After more than two years of legal battles with residents, the city of Burnsville can enforce its city code ordinances at Rambush Estates Mobile Home Park, the Minnesota Court of Appeals said Monday.
The three-judge panel said that while manufactured housing is subject to federal and state housing codes, those codes do not pre-empt city code.
The decision reverses a ruling last February in Dakota County District Court saying Burnsville violated the rights of Rambush Estates residents when it cracked down on carports, awnings and other structures.
The practical implications of the appellate ruling, though, are largely moot at Rambush Estates because since residents were cited for code violations, the city of Burnsville has changed its code structure, rescinded all the violations and refunded the money it charged residents for reinspection.
Still, Paul Reuvers, an attorney for the city of Burnsville, said the decision is a victory.
"The decisions affirms the city's ability to do code enforcement in a mobile home park," Reuvers said. "Folks who live in manufactured home parks get to live in a safe and sanitary community just like everybody else."
Burnsville spokesman Marty Doll said city officials were pleased, too.
"This allows the city to once again help ensure that residents in manufactured home parks have safe and quality housing, consistent with the rest of the city," he said in an e-mail.
"Complaint-based building code enforcement will start right away (if complaints come in). Proactive code enforcement will likely begin in the next month or so. I believe the intention is to reach out to the park residents prior.
"The city is also hopeful that the ordinance changes that were made in the past 18 months will help reduce some of the zoning issues related to setbacks for carports, accessory structures, etc. that were originally an issue," he said.
The legal battle started more than 2½ years ago when longtime resident Kathryn Eich and many of her neighbors received city code violations for having carports, awnings and other "accessory structures" in their yards.
Eich said one of her violations came about because she parked a wheelbarrow in her yard while working on her gardens.
If the violations weren't corrected, the residents received follow-up letters from the city and reinspection fees amounting to hundreds of dollars.
Eich sued; her attorneys said mobile homes parks were a "different animal" from other housing and were subject to extensive state and federal standards and, thus, exempt from city code enforcement.
District Judge Colleen G. King agreed last February. The city appealed.
Before the February 2017 ruling, though, the city of Burnsville adopted a new appeals process for violations and replaced its property maintenance code with the International Property Maintenance Code, the Appeals Court said in its ruling.
At that time, the city also rescinded all pending violations and violation letters that had been issued to residents at Rambush Estates.
The Appeals Court said neither federal nor state law pre-empts city code provisions.