County must grant CUP for rural tourism business

The Isanti Board of Commissioners denied Vigstol’s request for a Conditional Use Permit (CUP) to operate a rural retail tourism business because (1) it would have a negative impact on a park, (2) it is not a small-scale, low-impact operation, (3) the parcel is too small, (4) the proposed setbacks are inadequate, and (5) the possibility of increased traffic.  Vigstol appealed the decision directly to the Minnesota Court of Appeals.

When reviewing the denial of a CUP, the Court considers whether the decision was reasonable.  In doing so, the Court must assess the legal sufficiency of the reasons and determine if they had a factual basis.  The county must articulate a specific basis for the denial, referencing the zoning ordinance.   The Isanti County Zoning Ordinance establishes two requirements for rural retail tourism business.  First, the business must obtain a CUP.  There are five criteria that must be met before a CUP is issued.  Second, the business must have a “unique and demonstrable relationship with Isanti County.”  The ordinance identified several “allowed uses” for rural retail tourism business, including “small-scale, low impact special events,” which have five standards.

The Court considered the Board’s five findings and found the facts presented to the Board do not support the denial of the CUP.  When a local government “denies a permit with such insufficient evidence that the decision is arbitrary and capricious, the court should order issuance of the permit.”  In re Livingwood, 594 N.W.2d 889, 895 (Minn. 1999).  Accordingly, the Court remanded for the Board to grant the CUP with the conditions imposed by the planning commission.

Vigstol v. Isanti County Board of Commissioners, No. A13-2162, (Minn. App., Dec. 8, 2014)(unpublished opinion)