Posted by: Patricia Salkin | February 14, 2012

AZ Appeals Court Upholds Violations for Keeping Numerous Mobile Homes and Inoperable Cars

Appellant owns two lots in an unincorporated portion of Pinal County, housing multiple mobile homes and numerous unlicensed and inoperable vehicles.  After a hearing, she was found in violation of the code and fined $700 a day for every day the violations continued.  After three years, the County filed an action seeking relief for uncorrected violations.  Appellant moved for a jury trial on the action, but was denied as there was no constitutional right to a jury trial in the specific action.  The trial court ruled in favor of the County, finding the appellant’s land use constituted a public nuisance per se under Arizona Law.  The trial court ordered the appellant to remove the inoperable and unlicensed vehicles, recreational vehicles used for residential purposes, trash, and any residential units over the limit of one per parcel. 

The Court of Appeals of Arizona first addressed the issue of whether there was a nuisance.  The court looked at numerous pictures of the site, which illustrated the dire condition of the land, and found the pictures supported the trial court’s conclusion that the land use constituted a nuisance.  Additionally, the appellant failed to provide the transcript from the trial court, thus the appellate court assumed the transcript would have supported the trial court’s ruling.  The appellate court affirmed the finding of a nuisance.

The court then addressed the appellant’s contention that the current land use was a pre-existing nonconforming use and thus should be “grandfathered” in.  The appellant failed to provide a transcript of the trial court proceeding, so the appellate court could not be directed to any testimony on the preexisting use, nor could she show it was even addressed by the trial court.  As such, the appellate court assumed the record supported a finding that there was no preexisting use and affirmed.

The appellate court also found the ordinances enforced against the appellant – concerning the storage of vehicles and scrap, and maintaining no more than one dwelling unit – were constitutional.  The court said that the appellant provided no authority showing these ordinances where not related to the public health, safety, and general welfare.  The appellate court also agreed that there was no right to a trial by jury in this matter.  

Pinal County v. Haring-Miller, 2012 WL 344963 (Ct. App. Ariz., Div. 1 Dep’t, 2/2/ 2012)

The opinion can be accessed at: http://azcourts.gov/Portals/89/memod/CV/CV110153.pdf.


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