Appealing and Changing Local Ordinances

Minnesota Small Claims (Conciliation) Court

Once zoning ordinances are established by the local legislature, it is possible to appeal the zoning decision and to subsequently try to change the local zoning ordinance. Minnesota Statute § 462.357 subdivisions 3 through 6 addresses these processes. Local property owners that are affected by a zoning ordinance may raise an appeal. Changing a local ordinance can be done by the local governing body, the planning agency, or by a petition of the affected property owners. When an amendment to an ordinance is passed, it declares the specific changes made to the ordinance.

Appealing Zoning Ordinances

When a property owner wants to appeal a zoning ordinance, they must present their case to the Board of Adjustment and Appeals.  The Board of Adjustment and Appeals is established by the local governing body. Most appeals of zoning ordinances arise from alleged errors in determining whether or not there has been a violation of the zoning ordinance. The Board of Adjustment and Appeals both hears and decides the appeals cases.

At any point after an ordinance is adopted, an amendment can be proposed to change part or all of the existing ordinance. In order to be successful, an amendment must get a majority vote of the governing legislative body. An amendment to change all or part of the existing classification (meaning from residential to commercial, or commercial to industrial), the amendment needs a two-thirds majority vote to pass.

Public Zoning Ordinance Amendment Hearing

It is required that there be a public hearing about an amendment, held by the planning agency or the governing body. There must be notice of such a hearing, usually required to be in the newspaper of the municipality. If a proposed amendment affects an area of five acres or less, all property owners that live within 350 feet of the land in question must receive notice in the mail at least ten days before the hearing. City officials are given broad discretion to make decisions relating to the land use ordinance. In order for the board’s decision to remain acceptable, it must have a rational basis for allowing or denying the zoning amendment. The board cannot make a decision that is “arbitrary, capricious, discriminatory, or illegal.” Sun Oil Co. v. Village of New Hope, 220 N.W.2d 256, 263 (Minn. 1974) (citations omitted).

There is recourse for individuals and property owners who believe that the zoning ordinances are improperly established and enforced. An individual may appeal a decision regarding their own property, as well as seek to have the ordinance amended and changed. The process for both forms of recourse can be lengthy, and it may be difficult to achieve an ideal outcome.

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