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Burns & Hansen, PA

Bogus land use and zoning violations lodged by county official

Each Minnesota county has its own land use and zoning regulations that dictate where and what types of structures may be built on different tracts of land. Depending upon the county, a governing board of some type oversees land use and zoning issues for the county and enforces the rules applicable to such matters. Certain county officials work specifically on land use and zoning matters and help form the county's policies with regard to how real property may be utilized.

A county in the southeastern part of the state recently found itself in a bit of a land use and zoning headache when issues arose with regard to one of its officials. The official appears to have used his authority to punish individuals who opposed a frac-sand mining project he backed by lodging untruthful zoning violations against them. In another instance the official allegedly threatened to have opponents' residences taken down and used hostile language against a person who spoke out against the project.

This story clearly shows that abuses of power can happen at any level of government, from the very highest echelons of the federal system to the workers' level of county governance. A bad or punitive zoning decision could cost a victim much money, time and the headache of proving that his matter received unfair treatment. Due to his actions, the county official involved in this story was suspended for a short period of time and was required to attend a training on ethics.

Land use and zoning regulations exist to standardize how community members may use their parcels of real property. Additionally, citizens have the right to voice their opinions about the land use decisions that affect their personal and property rights. When officials undermine the community's ability to participate in an open dialogue about important land use matters, confidence in the county government's authority can be eroded and challenged.

Source: Minneapolis Star-Tribune, "Frac-sand debate tears SE Minnesota county apart," Matt McKinney, March 29, 2015

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