Posted by: Patricia Salkin | April 16, 2021

ID Supreme Court Holds Evidence was Sufficient to Support Denial of Rezoning Application in Agriculture District

This post was authored by Matthew Loescher, Esq.

John and Deborah Rouwenhorst, on behalf of Desert Foothills Wet, LLC, and Desert Foothills Dry, LLC, submitted a rezoning application seeking to reclassify 696 acres in Gem County from A-1, Prime Agriculture to A-2, Rural Transitional Agriculture. Despite the Gem County Zoning Commission recommending approval of the rezone, the Board of County Commissioners denied the application. After unsuccessfully moving for reconsideration, the Rouwenhorsts petitioned for judicial review. The district court reversed the Board’s denial of the rezoning application and awarded attorney fees and costs to the Rouwenhorsts.

On appeal, the Board contended that the basis for its denial was its inability to make the required affirmative finding that there would be no unmitigated adverse impacts upon the delivery of public services, such as additional costs to the residents of Gem County. The Rouwenhorsts further claimed that the Board waived the issue that its decision was arbitrary or capricious by failing to address the district court’s determination that the Board applied standards applicable to subdivision applications, rather than rezoning applications. The court found that the Board framed its concerns regarding the lack of a concept plan as part of its ability to draft an appropriate development agreement; this was provided for in the rezoning application process and left to the Board’s discretion. Moreover, the court found that the Board properly considered what the property could specifically be used for in the future because the Board was directed by Gem County Code section 11-15-4(B) to consider the future effects of the rezoning decision. Accordingly, the Board’s decision was held to be neither arbitrary nor capricious because it applied the appropriate standards for rezoning applications set out in Gem County Code 11-15-4.

The court lastly addressed the district court’s holding that the Board was requiring a “robust development plan” or “robust concept plan” in order to approve the rezone application. The court determined that this conclusion was unsupported by substantial and competent evidence. Specifically, even though the Board indicated its determination would have been aided by a robust development plan, it failed to base its rejection of the rezone on the grounds that a robust plan had not been provided. However, while a “robust” plan would have aided the Board in its determination, the court found that it was not the lack of a “robust” plan that resulted in the rezone being rejected. As such, the district court erred in finding to the contrary and in replacing the Board’s determination with its own. The court therefore reversed the district court’s decision to overturn the Board’s denial of the proposed rezone.

Rouwenhurst v Gem County, 485 P. 3d 153 (ID 4/16/2020)

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