District Court Judge Benson rules in county’s favor in land rights lawsuit

By Charlie Warner
Argus News Editor

Houston County is batting three for three. For the third time in less than three years, a district or appellant court judge has ruled in the county’s favor when it comes to their zoning ordinances and the practices county staff conducts when enforcing them.

On Jan. 31, District Court Judge Robert Benson ruled in Houston County’s favor on two of the three questions brought before him in a lawsuit leveled against the county by Houston County Landowners Concerned About Property Rights (HCLCAPR).

Benson denied  the land rights group’s motion for voluntary dismissal of the lawsuit without prejudice. Approving this motion would have allowed the land rights group to bring the lawsuit back to the courts at a later date.

Benson granted the county’s motion for summary judgement. In American legal practice summary judgment is awarded by the court before trial, effectively holding that no trial will be necessary.

Addressing the motion for summary judgement, Benson stated:

“There is no material issue of fact as to whether the Plan (Houston County’s Comprehensive Plan) and Section 13 (of the Houston County zoning ordinance that deals with residential density restrictions in agriculture zoned areas) are arbitrary and capricious. Therefore, the undisputed facts conclusively show that the Plan and Section 13 do not infringe upon substantive due process rights of Houston County landowners.

“There is no material issue of fact as to whether similarly situated persons are treated differently under the Plan and Section 13. Therefore, the undisputed facts conclusively show that the Plan and Section 13 do not violate the Equal Protection Clauses of the Minnesota and united States Constitutions.”

Benson denied the county’s motion for sanctions against the land rights group’s legal counsel.

“Defendant has not carried its burden of showing the plaintiff or plaintiff’s counsel has engaged in conduct which is sanctionable under Rule 11 or Minn. Stat. 549.211,” Benson stated.

For the entire article, see the Feb. 8 issue of the Argus.

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