AVR, Inc. v. City of St. Louis Park

585 N.W.2d 411 (Minn. Ct. App. 1998)



St. Louis Park, Minn., Code of Ordinances § 14:7-4(B) (1992) required the owners of all properties that contain a use not permitted in any zoning district to register their non-conforming use with the city within one year of the adoption of the ordinance. The ordinance also required the zoning administrator to meet with such property owners, review each registration application, and determine a reasonable amortization period for each nonconforming use. In determining the length of a reasonable amortization period, the zoning administrator was to consider, at a minimum, the following factors: (1) information relating to the structure located on the property; (2) nature of the use; (3) location of the property in relation to surrounding uses; (4) description of the character of and uses in the surrounding neighborhood; (5) cost of the property and improvements to the property; (6) benefit to the public by requiring the termination of the non-conforming use; (7) burden on the property owner by requiring the termination of the non-conforming use; (8) the length of time the use has been in existence and the length of time the use has been non-conforming. St. Louis Park, Minn., Code of Ordinances § 14:7-4(D)(2) (1992). 


Plaintiff, AVR, Inc., owned and operated a ready-mix concrete plant in St. Louis Park which was constructed in 1954. In 1959, the city passed a zoning ordinance permitting ready-mix plants in the area of the city zoned for industrial use but only pursuant to a special use permit. The city, however, did not grant a special use permit to the then-owners of this plant and instead classified it as a preexisting nonconforming use because of its close proximity to a residential district. In 1973, the city amended its zoning code to eliminate ready-mix and concrete block plants as permitted uses in the city. AVR then purchased the ready-mix plant the following year, but in 1980, the city adopted a new plan and informed AVR that they intended to phase out the plant and rezone the site for commercial or office use. AVR initiated a judgment action seeking to invalidate the 1973 zoning ordinance on the ground that it wrongfully eliminated ready-mix plants as permitted uses in the industrial zones. The district court declared the ordinance void as applied to AVR. The city appealed.


Is a city’s zoning ordinance that established a two-year amortization period for the plant’s preexisting nonconforming use unreasonable and a violation of the plant’s equal protection of the laws?




The district court did not err in deferring to the city’s broad discretion to adopt an ordinance establishing a two-year amortization period for the plant because the city’s action was a legislative decision. Since the plant did not demonstrate disparate treatment of similarly situated property owners resulting from the enactment of the amortization ordinance, there was no equal protection violation.

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