This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (1998).


Gladys Erickson, et al.,


County of Blue Earth,

Filed April 6, 1999
Reversed, Remanded, and
Motion Granted in Part and Denied in Part
Davies, Judge

Blue Earth County Board of Commissioners

Scott V. Kelly, Farrish, Johnson & Maschka, P.O. Box 550, Mankato, MN 56002-0550 (for relators)

Scott T. Anderson, Jill M. Krummen, Ratwik, Roszak & Maloney, P.A., 300 Peavey Bldg., 730 Second Ave. S., Minneapolis, MN 55402 (for respondent)

Considered and decided by Peterson, Presiding Judge, Davies, Judge, and Halbrooks, Judge.

U N P U B L I S H E D   O P I N I O N


Relators challenge a condition respondent county imposed on the permit it issued for rebuilding a nonconforming seasonal cabin. Because of inadequate findings, we reverse and remand. Relators move to strike part of the record and we grant in part and deny in part.


In 1996, relators Gladys Erickson and Jerry Stenzel bought a lot on Duck Lake in Blue Earth County. For some years they had leased the lot and maintained a seasonal cabin on it. The cabin had a holding tank for waste water, as required by a condition on a repair permit issued by respondent County of Blue Earth in 1994.

After a May 1998 storm destroyed the cabin, relators applied for a variance and a conditional use permit to rebuild. At the County Board of Commissioners (Board) hearing on July 28, 1998, the Board discussed relevant zoning regulations and granted the permit, but conditioned the permit on the cabin being connected to municipal water and sewage service. Relators contend the condition is, in effect, a denial because municipal water is not presently available. The Board denied relators' contention that they should be allowed to continue to use the existing holding tank for waste water until sewer service becomes available.[1] The Board made findings supporting the permit and indicating that it was granted, but the Board made no findings relating to the condition. Relators appeal the Board action by writ of certiorari.



Relators moved to strike documents from the record that were not part of the agenda packet of the July 28 Board meeting. We grant this motion in part and deny in part. The record on appeal of a county board's zoning decision may include documents that were not physically submitted at the hearing if the documents were referred to or testified to at the hearing and had been received by the board previously. Barton Contracting Co. v. City of Afton, 268 N.W.2d 712, 716 (Minn. 1978).

We strike documents 1, 2, 9, 10, 11, 39, and 40 because they were not submitted or referred to at the Board meeting and only serve to illustrate that respondent had a policy to improve water quality on Duck Lake.

Documents 3-8, 12, 29, 30, 34, and 37 are not stricken from the record because information contained in these documents was referred to at the hearing and the record indicates that the Board had been previously apprised of these documents.

Documents 35, 36, 38, and 41 are laws and ordinances concerning relevant zoning issues and should not have been included in the record because they were not directly referred to at the hearing. But, for the sake of meaningful review, we do not strike these documents because they could have been included in an appendix to the brief and are not beyond the court's review. See Minn. R. Civ. App. P. 128.04 (laws and ordinances impacting issues under review should be included in appendix).


Relators contend that the Board imposed a condition that prevents relators' desired use of their property and operates as a denial of the permit. We will subject this condition to the same review as a denial. See Honn v. City of Coon Rapids, 313 N.W.2d 409, 416-17 (Minn. 1981) (all zoning decisions, including quasi-judicial determinations such as permits, must have rational basis).

The reasons for denying a permit must be reduced to writing in more than a conclusory fashion. Id. at 416. It is reversible error for a county board to deny a permit without adequate findings. White Bear Rod & Gun Club v. City of Hugo, 388 N.W.2d 739, 742 (Minn. 1986).

Respondent made specific findings for granting the permit, but failed to make any findings to justify the condition imposed on the permit. The Board's only finding supporting the condition was that "site specific conditions * * * are established as required for the protection of the public's health, safety and general welfare." This does not explain the basis of the Board's decision. Because we are left with nothing meaningful to review, we reverse. See White Bear Rod & Gun Club, 388 N.W.2d at 742, 744 (reversing and remanding decision where absence of findings to support decision left court with nothing to review).

In Earthburners, Inc. v. County of Carlton, 513 N.W.2d 460 (Minn. 1994), the supreme court recognized the risk of a county giving after-the-fact justifications when a county zoning decision, unsupported by findings, is remanded. But the supreme court found that, because the county had "failed to discharge its responsibilities" by not making findings to support its decision, the court was "compelled to offer [the county] the opportunity to * * * develop a record to allow meaningful appellate review." Id. at 463. To limit the risk of after-the-fact justification, the court remanded with direction that the board "must confine its inquiry to the issues raised in earlier proceedings * * * while allowing adequate opportunity for a meaningful discussion of those issues." Id.

Accordingly, we reverse respondent's decision and remand for further proceedings that are limited to issues raised in the July 28, 1998, Board meeting. If the Board decides to deny relators' permit or to again place conditions on it, the Board must make specific findings supporting its decision.

Reversed, remanded, and motion granted in part and denied in part.

[1] A holding tank, which must be tested and certified as watertight, holds waste water for transportation to a sewage disposal site.