Zoning Regulations can conflict with the dormant Commerce Clause of the United States Constitution

Local municipalities often adopt zoning regulations that appear at first glance to preclude certain commercial activity in an effort to preserve characteristics deemed desirable by the municipality.  For example, a municipality in Minnesota adopted an ordinance that prohibited local farmers from selling agricultural products not grown in the town of Lake Elmo, Minnesota.   Similarly, certain local governing bodies in Colorado have adopted regulations that preclude the sale of agricultural products that do not originate from the owner’s land.   The municipalities argue that the regulations are intended to promote the rural character of community where the sale is taking place. 

In Minnesota, the Town of Lake Elmo adopted regulations that precluded local family farmers from selling Christmas trees because the Christmas trees were imported from out of state.  The family brought an action in the United State District Court for the District of Minnesota to prevent Lake Elmo from enforcing the regulation.  As the plaintiff, the family argued that the dormant Commerce Clause of the United States Constitution prevented enforcement of the ordinance because the ordinance had the impact of discriminating against interstate commerce and created an excessive burden on commerce.  The Court agreed, granting an  injunction preventing enforcement of the ordinance.  

Local Colorado governing bodies have adopted similar regulations to the ordinance adopted by Lake Elmo.  The regulations can carry fines and criminal penalties associated with alleged violations; however, such regulations may not be enforceable based on the United States Constitution and other laws. 

For more information contact the law firm of Milo D. Miller Law Group, P.C. at 720-306-7733.