In the modern regulatory state, government can unquestionably impose many legitimate regulations on business. Generally speaking restrictions on what you can do with your property—or how you must run your business—are going to be upheld when challenged in court. To be sure, one of the problems facing the small business community is the reality that courts will bend over backwards to uphold economic restrictions in most cases. Of course, NFIB Legal Center is fighting to restore constitutional principles that will protect business owners from evermore burdensome regulatory requirements. And occasionally we get a real win for economic liberties and property rights, as in the case of White Trust v. City of Elk River, in which we helped a family run business secure its right to continue running a campground on their property.
The White family ran a modest commercial campground on their property since the 1970s—since before their City adopted its zoning code. But after their City adopted its zoning code, they were apparently expected to obtain a “conditional use” permit to continue running that business. No problem—they got the permit and continued with business as usual. Things only got interesting when—twenty years later—City inspectors decided to revoke the permit on the ground that the campground was not in compliance with certain conditions that had been imposed on the permit. The question to the Minnesota Supreme Court was whether the City can simply revoke the right of a long-standing business to continue business operations.
NFIB Legal Center played a key role in the case, arguing to the Supreme Court that the family had a constitutionally protected rights to continue with their business. This was a win not only because we secured the right of the White family to continue running their campground, but because the case makes clear that—at least in Minnesota—a landowner need not even acquire a permit to continue using his or her property after a new restrictive zoning ordinance comes into effect. For more commentary on the White Trust victory, check out the NFIB Blog.