Posted by: Patricia Salkin | November 20, 2011

Utah Supreme Court Finds No Takings Claim Where Council Properly Rescinded Ordinance

While in the process of finalizing purchase of a 15.359 acre parcel in Salt Lake County, Utah, L.C. Canyon requested that County officials rezone 3.543 acres of the parcel from FR 20 to FR 2.5, which would have allowed plaintiffs to construct a single-family residence on the property.  On October 18, 2005, the Salt Lake County Council approved amending the zoning map to reflect the zoning redesignation of the L.C. Canyon parcel to FR 2.5.  However, before the change took effect – which would have occurred 15 days after the ordinance’s passage—the Council decided to reconsider the approval after learning that the property was closer to Little Cottonwood Canyon than they had believed when initially voting to rezone.  One day before the change would have taken effect, the Council voted to rescind it.  L.C. Canyon later sought a variance from the County Board of Adjustment, but the variance was denied.

L.C. Canyon filed suit against the Council, alleging that application of the FR 20 zoning designation to L.C. Canyon’s property lacked a rational basis; that the Council had overstepped its authority when it rescinded its own rezoning ordinance; and that the decision to rescind constituted a taking of L.C. Canyon’s property.  The district court found in favor of the Council, holding first that the FR 20 zone was rationally related to the County’s legitimate interests in protecting its environmental and scenic resources near Little Cottonwood Canyon.  The district court also upheld the Council’s authority to rescind its previous rezoning decision because the rescission occurred before the ordinance had become effective.  Lastly, the district court rejected the takings claim on the basis that the ordinance had not yet become effective at the time of rescission, thus any protectable interest that might have been created by the ordinance had not yet vested.  L.C. Canyon here appeals the district court’s decision.

The Utah Supreme Court upheld the district court on all three issues.  Regarding the rationality of the FR 20 zone, the court reiterated the County’s legitimate interests in protecting natural and scenic resources and noted that L.C. Canyon’s best recourse in challenging the designation was to apply for a variance.  L.C. Canyon had applied for a variance that was denied, but it never appealed that decision, which would have given it the opportunity to challenge the County’s alleged failure to consider its particularized challenge to the FR 20 zone.  However, that issue was not before the court on appeal.

On the matter of whether the County had the authority to rescind the rezoning ordinance, the court also upheld the district court’s decision.  The County had incorporated Robert’s Rules of Order into the County Code to address any procedural issues not explicitly covered by state or local law.  L.C. Canyon had challenged that ruling by pointing out that Robert’s Rule 36 should have applied to the situation, which would have given the Council only a one-day window to reconsider the rezoning ordinance.  However, the court sided with the Council, agreeing that Robert’s Rule 37 applied, which authorized the Council to rescind a vote either by a majority vote where notice of the motion to rescind has been given or by a two-thirds vote where no such notice had been given.  Since notice of the motion had been given at a prior meeting and the rescission vote received a majority vote, the rescission vote was proper.  The court pointed out that fairness was also on the side of this decision, since L.C. Canyon had not acted in reliance on the initial rezoning decision and had not incurred any liability or expense.

Regarding the takings claim, the court upheld the district court’s reasoning that any property interest created by the initial rezoning decision had not yet vested in L.C. Canyon because the necessary 15 day statutory period had not lapsed for the ordinance to become law.  Thus, at the time of rescission, L.C. Canyon had no protectable property interest which could be the subject of a takings claim.

L.C. Canyon Partners, L.L.C. v. Salt Lake County, 2011 WL 4917040 (Utah 2011). 

The opinion can be accessed at: http://www.utcourts.gov/opinions/supopin/LCCanyon101811.pdf 

For a more in depth 3-part examination of this case, see the Utah Appellate Blog at: http://www.utahappellateblog.com/2011/11/17/utah-supreme-court-l-c-canyon-partners-l-l-c-v-salt-lake-county-takings-and-changing-zoning-rules  

 


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