Posted by: Patricia Salkin | September 22, 2017

UT Supreme Court Finds Council had Not Generated Findings Sufficient to Support Its Decision to Deny a Conditional Use Permit

This case arose from the Moab City Council’s denial of Mary and Jeramey McElhaney’s application for a conditional use permit to operate a bed and breakfast in their residential neighborhood. At issue in this case is the fact that the Council did not make explicit findings on whether the proposal met the requirements the Moab Municipal Code imposes. The McElhaneys appealed to the district court, which reversed the Council’s decision.

As pertinent to this case, Utah’s Municipal Land Use Development and Management Act (MLUDMA) provides that conditional uses “shall be approved if reasonable conditions are proposed, or can be imposed, to mitigate the reasonably anticipated detrimental effects of the proposed use in accordance with applicable standards.” Here, the Council made no explicit findings that supported its assertions that the proposed use did not meet the conditions of approval set forth in the Moab Municipal Code. Instead, the councilmembers merely expressed their concerns as they announced their votes. The court determined that further explanation from the Council was needed; without it, it would difficult find how placing a bed and breakfast in an area zoned R-2, which specifically permitted bed and breakfasts, was inconsistent with Moab’s general plan. Additionally, a reviewing court would need to know which impacts the Council believed would be more than “clearly minimal.”

However, instead of remanding the case the district court took it upon itself to examine Google Maps and draw conclusions about the traffic that the bed and breakfast might bring, even no councilmember explicitly cited traffic as the reason for the decision. Thus, while the district court correctly concluded that the Council failed to issue findings sufficient to support its denial of the McElhaneys’ application for conditional use permit, it erred in overturning the Council’s decision without remanding to permit the Council to make findings of fact and conclusions of law capable of appellate review.

McElhaney v City of Moab, 2017 WL 4216543 (UT 9/21/2017)

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