1982)), review denied (Minn. Jan. 23, 1986). Therefore, unless there is other evidence that the city's action was arbitrary, the developers' appeal must fail.
The developers suggest that the city's decision was arbitrary or capricious because it did not provide detailed, factual reasons to justify its denial of their request. See e.g., Honn v. City of Coon Rapids, 313 N.W.2d 409, 416 (Minn. 1981) (findings of fact must be more than conclusory statements); C.R. Investments, Inc. v. Village of Shoreview, 304 N.W.2d 320, 325 (Minn. 1981) (holding that municipality's vague reason for denying a townhouse proposal--traffic congestion--was not supported in fact when the board had specifically been told that the road in question could accommodate the increased traffic). The present case is distinguishable from Honn and C.R. Investments because in the present action, the city articulated a number of factually legitimate reasons to justify the application's denial.
For example, the city's tenth finding relies on the application's inconsistency with the comprehensive plan, which, as discussed above, is a legally sufficient reason for denial. Additionally, the city's fourth finding mentions that in 1991 the city's comprehensive plan designated the 45-acre parcel as office/industrial in an effort to augment an office/industrial land reserve of only 95 acres. The 45-acre parcel was added to the 95 acres to balance land uses and provide sufficient industrial/office space in the future. The developers do not dispute that a city must balance land use designations. The 1991 comprehensive plan's designation of the 45-acre parcel serves a rational city need and the city's reliance on it in its findings provides a rational decision based on factually sufficient findings.
Similarly, finding number five states that the 45-acre parcel was designated office/industrial so as to place it in an area where it would be adjacent to the neighboring municipality's increasing industrial expansion and also because the 45-acre parcel was adjacent to two collector roadways. Again, the utilization of existing infrastructure and the grouping of industrial areas provide legitimate factual reasons for the city's action. While the city was only required to provide one factually sufficient rational basis for its decision, the city went beyond that and provided a rational decision based on several factually sufficient findings. Accordingly, the city's decision cannot be classified as arbitrary or capricious.
Finally, the city's decision against amending the comprehensive plan precluded rezoning the parcel to allow the PUD because it constituted a use inconsistent with its comprehensive plan. See Minn. Stat. § 473.858, subd. 1 (1996) ("[A] local government unit shall not adopt any fiscal device or official control which is in conflict with its comprehensive plan * * *.").
The city's decision not to amend its comprehensive plan to accommodate the developers' application clearly was a rational decision based on factually sufficient findings. The developers have not met their burden of proving that the decision was arbitrary or capricious.
________________________________ Judge Roland C. Amundson