The plaintiff, King’s Ranch of Jonesboro, appealed the decision of the lower circuit court, asserting that the court’s review of the denial of a conditional use permit should have been de novo review rather the rational basis standard that lower court employed. The Supreme Court of Arkansas determined that the de novo standard of review should have been used by the lower court, reversing and remanding the case for further review.
The court’s determination rested on whether the decision to grant or deny the conditional use permit was a legislative or quasi-judicial act. If the decision was a legislative act, it was entitled to rational basis review, and if it was a quasi-judicial act, the decision would be given de novo review.
To determine this matter, the Supreme Court of Arkansas had to look to the facts of the decision making process and the result of the decision. The court focused on the fact that the decision was made by applying the facts to an existing standard and that no new law was created, making the act quasi-judicial. The City officials, when determining whether to grant a conditional use permit, took the facts on the application and the community’s sentiment, and applied them to the existing zoning ordinance that provided the process for the granting or denying of conditional use permits. As such, it was a fact intensive, quasi-judicial act subject to de novo review.
The court stressed that had an amendment been made to the zoning ordinance to facilitate the plaintiff’s requests, then it would have been a legislative act, subject to rational basis review. This is because voting on an amendment results in the ratification or defeat of a law. However, that was not the case here. The City only applied the facts to the existing law that allowed for conditional use permits–and no more.
King’s Ranch of Jonesboro, Inc. v. City of Jonesboro, 2011 Ark. 123 (3/31/2011)
The opinion can be accessed at: http://opinions.aoc.arkansas.gov/WebLink8/0/doc/58445/Electronic.aspx