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Arnold v. City of Stanley

Supreme Court of Idaho

May 12, 2017

THOMAS ARNOLD and REBECCA ARNOLD, Husband and Wife, Plaintiffs-Appellants,
v.
CITY OF STANLEY, a political subdivision of the State of Idaho, Defendant-Respondent.

         2017 Opinion No. 46

         Appeal from the District Court of the Seventh Judicial District of the State of Idaho, Custer County. Hon. Alan C. Stephens, District Judge.

          The decision of the district court is vacated. This case is remanded to the district court with instructions to dismiss the petition for judicial review. Costs on appeal are awarded to Respondent.

          Greener Burke Shoemaker Oberrecht, P.A., Boise, attorneys for appellants. Thomas J. Lloyd argued.

          Moore, Smith, Buxton & Turcke, Chtd., Boise, attorneys for respondents. Paul J. Fitzer argued.

          JONES, Justice

         I. Nature of the Case

         This appeal concerns whether the Stanley City Council (the "Council") erred in denying a building permit application submitted by Thomas and Rebecca Arnold (the "Arnolds"). The Arnolds proffered several arguments on appeal asserting that the Council erred in denying their building permit application; however, we need not address those arguments because the Council's denial of the building permit application is not subject to judicial review.

         II. Factual and Procedural Background

         The Arnolds own property in Stanley, Idaho (the "Property"). They developed the Property with approval from the Council via a series of development permits, the first of which was granted in 2004. The Council approved a subdivision plat (the "Plat") for the Property in 2007. According to the Plat, the Property was divided into six lots and two parcels. The building permit application at issue sought approval to build an access road from Lot 5 of the Property to an adjacent street.

         From 2009 to 2011, the Arnolds and the City of Stanley (the "City") were involved in litigation concerning certain building permits related to the Property. The litigation resulted in a settlement agreement, which provided that the City would reissue a previously approved building permit. The reissued building permit was set to expire on May 12, 2014. In December 2013, the Arnolds applied for another building permit ("Permit Application 831") to replace the permit that was set to expire. According to the Arnolds, Permit Application 831 was only necessary because the previous permit could not be renewed.

         At a meeting on February 13, 2014, the Council denied Permit Application 831. That same day, the Arnolds filed a petition for judicial review. On March 31, 2014, the Arnolds submitted a letter to the Council contesting the denial of Permit Application 831. Therein, Mrs. Arnold claimed that Permit Application 831 was no different from the previously approved building permits. Further, she argued that there were other examples where the Council issued permits allowing work on adjacent City streets. Later that day, the Council held a special meeting to discuss Permit Application 831. The Council identified the following four bases for its denial: (1) the installation of an access road at this location was inconsistent with the approved Plat and prior approved building permits; (2) Permit Application 831 was not limited to construction of an access road upon the Arnolds' own property, but rather sought to render improvements on adjacent property, i.e., the City's right-of-way; (3) in the absence of an amended plat, the Arnolds were not permitted to change the point of access to the Property, nor render modification to property not their own as there is no incidental right to modify the City's right-of-way; and (4) even if such approval could be granted, the Arnolds failed to provide the technical information necessary for the Council to adequately evaluate their request.

         On June 12, 2014, the Arnolds filed their opening brief, wherein they argued as follows: (1) the Council's denial of Permit Application 831 violated the equal protection clause of the U.S. and Idaho Constitutions; (2) the Council's failure to record and transcribe verbatim the February 13, 2014 meeting violated the Arnolds' due process rights; (3) the Council's denial of Permit Application 831 was not supported by substantial and competent evidence, and was arbitrary, capricious, and an abuse of discretion; and (4) the Council's denial of Permit Application 831 prejudiced the Arnolds' substantial rights.

         The district court held a hearing on May 20, 2015, and issued its decision and order on June 10, 2015. Therein, the district court made four holdings. First, the district court held that the Arnolds' equal protection argument was meritless because they failed to provide any evidence that the Council treated anyone else differently.[1] Second, the district court held that appropriate due process safeguards were satisfied by the audio recording of the February 13, 2014 Council meeting because the recording adequately provided the bases of the Council's decision.[2] Third, the district court held that the Council's decision was supported by substantial and competent evidence and was not arbitrary or capricious.[3] Fourth, the district court ...


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