• January 8, 2018

Mobile Homes, New Ulm, MN (1974)

Update (January 8, 2018): Should any governmental body have the power to regulate mobile home parks? To impose rules as to fences, garbage receptacle visibility, permitted neighboring structures (car parks, sheds, etc.)? Presumably few of our readers spend much time in this area of governmental regulation but all of us know that the government imposes rules on various aspects of how we use and maintain our own property. If some public body has the right to regulate conditions in mobile home parks, who should it be? The federal government? The city? The state?

In the original post, below, plaintiff-mobile home park residents won a big decision based on the court’s apparent sense that the city of Burnsville was targeting the residents for being “ethnically diverse.”

On appeal, however, Judge Francis Connolly for the Minnesota Court of Appeals reversed the trial court, whose decision was premised on the preemption of local regulation by federal regulations related to mobile homes.

Numerous federal courts have held that the Act’s express preemption provision is limited to prohibiting states and municipalities from regulating the “construction or safety” of manufactured homes in any manner that is not identical to federal HUD standards.

As reprehensible as regulations being used to target “ethnically diverse” citizens, in particular, clearly the regulation of mobile home parks is more appropriate at the local level than the federal level. So we are confident that the Court of Appeals got this one right.

As we note below in the original post, this dispute is a matter of public record and elected city officials are on the record as to where they stood. So it seems that plaintiffs’ recourse is at the ballot box rather than the courthouse.

Original post (February 8, 2017)(under the headline: “Burnsville Burned For Antagonizing Manufactured Home Park Residents”): Congratulations to Minnesota litigators, Valerie Sims, Jeffer Ali, and Nathan Louwagie for their dogged representation of manufactured home residents in an on-going class action against the City of Burnsville.

Dakota County District Court Judge Colleen G. King delivered manufactured home residents and their lawyers a resounding win today (reserving for another day whether the Court will impose sanctions, as well, on Burnsville and/or its lawyers). We link the 45-page decision here but you can read excerpts below.

Perhaps the most stinging criticism Judge King’s opinion: “Burnsville made an intentional decision to establish a proactive code enforcement process because of the number of ‘ethnically diverse’ people moving into the city and that they ‘do not know how to take care of their property’ because it is ‘not in their culture.'”

In Judge King’s opinion, we are left to wonder whom Judge King was quoting in that passage. On further investigation, we learn that the quotes are public (and recorded) statements by Burnsville elected officials in 2012 (Burnsville’s mayor, Elizabeth Kautz, and Mary Sherry, a Burnsville City Council member).

More excerpts below…

Plaintiffs argue that Burnsville is prohibited from enforcing Burnsville Building Codes, Zoning Codes and Property Maintenance Codes within Rambush because the city codes are preempted by federal and state law. Plaintiffs also argue that Burnsville’s city codes are void for vagueness and they violate due process of law. Plaintiffs argue that both their procedural and substantive due process rights have been violated by Burnsville. Plaintiffs contend that Burnsville has violated Plaintiffs’ procedural due process rights by not giving proper notice and not having a meaningful proper appeals process. Plaintiffs also argue that Burnsville has violated Plaintiffs’ substantive due process rights by not providing proper notice of what conduct was or was not allowed, for inviting arbitrary and capricious code enforcement, and for depriving Plaintiffs of property without due process of law.

Burnsville has provided no evidence how a wheelbarrow being out for an indeterminate amount of time, or how a properly sealed garbage container affects the safety or protection of any persons or property. In fact, it is a guise to force manufactured home parks to look like single family housing which is contrary to the intent and purpose of the federal act and state law. Burnsville’s reliance on its ‘police power’ is misplaced.

The Court finds as a matter of law that a fundamental right has been violated by Burnsville. Burnsville has threatened the property and homes of Plaintiffs through fines, criminal sanctions, and assessments on their property. Burnsville required Plaintiffs to alter and ‘correct’ their property including removal of carports, the only protections available to their vehicles.

Burnsville’s City Code enforcement invited arbitrary and capricious enforcement by allowing inspectors too much discretion when determining violations.

Burnsville made an intentional decision to establish a proactive code enforcement process because of the number of ‘ethnically diverse’ people moving into the city and that they ‘do not know how to take care of their property’ because it is ‘not in their culture.’ Burnsville’s targeted enforcement was deliberate and was designed to strong-arm property owners into conforming to what Burnsville believed would make the property compliant with Burnsville’s code and Burnsville’s vision for its city….Burnsville’s conduct does not comport with traditional ideas of fair play and decency.

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