Economics

Economic Liberty Wins in Lake Elmo, Minnesota

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Back in May I noted a lawsuit filed by the Institute for Justice against the city of Lake Elmo, Minnesota, which had a law on the books forbidding local farmers from selling produce grown on their own land if that land happened to partially fall outside of the city limits. It looks like the legal pressure paid off. As The Stillwater Gazette reports, the city council approved a new permit this month allowing local farms to sell produce grown outside of town. As IJ attorney Anthony Sanders told the Gazette:

"We filed suit in May because the city's ordinances did not allow to sell products on their farm unless grown in Lake Elmo," Sanders said. "This affected our clients very directly because they grow pumpkins on land they own in Wisconsin and do business with other farms around the country that grow Christmas trees. Farmers have supplemented products for decades. There is more farming freedom in Lake Elmo now because of the pressure put on the city by our client and that's a good thing."

NEXT: Sacramento Über Alles

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  1. Economic Liberty Wins in Lake Elmo, Minnessota

    Jesus… “Lake Elmo”? Sounds like the name of the backdrop town for a slasher movie…

    1. You may be thinking of Lake Edna–which would explain that creepy KFC manager.

    2. …or a Kate Perry music video.

    3. The 90s porn superstar Celeste is from Lake Elmo.

      1. Fond memories of Celeste.

        I’ll be in my bunk.

    4. Yeah it is kind of a bad name, but it’s a nice lil’ town up here in MN. At least they have a drive-in.

  2. Great – thus begins the great unraveling of the frail economic apparatus of the United States. Why don’t we just let GeneralBoeingDynamicsMartCorp take over EVERYTHING now, and save ourselves the trouble. Here’s the keys to the country, boys – put us in shackles and do your worst.

    If this isn’t interstate commerce, and we can’t have these reasonable regulations in place, then….SOMALIA!!

    /stupid

  3. What is attrocius, however, is that the farm actually lost the court case. Lake Elmo loosened their rules a bit, but it’s still not the level of freedom that it should be.

    1. Lost what court case? The lawsuit never made it to trial (and never would have, since the Bergmanns were never injured and hence had no standing).

  4. Economic Liberty Wins in Lake Elmo, Minnessota

    Perhaps it’s because I’m a native cheesehead, but I’ve never found “Minnesota” difficult to spell.

  5. The extra “s” is for Super! Just super don’cha know!

    1. Ya, sure! You betcha!

  6. It is a very interesting blog I love reading this.
    coastside spas / coastside services

    1. Ha-ha! Blog whore fail!

      1. If only Sorgatz could fail so spectacularly as well.

        1. He fails at being a sane adult, so it balances out.

          1. Has he exiled his parents to Antarctica yet?

            1. I think he put them in one of these.

            2. Well, after he killed and ate his father, his mother went into hiding. So, no.

              I’m told that he played The Doors The End the entire time, which makes it totally OK.

              1. I thought he was playing “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” while William Peterson smashed through his window, all beautifully lit by Dante Spinotti.

                1. Wow, that’s a hard choice–“In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” or “The End.” Hmmmm.

                  If he locked his parents up with Zod, well, that’s an honor not an insult.

                  1. I have a “promise” that I hope to never keep. Ive sworn to do karaoke only if they have The End available. One day Im gonna be screwed.

                    1. Done it to Moonlight Mile at a dirt shack joint at Carolina Beach that had a house keyboardist that knew every fucking tune under the sun. I had had a fifth of dark rum and another bottle of cherry schnapps some teen girl hanging out out side gave me, smoked a shrimp tail by mistake in a bong a few hours earlier and the tar smoke from that felt like a lung being torn out. The real weed was some some unforgettable shit though. There were some pills involved as well, but on a dare I took them without being told what they were. Strangest part was how stereophonic that song was in my head as I was singing it, I was pretty much seeing the notes unfold and bounce up and down just before I got to them. They said it was terrifyingly good. I always knew I had it in me, but I rather not have to die just to get it out.

                2. I thought he was playing “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” while William Peterson smashed through his window, all beautifully lit by Dante Spinotti.

                  Awesome reference.

  7. “The key is that the Bergmanns, just like any other farmer in Lake Elmo, are given certain rights,” Messelt said. “But they are not given the right to be a mega-mart for produce. The entire premise for controlling and regulating land use has been upheld. If this lawsuit had gone through, anyone would have been able to sell anything to anything to anybody at any location.

    You can’t have consumer choice! Zod only knows what kind of affordable and babrbaric anarchy that will lead to!

    More sad is that this weeping sore thinks that people are “given” rights by their masters.

    1. Cheap pumpkins are a threat to our very way of life. Why haven’t these farmers dogs been shot yet?

      (Hey, I’m no Almanian)

      1. You know who else was no Almanian….

    2. “are given certain rights”??

      Fuck.

  8. They still had to get a fucking permit. Whoop-di-do, how many local politicians did they have to bribe?

    “The key is that the Bergmanns, just like any other farmer in Lake Elmo, are given certain rights,” Messelt said. “But they are not given the right to be a mega-mart for produce. The entire premise for controlling and regulating land use has been upheld. If this lawsuit had gone through, anyone would have been able to sell anything to anything to anybody at any location. This was good public policy.”

    God damn. Somebody needs a bitch slap. Hard.

    OK. I live in a small farming community, and I’ll admit I was a bit upset when I purchased a Honeydew melon from the local roadside stand, only to find out that it was grown in Mexico, when I got home. But it was my own damned fault for not reading the label. I ass-u-me-d it was grown on the farm where I purchased it. Guess what? The next time I wanted a honeydew, I drove a few miles to the farm that does grow them. And they were De-lish! South Jersey soil is insane for fruits and vegetables. Unfortunately for me, I am spoiled, and won’t buy any of that shit they call produce, in the supermarkets.

    1. Jersey tomatoes FTW

      1. It’s what made Campbell’s Tomato Soup world famous. However, they stopped using Jersey tomatoes in the 70s.

        1. The Jersey soil characteristics must have something to do with Dow or DuPont or something located nearby.

          Campbells got sick of fighting with their feedstock. The employee deaths were just too high.

          1. Funny, but it was the unions that forced Campbell’s out.

            1. So, Unionized Killer Tomatoes? Doesn’t have the same ring…

              1. Actually, I like that better.

                Unionized Killer Tomatoes

                Awesome! Sounds like a “B” movie of the week.

      2. Sussex County silver queen corn. I miss it.

        1. No more Silver Queen. It’s all Super Sweet, now. It’s better, even if it did originate in Florida.

    2. The Jersey soil characteristics must have something to do with Dow or DuPont or something located nearby.

      1. There’s no Dow or DuPont around here. What we have is soil with a high mineral content, and sand. The sand acts as a natural filter on the immensely huge aquifer we also have. You need to not judge all of Jersey by what you see on the Turnpike coming over the GWB.

        1. I’ve never seen Jersey. Every time I looked in that direction all I ever saw was a gaseous cloud.

          1. Yeah, it’s all that coal you fuckers are burning in the Midwest that is drifting over here.

      2. Oh and Dr Welch invented his formula for grape juice, here, long before there was a DuPont or Dow.

  9. As I commented back in May, this had nothing to do with trade and everything having to do with zoning:

    I live in Lake Elmo and here is what is going on:

    As New World Dan pointed out, the City of Lake Elmo has been fighting with the regional planning organization known as the Metropolitan Council for years. The people of Lake Elmo have expressed a wish to stay rural, and the Metropolitan Council is said no, you must grow. This resulted in a a lengthy and expensive lawsuit that went to the state supreme court, which the city lost.

    As a result of that, the city has been zoned according to a master plan required by the Met Council. A certain percentage of the city’s land must be zoned for residential, commercial, etc. Every single acre of the city has been planned out for the future, meaning any time you ask to rezone something from X to Y, more X must be found else where in the city in order to meet the Met Council’s minimum requirements.

    The Bergmann’s farm is zoned agricultural, as until recently everyone was under the impression they were growing all of the produce they sell. But, when it came to light that they were bringing in produce they stopped being agricultural and started being commercial. (What is the difference, zoning wise, between a Mom & Pop that imports christmas trees to sell and a big box, like Lowes, that brings in christmas trees to sell?)

    Now, I personally think all of this is dumb (I buy flowers from the Bergmann’s in the spring, pumpkins in the fall, and a christmas tree in December) and am not defending this idiocy. But, they and the Institute for Justice are being kind of dishonest when they portray this as a trade issue. It is a zoning issue. They are a commercial enterprise operating in an area zoned for agricultural, and the Met Council’s master plan hamstrings the city from rezoning it.

    Here is the city administrator:

    “The bottom line is that the judge threw out the injunction,” Messelt said. “The city has the legal authority to regulate these businesses. This is, and always was, a land-use dispute – there is no interstate commerce issue.”

    Messelt added that the Bergmanns were the only party to raise the issue since the city allowed farmers to sell goods that were not grown locally with a permit. Messelt said the new permit would likely be available by early next year.

    “The key is that the Bergmanns, just like any other farmer in Lake Elmo, are given certain rights,” Messelt said. “But they are not given the right to be a mega-mart for produce. The entire premise for controlling and regulating land use has been upheld. If this lawsuit had gone through, anyone would have been able to sell anything to anything to anybody at any location. This was good public policy.”

    The IJ is a group that had a very favorable impression of until this incident. They consistently misrepresented the facts at hand, and really did not accomplish anything. The “legal pressure” didn’t paid off because the city never wanted to put the Bergmanns out of business. The other ag-related businesses decided to work with the city, whereas the Bergmans decided to file a law suit and send out press releases.

    If you want to argue about the idiocy of zoning laws, I’m right there with you. But cities in Minnesota do not have that luxury of choice. (As I noted back in May, it was the City of Lake Elmo, at great expense, who fought the state over imposed master zoning plans and lost.)

    1. That should say that the IJ is a group that I had a very favorable impression of until this incident.

      1. I have an even more favorable view than before, since they have annoyed and stuck a mote in the planner’s eye.

        1. How so? This result was accomplished without the IJ?. The other farmers and the city got together and worked this out. All they did was issue press releases.

          1. So, in essence, you’re saying the council had a sudden change of heart without any outside influence? The filed lawsuit had nothing to do with it? Color me unpersuaded.

            1. In essence, what I am saying, is that in a small town where the city council meets once a month, things move very slowly. And that the city council did not have any intention of putting County Sun Farm out of business. (They never enforced the provision.)

              The city was unaware of the conflict until the Bergmanns brought forth a request to have their parking lot changed. It was only then that the planning staff went through the paperwork and found this out.

              1. I’m also from Minnesota. You lost me at the part about the Lake Elmo city council wanting to keep Lake Elmo “rural.”

                If I want to build a massive 12-story low-income housing project right in the heart of that “rural” community, and I’m willing to buy the land to do it and pay for it, FUCK anybody who says I can’t.

              2. I haven’t read of any instance where the council “wanted to put (them) out of business.”

                It was a matter of “who the hell are you to tell me that I can’t sell a certain product in my store on my own property?”

    2. If this lawsuit had gone through, anyone would have been able to sell anything to anything to anybody at any location.

      And that is a bad thing why?

      This was good public policy.

      No, it wasnt. Anyone who says the above is a complete moron. If the city opposed the Met Council zoning rules and sued them, why is the city administrator saying this instead of blaming the Met Council? Why does a permit need to be “available next year” instead of being handed out like candy to stick it to the Council?

      1. If this lawsuit had gone through, anyone would have been able to sell anything to anything to anybody at any location.

        And that is a bad thing why?

        Cats’N’Dogs, Mass hysteria, Gays getting married, etc.

    3. his had nothing to do with trade and everything having to do with zoning

      All zoning is a restraint on trade. So, it had everything to do with trade.

      1. There was nothing to stop the Bergmans from asking to be rezoned commercial.

        1. If you have to ask, your trade is being restrained.

          1. We don’t live in an anarcho-capitalist world. In reality, businesses are required to take out permits and such.

            1. I didnt say otherwise, but it is still restraint on trade. You are the one that claimed this wasnt about trade but about zoning. Im claiming there isnt a difference.

            2. Fuck that shit. IJ did a good thing by fucking the retarded system in the face. Even if they used sophistry to do it.

        2. did you even read what you quoted?

          meaning any time you ask to rezone something from X to Y, more X must be found else where in the city in order to meet the Met Council’s minimum requirements.

          1. Yes, I know what I wrote. The point is they didn’t even request rezoning.

            1. Why should they have to? See my and cunctator’s comments below. The source of the produce makes no difference.

            2. Quoting you again:

              the Met Council’s master plan hamstrings the city from rezoning it

              So what again is the point of asking? To admit your slavery and beg masta for leniency?

              1. If they asked, and were denied then they would have standing for a lawsuit, because they were injured.

          2. Even more absurd is the assumption that agricultural isn’t commercial, unless Lake Elmo is overrun by sustenance farming.

            1. Subsistence farming is even possible with property taxes in place?

        3. If they were selling their produce to begin with, though not through a produce stand, what exactly is the difference?

          A farmer selling his crops is engaged in commercial activity even if his property is zoned for agriculture. Or am I to believe that all of his crops were for personal consumption.

          1. The Minnesota State Constitution has a provision that farmers are allowed to sell their own produce on their land without a business licence. That is to say, you don’t need a permit to set up a farm stand down by the road.

            The Country Sun Farm was operating under this, but was also bringing in produce that was not grown on their farm. Again, what is the difference between a bigbox store selling christmas trees grown in another state and a “farm store” selling christmas trees grown in another state?

            1. Nothing. Both should be allowed to sell anything to anyone in anyplace.

              1. Because that would be good public policy.

              2. ANARCHY! END OF DAYS!! SOMALIA!!!!1!

              3. Again, that world might be nice to live it, but it is not reality, at least here in Minnesota.

                1. You are missing the point. Im a minarchist, even a mini-zonist. But I acknowledge that any zoning I favor is restraint on trade and dont go telling fucking lies about how this is a zoning case not a trade case. They are the same fucking thing regardless of the world we live in.

                  1. They are not the same because the press releases the IJ sent out said that the City of Lake Elmo was not allowing pumpkins etc grown outside the city to be sold within the city when that is not the case. The city’s position was, a position forced on it by the state, is that commercial activity must be in areas zoned commercial. That is to say you can sell all of the North Dakotan pumpkins and Wisconsin Christmas Trees you want, but you can not pretend to be a farm stand in an area zoned for agriculture.

                    It is only a restraint on trade in the sense that everything is a restraint on trade.

                    1. It is only a restraint on trade in the sense that everything is a restraint on trade.

                      Good, you get it now.

                      And all speech is political speech, even if it is “Buy this pizza”.

                    2. Again, we don’t live in an anarcho-capitalist world. So I choose to deal with reality.

                    3. Reality isnt what comes out of DC or Minneapolis. Or the Lake Elmo city council.

                    4. Natural Law is reality, the pols in DC/Minneapolis/Lake Elmo are the ones living in a fantasy world.

      2. All zoning is a restraint on trade.

        C’mon rob, be fair, like 0.000042% of zoning is about not being an ass to your neighborhood.

        1. For some, being an ass is their trade.

          1. Whoops. I retract my objection.

    4. Really, what’s the difference? It’s all Central Planning run amok.

      I’ll give you an example of what it’s like where I live. My friend, and client is a small real estate developer. He’s been building houses in this town for almost 50 years, and he’s owned a real estate company for about 30. He builds “spec” houses. He buys the land, builds a house, and puts it on the market. He also does some custom building.

      Right now he has at least 3 shovel ready projects. The problem is, he wants to build something that will sell. Duplexes and/or townhomes. The town won’t give him “permission”. They want single family homes, something that isn’t selling. Meanwhile, Ryan Homes just got permission to put up their shitty townhouses at an intersection that is going to cause all kinds of congestion. What’s the difference? My friend isn’t “politically active”, like the people from Ryan are.

      1. *psssst!!!*

        We’re not using the “s” term any more…pass it on…

        1. “sell”?

    5. The Bergmann’s farm is zoned agricultural, as until recently everyone was under the impression they were growing all of the produce they sell. But, when it came to light that they were bringing in produce they stopped being agricultural and started being commercial.

      How does the source of the produce make them any more or less commercial? I could see a distinction (a stupid one, but still) between a farm that sells wholesale vs retail. But whether the retail sales are homegrown or shipped in shouldnt matter at all.

      1. The Minnesota State Constitution has a provision that farmers are allowed to sell their own produce on their land without a business licence. That is to say, you don’t need a permit to set up a farm stand down by the road.

        Selling your own produce is not viewed as “commercial” activity in the same way as a grocery store is.

        1. That view is wrong.

        2. That view is wrong.

          1. Selling your own produce is not viewed as “commercial” activity in the same way as a grocery store is.

            Ok, but growing the same produce and consuming it is. I’m sold.

            Separation of Agriculture of State. Please. It’d be a start at least.

            Off to cookup my Mandated Asparagus. Plus some other food I actually plan to eat.

    6. It is a trade issue because there should be no land zoned as commercial, agricultural, residential, or industrial in the first place, as these things interfere with trade. And whether or not a city “grows” a certain way should be of no ones concern but the property owner who chooses to do as they wish with what is theirs. There is nothing wrong with the Institute for trying to deal with this sort of shit in whatever way they can.

      1. I agree with you that zoning does more harm than good. But the problem is that the city has no say in this matter. (As I have said several times before, Lake Elmo is the small town that fought the Metropolitan Council all the way to the state supreme court over this very issue and lost.) So it is a waste of time and money for the IJ to file lawsuits over this stuff with cities in Minnesota.

        1. If the city fought it, then why is Messelt saying the idiotic things he is saying?

          1. Sheer Idiocy? Is something more required?

        2. What exactly is the zoning commission going to do to the town if the town doesn’t enforce those zoning laws? If the commission believes they have that kind of authority, why don’t they just cut out the town then?

          The shithole of a town should bill the zoning jackoffs for the IJ case if they have no say.

  10. Amazing how often these sorts of laws seem to be intended as a restraint on commerce. Good for the IJ.

    Speaking of lawyers, I ran across a very funny amateur video where a lawyer addresses several misconceptions a law-school-student-wannabe has. It’s posted now over at Urkobold.

    1. That video as of today is making the rounds among all my law school classmates. I of course have done my part to “help” firm productivity by sending it to several associates.

      It is hilarious because it is so true.

      When I watched it on YouTube last night, it had about 57,000 views. I’m betting by today it will be a few hundred thousand.

      1. It’s friggin’ brilliant. I loved the part where she talks about the joy of being a lawyer who gets wrongly convicted felons released, and the jaded attorney says, “Science cleared that guy; a lawyer put his? ass in prison.”

        1. “There are like three lawyers in America who argue constitutional issues. They all went to Harvard in the 1970s.”

          1. There are another 9 who judge it. They also all went to Harvard.

            Are we at 100% Ivy League on the Supremes yet? Now that Stevens is gone?

            1. Watch the video.

                1. I tell my kids much the same thing when they get uppity and suggest that they’d like to be lawyers (they do that just to be rebellious). My oldest, to my pleasant surprise, has declared that he’s majoring (he’s applying for college right now) in mechanical engineering.

                  1. My oldest, to my pleasant surprise, has declared that he’s majoring (he’s applying for college right now) in mechanical engineering.

                    WHAT?!??! That’s like, useful! Clearly you didn’t push the “major in humanities” issue hard enough.

                    1. I know, I’m so pleased.

                    2. I know, I’m so pleased.

                      Bring it up at Thanksgiving.

                      “..and Lord, we thank you thank our oldest didn’t choose humanities or womyns studies. Amen”

                    3. And there was much rejoicing.

                  2. mechanical engineering.

                    Argh…argh…run away…actually Im kinda cool with that.

                    NukE was a department in the school of ME. I had to take 4 ME classes (actually took 5). Except for Fluid Dynamics I liked them.

                    Navier-Stokes can bite me.

                    1. Look, if it’s between some fluff degree (or God forbid, a legal career) and anything technical, I’m happy. Even industrial engineering would’ve been okay.

                    2. Imaginary Engineering is never okay (I probably should have majored in it though).

                    3. Would you prefer Religious Studies, Education, or Psychology?

                    4. Education

                      O’Rourke says you cant understand what is wrong with education in America until you’ve fucked an el-ed major. Any of your kids hot chicks with Daddy issues?

                    5. Navier-Stokes can bite me.

                      Calm down, that’s what computers are for. Calculating NS, i mean, not biting it.

                    6. My dad pushed me to go EE/CIS. Naturally, I defied him and majored in Finance, then went to law school, defying my technical leanings and aptitude in the process. Probably would’ve invented the Internet or something. Instead, I’m pushing paper.

                    7. Actually, compared to the Diffusion Equation or the Neutron Transport Equation, N-S is a joke. But for some reason I understood the others (even if they require a computer to solve). Maybe because I cared to.

  11. But Shelbyville farmers are tekkin er jobs!!

    1. And we worked DAMN hard to take those jobs from Ogdenvillians!

  12. Wow, Maurice, you really do love to slobber over the local tyrants, don’t you.

    1. Good point. Since you live there, have you considered shooting Messelt? I wouldnt recommend it, but if you havent at least considered it, something is wrong with you.

      1. That was supposed to me “Maurice, since you live there…”. Not you, Epi.

    2. Who, exactly, are the local tyrants I am slobbering over?

      This whole issue really pisses me off because, while I am not a libertarian, I have been reading reason for years and have often cheered when I have seen the Institute For Justice for the little guy. But here the IJ has misrepresented the facts in this case and reason has been little more than an echo chamber for their press releases, and I am more than a little disappointed.

      All the Bergmann/IJ lawsuit did was generate headlines. It would have never gone to trial (as the city never enforced anything, and the Bergmanns were never injured), and the their lawyers didn’t participate in the process which resulted in the special permit.

      If the city of Lake Elmo was trying to do any of the things IJ was claiming they were doing, they would have let the lawsuit go to trial.

      All around, I am disappointed that a public interest law firm I thought did good work would be so sensational while lacking substance and that a publication I respect would merely echo talking points.

      1. Who, exactly, are the local tyrants I am slobbering over?

        Messelt. You quoted his idiocy without mocking it, so I assume you agree with it at least a bit.

        All the Bergmann/IJ lawsuit did was generate headlines.

        Sometimes that is enough. It may not have helped out in Lake Elmo any, but maybe it did somewhere else.

        1. If I don’t mock your idiocy, am I slobbering over you as well?

  13. Maurice, if the city opposed it, why didnt they tell the state to go fuck themselves?

    Do you think the Governor would send in the Minny National Guard to enforce zoning?

    1. Other peoples money, which Elmo would then not receive?

      1. Boo fucking hoo.

        1. Want to borrow my Nano-Violin? (Nanolin?)

          1. If my vow to stop using joke handles is any indication, i should run for office…

    2. No, that is why they created a special permit. Something didn’t have to do. They already tried telling the state to fuck off, and it resulted in a very long and expensive legal fight the city lost.

      1. Messelt said the new permit would likely be available by early next year.

        It takes more than 24 hours? How far away is the nearest Kinko’s?

        1. Sadly, Kinkos could not get approved by the Elmo Zoning Board.

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