Posted by: Patricia Salkin | July 23, 2015

ND Supreme Court Holds County Commissioners’ Decision to Rezone Land from Agricultural to Industrial Did Not Constitute Impermissible Spot Zoning

In March 2013, Dale Pahlke applied to the Bismarck–Burleigh County Planning and Development Department to rezone 311 acres of his land in Menoken Township from agricultural use to light industrial use. Pahlke’s application proposed to subdivide his land into five to ten acre lots if his rezoning request was granted. Pahlke’s land is located on the north side of Interstate 94 and on the west side of 145th Street NE, about 1 mile west of the Menoken interchange and just north of an interstate rest area. Except for the interstate corridor, the land is surrounded by property zoned for agricultural use. In 2009, the Dockters purchased land directly north of Pahlke’s land, and they operate a certified organic farm on their land. Thane and Nicole Dockter appealed from a judgment affirming a Burleigh County Board of County Commissioners’ decision to rezone a 311 acre tract of land in Menoken Township from agricultural to industrial use, claiming industrial use of the adjacent land could contaminate their fields and result in loss of certification of their organic farm.

Here, the court found that although Pahlke individually benefited from the zoning change, there was evidence the County Commissioners’ decision benefited Burleigh County as a whole. Moreover, the approval was for land that was proposed to be divided into five to ten lots, which mitigated the claim that the rezoning change involves an individual lot singled out for discrimination, or different treatment. The court therefore concluded the record supported a reasonable basis for the County Commissioners’ decision and did not establish the Commissioners’ decision constituted impermissible spot zoning. The claim that this approval was made arbitrarily and capriciously likewise failed because the County Commissioners found rezoning would be consistent with the comprehensive plan, since the rezoning application promoted quality growth of manufacturing within the county convenient to transportation facilities. The judgement upholding the County Commissioners’’ decision was therefore affirmed.

Dockter v Burleigh County Board of County Commissioners, 2015 WL 4041146 (ND 7/2/2015)

The opinion can be accessed at:

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