This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. ß 480A.08, subd. 3 (1998).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
Waste Management, Inc.,
Le Sueur County,
Filed September 14, 1999
LeSueur County Board of Commissioners
Case No. 94007
Paul C. Thissen, Jack Y. Perry, Briggs and Morgan, P.A., 2400 IDS Center, Minneapolis, MN 55402 (for relator)
Jay T. Squires, Ratwik, Roszak & Maloney, P.A., 300 Peavey Building, 730 Second Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN 55402 (for respondent)
Considered and decided by Halbrooks, Presiding Judge, Schumacher, Judge, and Amundson, Judge.
U N P U B L I S H E D O P I N I O N
Relator seeks review of the denial of its application for modification of its conditional use permit to increase the amount of waste it may process at its waste transfer station from 100 to 287 tons per day. We affirm.
Relator Waste Management, Inc. (WM) operates a solid waste transfer station and a residential recycling center in Le Sueur County. A transfer station is a facility at which solid waste from collection vehicles is concentrated for subsequent transport. On July 5, 1994, respondent Le Sueur County Board of Commissioners (the board) issued WM a conditional use permit (CUP) to operate the transfer station. The CUP allows WM to transfer no more than 100 tons of waste per day.
WM applied for modification of its CUP on December 16, 1998, requesting that the limit of 100 tons per day be increased to 287 tons per day. At the time of its application, WM had been processing 150 tons of waste per day for several months due to an August 1998 merger between WM and USA Waste Services, Inc. WM stated that its requested capacity increase would increase traffic at the transfer station each hour by two additional trucks delivering waste and one additional truck leaving the transfer station.
After January 14, 1999 public hearing, the Le Sueur County Planning Commission (Planning Commission) unanimously recommended approval of the CUP modification request to the board. Its recommendation did not contain findings of possible adverse effects, but it did suggest several conditions. On February 9, 1999, the board rejected Planning Commissionís recommendation and denied WMís CUP modification request. The board gave the following reasons for its denial of the CUP modification:
(1) the County wishes to increase the resource recovery program;
(2) the Company is presently not in compliance with the present conditional use permit;
(3) there is sufficient capacity at this time;
(4) the County expresses many concerns for safety of the public and the company; and
(5) the request does not follow the plan of Le Sueur County.
D E C I S I O N
A municipal bodyís decision to grant or deny a conditional use permit is a quasi-judicial decision, reviewable by writ of certiorari. Neitzel v. County of Redwood, 521 N.W.2d 73, 75 (Minn. App. 1994), review denied (Minn. Oct. 27, 1994). The decision will be upheld unless it was unreasonable, arbitrary, oppressive, or without any evidence to support it. Molnar v. County of Carver Bd. of Commírs, 568 N.W.2d 177, 181 (Minn. App. 1997). Review is limited to the legal sufficiency of and the factual basis for the reasons stated by the municipal body for denial of the conditional use permit. Trisko v. City of Waite Park, 566 N.W.2d 349, 352 (Minn. App. 1997), review denied (Minn. Sept. 25, 1997). We limit our review to the reasons stated for the denial. In fact, only one of those reasons is need provide a rational basis for the boardís decision. Id. An application for a conditional use permit may be denied only for reasons relating to public health, safety, and welfare or for incompatibility with a comprehensive zoning plan. SuperAmerica Group, Inc. v. City of Little Canada, 539 N.W.2d 264, 267 (Minn. App. 1995) (citing Hubbard Broadcasting, Inc. v. City of Afton, 323 N.W.2d 757, 763 (Minn. 1982)), review denied (Minn. Jan. 5, 1996). After careful review we determine the boardís denial of WMís CUP modification on public safety grounds was not arbitrary, we affirm.
The board cited its concern for public safety as a basis for denying WMís application. While it is well established that municipalities may deny conditional use permits for reasons relating to public health, safety, and general welfare, vague concerns are generally insufficient grounds for the denial of a CUP request. Trisko, 566 N.W.2d at 355. Here, it appears that the boardís public safety concern was based on a letter from Bill Henry, Director of the Tri-County Solid Waste Office, which was part of the record before the board. Henry conducted an inspection of the transfer station grounds and found that WM did not maintain a user-friendly layout for residential recycling and that increasing the traffic at the facility might "compound conflicts with commercial/industrial trucks and residential vehicles." Henry concluded further that the current level of traffic at the transfer station "[might] already be a dangerous, non-user friendly situation for residents who wish to drop off recyclables." Henry concluded that there was a potential for reduced safety at the site for residents using the recycling center.
WM claims that such concerns are unfounded and contrary to other evidence before the board, namely letters generated by WM addressing traffic concerns. Additionally, WM cites Minnetonka Congregation of Jehovahís Witnesses, Inc. v. Svee, 303 Minn. 79, 226 N.W.2d 306 (Minn. 1975), for the proposition that an increase in traffic does not necessarily create a safety concern. However, Svee is distinguishable. In Svee, while the court found that heavier vehicular traffic did not necessitate a finding of a traffic hazard, it also had before it evidence in the opinions of the city planner and a zoning administrator that the proposed use and resulting increase in traffic would not create safety problems. Id. at 85, 226 N.W.2d at 309. Here, evidence before the board indicated that the Tri-County Solid Waste Office was "concern[ed] and displeas[ed]" about the proposed CUP modification based on firsthand observation and evaluation by its director who concluded safety concerns were present at the transfer station and were also likely to increase if the CUP modification was granted.
There is ample evidence in the record to support the boardís finding that the proposed CUP modification presented legitimate public safety concerns, and because municipal bodies are permitted by law to deny a conditional use permit based upon a concern for public safety, we affirm the boardís decision.