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Law School Case Brief

Krummenacher v. City of Minnetonka - 783 N.W.2d 721 (Minn. 2010)

Rule:

A local zoning ordinance may constitutionally prohibit the creation of uses which are nonconforming. As to existing nonconforming uses, however, those must either be permitted to remain or be eliminated by use of eminent domain. But a local government is not required to permit the expansion of such nonconformities.

Facts:

The respondent City of Minnetonka ("City") had an ordinance requiring that detached garages be set back a certain distance. Respondent JoAnne Liebeler had a detached flat-roofed garage on her property and requested a variance from the City to allow an expansion of a detached nonconforming two-car garage. Liebeler's neighbor, petitioner Beat L. Krummenacher, opposed the variance. After a hearing, the City's planning commission granted the variance, and the City council later affirmed that decision. Krummenacher then filed a complaint in Minnesota state court requesting review of the decision. The trial court affirmed the City's grant of the variance; the court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court of Minnesota granted Krummenacher's petition for review.

Issue:

May a local zoning ordinance allow an expansion of a nonconforming use?

Answer:

Yes.

Conclusion:

The state supreme court reversed the appellate court's judgment and remanded the case to the City for further proceedings. The court ruled that the City, under Minn. Stat. § 462.357, subd. 1e(b) (2008), could allow an expansion of a nonconforming use. However, the court ruled, the City applied the incorrect standard when considering and granting Liebeler's variance. When the City granted the variance, in part, based upon on undue hardship, it found that Liebeler would like to use the property in a reasonable manner that was prohibited by the ordinance. However, the court ruled, the proper standard required Liebeler, to establish undue hardship, that the property could not be put to a reasonable use without the variance. On remand, the City was directed to consider Liebeler's variance request under the proper standard.

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