Posted by: Patricia Salkin | December 30, 2014

AK Supreme Court Upholds Enforcement Fines After Owner Failed to Appropriately Challenge Them

Szabo used his property zoned low density residential for a junk sales business as well has for his family residence. The municipality received a complaint that junk was stored on the property. Code enforcement officers investigated and agreed. Junk storage is not an allowed use in the zoning district. The code enforcement officer filed a complaint against the Szabos for unlawfully storing junk on their property. Thereafter, the code enforcement officer and property owner worked together to clean up the property. However, the property owner missed deadlines for cleanup and kept asking for more time. After four years of working with the property owner and seeing no substantial progress, the municipality assessed fines. Two years later, it filed an action for abatement, injunctive relief and civil penalties. After a bench trial in which the property owner represented himself, the trial court issued an order requiring plaintiff to clean up the property and pay a $311,000 penalty.

Plaintiff hired a lawyer and sought relief from the court’s judgment arguing the fines assessed were excessive. The court decided that whether the fines were excessive was an issue that could have been resolved in an appeal from the court’s judgment. Because the landowner failed to appeal the court’s order, the court decided he was not entitled to relief from judgment via reconsideration. The court never reached the merits of the landowner’s argument that the fine was unconstitutionally excessive.

Szabo v. Municipality of Anchorage, 2014 WL 895197, 320 P.3d 809 (Alaska 2014), reh’g denied (Apr. 2, 2014).

The opinion can be accessed at:

Editor’s Note: This abstract appears in Wendie Kellington, Esq.’s materials from the December 2014 ALI Land Use Institute

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