Almost three years after the Tooele County Planning Commission approved two development projects in Erda, the Utah Court of Appeals ruling ended a protracted review of the approval.
The Utah Court of Appeals found that the Erda Community Association had not exhausted its administrative remedies nor had demonstrated that any established exceptions to the exhaustion requirement were applicable to the case. In doing so, the Court of Appeals reversed the 3rd District Court’s denial of Tooele County’s motion to dismiss the case and remanded the case back to the District Court for an order of dismissal.
“We agree with the County: the Association failed to exhaust its administrative remedies and no exception to the exhaustion requirement applies. On that basis, we reverse,” wrote Utah Court of Appeals Judge Ryan Harris, with Judges David Mortensen and Ryan Tenney concurring.
In December 2019, the Tooele County Planning Commission gave their conceptual approval for two planned unit development-conditional use permits for two developments southwest of state Route 36 and Erda Way.
One development was known as Tealby Village. It was on 44 acres with 74 residential lots of varying sizes and 13.5 acres along state Route 36 reserved for commercial uses. The other project was named Erda Estates. It was on 156 acres with 227 residential lots of varying sizes, with three large agricultural preservation parcels on the west end of the property.
The Tooele County Council heard an administrative appeal of the planning commission’s approval of the two developments in February 2021. The appeal was filed by over 100 Erda residents.
The Tooele County Council denied the appeal with a 3-1 vote with one abstention.
Council members that voted to deny the appeal said they could not find evidence on the record that the planning commission’s decision was arbitrary, capricious, or illegal — the requirements of state code to sustain an overturn of the planning commission’s decision.
The Erda Community Association then filed a petition in the 3rd District Court seeking a judicial review of the Council’s decision.
While some of the individuals that filed for the administrative appeal by the County Council were members of the ECA, the ECA itself did not file for an administrative appeal.
The County asked the 3rd District Court to dismiss the case because the ECA itself had not filed for an administrative appeal, a prerequisite to filing for a judicial review.
The District Court denied the County’s motion for dismissal asserting that an exception to the exhaustion requirement applied.
The Utah Court of Appeals said the ECA failed to exhaust its administrative remedies by not filing for an administrative appeal, even if several of the individuals that did file for the administrative appeal were members if the ECA, and — even assuming its alleged facts to be true — it did not carry its burden of demonstrating that any of the established exceptions to the exhaustion requirement applied.
“As a result, the district court had no subject matter jurisdiction to consider the Association’s petition for judicial review, and it erred by denying the County’s motion to dismiss,” wrote Harris in the ruling.
Both the properties involved in the PUD-CUP approval and subsequent appeal and request for judicial review were part of an earlier rezone application.
The Tooele County Commission approved a rezone request for both of these properties during its Oct. 16, 2018. The rezones were then the subject of referendum petitions seeking a vote by the public on the rezone requests.
The County Commission rescinded the rezones at the request of the applicant during a 1 p.m. meeting on Dec. 27, 2018 at the Tooele County Building.
At the time of the rescission, the Tooele County clerk was in the process of validating the signatures on the petition to see if they reached the threshold required to put the ordinances on a ballot. The Tooele County Attorney and Lieutenant Governor’s office advised the clerk to stop validating signatures as the rescission of the rezone made the rezone issue mute.