Posted by: Patricia Salkin | February 29, 2020

ID Supreme Court Holds Board of Commissioners Acted in Excess of Its Statutory Authority When It Granted Landowner’s Application for Variances

This post was authored by Matthew Loescher, Esq.

The Board of County Commissioners for Bonner County granted Stejer’s, Inc.’s request for three variances from applicable lot setbacks required by the Bonner County Revised Code. Neighboring land owners, Frank P. Hungate and Thomas K. Hungate, as trustees of the Hungate Trust, the A&E Family L.L.C., Anne E. Ashburn, Eleanor Jones, Frank Hungate, and John Hungate, appealed the Board’s decision. The district court held that the Board erred in approving the Variances, but nevertheless affirmed the Board’s decision after determining that the Hungates failed to show that their substantial rights were prejudiced.

The Hungates first argued that the Board erred in granting the Variances under section 67-5279(3) because the decision was in violation of Bonner County Revised Code section 12-234 and Idaho Code section 67-6516, and in excess of the Board’s statutory authority. While Stejer’s, Inc. contended that it was not possible to obtain permits when the buildings were constructed, this claim was belied by the Hungates’ evidence that the Hungates had built a home on their property around the same time and obtained building permits. As such, not only have the County and Stejer’s, Inc. failed to argue against all the errors committed by the Board in granting the Variances, but also established that Stejer’s, Inc.’s need for the Variances arose out of Stejer’s, Inc.’s own conduct. The court thus affirmed the district court’s determination that the Board’s decision violated Bonner County Revised Code section 12-234(B).

Next, the Hungates claimed that their rights had been substantially prejudiced by the reduced property values caused by the Variances. In response, the County claimed that the Hungates were precluded from arguing that their property values were impacted by the Variances because they did not adequately raise this argument. Additionally, the Hungates safety concerns were unsupported in the record, as there was no evidence that Stejer’s, Inc.’s use of its properties has impaired access across Thistledo Lane over the last two decades. The district court decision was therefore affirmed, and costs awarded to Bonner County and Stejer’s, Inc.

Hungate v. Bonner County, 458 P.3d 966 (ID 2/25/2020)

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