• January 29, 2013
When Is A Campground Not a Campground?

When Is A Campground Not a Campground?

The Minnesota Supreme Court has granted a petition for review of a decision of the City of Elk River to revoke a property owner’s land use.  Wapiti Park Campgrounds got a permit in 1984 to run a campground. One condition was “no permanent residents.”

Years went by. Land uses in the vicinity changed.  Wapiti Park Campgrounds got “grand-fathered” in through an “interim use permit.”  Then, in 2010, when City inspection identified “rigid piping connecting” “campers” to plumbing, campers with air conditioners, and other signs of year-round residence, the City concluded the “campground” was not what it was supposed to be, and the City decided to shut down Wapiti Park Campground.  (Comically, Wapiti Park’s lawyers called Wapiti Park’s residents “longer term campers,” which, I suppose we all are in a sense.)

[Special Note/Disclaimer: The accompanying image to this post is NOT from Wapiti Park Campgrounds and merely illustrates a structure that some might think suitable for “camping” while others might not.]

In a published decision last October, the Minnesota Court of Appeals reasoned:

It would be anomalous to conclude that merely because the city exercises its broad discretion to amend a zoning ordinance, converting what was a conditionally permitted use into a nonconforming use, it loses the authority to enforce the conditions that it deemed necessary to promote public health, safety, and welfare when it first issued the permit. This result is especially troubling when the city determines, as it implicitly did here with the 1988 zoning amendment, that allowing campgrounds in the zoning district, even as a conditionally permitted use, was counter to public health, safety, and welfare interests.

This reasoning makes a great deal of sense to me.  So I wonder why the Minnesota Supreme Court thought this decision warranted further review.  Could it be that our state Supreme Court is looking for cases to revisit the balance that exists under current law between private land use and the public interest?

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