Supreme Court 10.01.09

No opinions, but two cert decisions of interest.  The Court granted review in Krummenacher v. Minnetonka, in which the Court of Appeals held that variance procedures are appropriate to consider and approve changes in a nonconforming use.  When the opinion came out, I really didn’t find it all that remarkable.  Maybe the Court is just trying to catch up in the area of zoning nonconformities, where our reported case history is surprisingly sparse.  Review almost has to be on the main question of whether variance applies to nonconformities; it’s not in the Court’s nature to “correct error” in the City’s hardship analysis or in whether the record needed to be augmented at the district court level.  If there’s any quibble with the Court of Appeals opinion, it’s that the nonconformity statute permits cities to allow expansion “by ordinance,” which to me implies the need for a separate ordinance (and presumably a focused policy discussion) on the topic of expanding nonconformities.  Applying a variance procedure that was already on the books doesn’t fit that bill, though the Court’s reasoning seemed solid when I read it in July.

The Court denies review of the City of Sleepy Eye’s decision to fire its police chief.  At most, the Court might have taken the issue of whether the City had to afford independent review to the chief, but past cases have gone by the boards with a lot less than the two full hearings (a year apart, almost) that this employee received.  That, and perhaps the Court didn’t feel like spending time on the case of a police chief fired (in part) for huffing paint in uniform.  Just a guess.

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