In 1998, new zoning regulations became effective implementing minimum space requirements for mobile home lots; however, these regulations were not immediately enforced. From 2003-2010, Stagecoach sought and received permits for thirty-four mobile homes that did not meet the space requirements. In December, 2009, the City informed the mobile home park owners that no new applications would be approved that did not conform to the minimum space requirements. The City also informed the mobile home park owners that the regulations would not apply to units that had already been installed.
In 2010, Stagecoach applied for a permit to install a new mobile home on a lot which had become vacant. The application was denied by the zoning administrator as it did not comply with the minimum space requirements. Stagecoach argued it did not have to comply with the requirements because it qualified as a non-conforming use, but was denied on appeal by the City board of adjustment. Stagecoach filed suit in state court alleging the subject ordinance was void because the City did not follow the necessary procedural requirements in its enactment. Stagecoach also sought declaratory judgment providing the ordinance did not apply to existing mobile home parks. Upon review, the superior court found the ordinance failed to meet procedural requirements imposed by state law and was therefore void. Thereafter, upon a supplemental special action complaint, the superior court also found that the City was obligated to issue the permit, as Stagecoach “has a ‘due process right to continue a nonconforming use.’” They City appealed, claiming the superior court did not have jurisdiction over the supplemental complaints, as the issues were not considered before the City board of adjustment.
The supplemental special action complaints concerned the zoning administrator’s subsequent denials of Stagecoach’s applications. These later denials were premised upon the zoning regulations in effect prior to the enactment of the void ordinance. These denials were not heard by the board of adjustment; the board of adjustment made their previous – and only – determination on the zoning administrator’s first denial premised upon the void ordinance. Arizona law permits the superior court to hear zoning appeals, but only following a determination of the board of adjustment. Since the board of adjustment rendered determinations considering the void ordinance, and made no subsequent determination as to the previous regulations, there was no basis for appellate jurisdiction – the claim was essentially not ripe for review. Since the superior court lacked jurisdiction to hold the subsequent hearings, the mandamus relief granted therein was in error and reversed.
Stagecoach Trails MHC v. City of Benson, 2012 WL 605712 (Ct. Ap. Ariz., Div. 2, Dep’t B, 2/27/2012)
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