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Douglas and Michelle Stafford v. Kootenai County

April 20, 2011

DOUGLAS AND MICHELLE STAFFORD, HUSBAND AND WIFE, PETITIONERS-APPELLANTS,
v.
KOOTENAI COUNTY, A POLITICAL SUBDIVISION OF THE STATE OF IDAHO, ACTING THROUGH THE KOOTENAI BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS; AND ELMER R. "RICK" CURRIE, RICH PIAZZA, AND TODD TONDEE, COMMISSIONERS, IN THEIR OFFICIAL CAPACITIES, RESPONDENTS.



Appeal from the District Court of the First Judicial District of the State of Idaho, in and for Kootenai County. The Hon. John T. Mitchell, District Judge.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Eismann, Chief Justice.

2011 Opinion No. 48

Stephen W. Kenyon, Clerk

The judgment of the district court is vacated.

This is an appeal from a decision of the district court on a petition for judicial review upholding the county's determination that the appellants had violated a zoning ordinance. Because there is no statute granting judicial review of administrative proceedings enforcing a zoning ordinance, we vacate the decision of the district court and remand this case with instructions to dismiss the petition for judicial review without prejudice.

I. FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

In 1999, Douglas and Michelle Stafford purchased a three-quarter-acre lot with frontage on Lake Coeur d'Alene in Kootenai County (County). On July 27, 1999, they obtained a building permit from the County to construct a single family residence on their property. The residence was completed in 2000, and on March 23, 2000, the County issued them a certificate of occupancy for the residence.

On August 19, 2005, the Staffords obtained a building permit to construct an addition to their residence. While a County framing inspector was inspecting the construction on August 28, 2007, he advised a subcontractor that the Staffords would not receive a certificate of occupancy because the Staffords' landscaping violated the County site disturbance ordinance. Later that day and the next, the County inspected the Staffords' property and took photographs of the area of the alleged violation.

On August 29, 2007, the County issued a notice of violation of the site disturbance ordinance, giving the Staffords until September 7, 2007, to take corrective action. Mrs. Stafford, the Staffords' contractor, and a County representative later met on the property, and the representative stated that the Staffords would have to prepare a remediation plan to return a portion of the property back to its natural state.

On November 21, 2007, the Staffords' counsel sent the County a letter contesting the alleged violation and stating that they may have to seek a writ of mandamus to obtain the certificate of occupancy for the addition. The County responded by letter dated January 15, 2008. It stated that no decision had been made regarding the certificate of occupancy, and it gave the Staffords until February 1, 2008, to submit a remediation plan or additional information supporting the Staffords' contention that they were not in violation of the site disturbance ordinance. The letter also reflected the County's misinterpretation of the wording of its site disturbance ordinance that persisted throughout the agency proceedings.

The County adopted Site Disturbance Ordinance No. 251 with an effective date of January 1, 1997. On July 21, 1999, it adopted Site Disturbance Ordinance No. 283. That ordinance provided, "The provisions of this Ordinance shall supersede the provisions of

Kootenai County Site Disturbance Ordinance No. 251." On December 8, 2005, the County adopted Site Disturbance Ordinance No. 374, and it provided, "The provisions of this Ordinance shall supersede the provisions of Kootenai County Site Disturbance Ordinance No. 283."

Because the relevant provisions of all three ordinances are identical, we will refer to them collectively as the site disturbance ordinance. The site disturbance ordinance provides:

For lots with frontage on a recognized lake or the Coeur d'Alene or Spokane Rivers, an undisturbed natural vegetation buffer shall be retained at the waterfront. A stairway or walkway (which does not exceed 4 feet in width), stairway landings (which do not exceed 6 feet in width or length), or a tram shall be allowed to encroach within the buffer. The buffer ...


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