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Baker v. Park City Municipal Corp.

Court of Appeals of Utah

October 13, 2017

Michael E. Baker and Kathleen M. Papi-Baker, Appellants,
v.
Park City Municipal Corporation, Appellee.

         Third District Court, Silver Summit Department The Honorable Kara Pettit No. 140500532

          Bruce R. Baird, Attorney for Appellants.

          Mark D. Harrington and Polly Samuels McLean, Attorneys for Appellee.

          Judge Gregory K. Orme authored this Opinion, in which Judges Kate A. Toomey and David N. Mortensen concurred.

          ORME, JUDGE.

         ¶1 Appellants Michael E. Baker and Kathleen M. Papi-Baker (collectively, the Bakers) sought review in the district court of a decision, issued by the Park City Council (the Council), denying their application for a plat amendment. The Bakers filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that their proposed amendment complied with municipal zoning regulations and that the Council withheld its permission unlawfully. The district court denied their motion and instead granted the cross-motion filed by Park City Municipal Corporation (the City). The Bakers appeal. We affirm.

         BACKGROUND

         ¶2 The Bakers are the current owners of "Dority Springs, " also known as "Lot 83, " located in the Holiday Ranchettes Subdivision (the Subdivision) in Park City, Utah. The Bakers' residence sits on the Dority Springs lot. Platted in 1974, the Subdivision is comprised of approximately 171 acres of land and 102 lots. While the Subdivision does contain seven lots that are one acre in size or less, including Dority Springs, the vast majority of the lots range between one and two acres. Twenty lots in the Subdivision are greater than two acres in size.

         ¶3 The Subdivision is included within Park City's "Single-Family District" zone. Single-family dwellings are among the allowed uses in the District and, absent a special exception, they are the only permitted residential dwellings within the Subdivision.[1] Although the actual density within the Subdivision is much different, the maximum subdivision density in the District is three units per acre, which means that each lot must have an area of at least 14, 520 square feet, or one-third of an acre. Lots within the District have a minimum front-yard setback of twenty feet, a minimum rear-yard setback of fifteen feet, and a maximum structural height of no more than twenty-eight feet above existing grade. According to Park City's Land Management Code (the LMC), one of the purposes behind these land use restrictions is to "allow for Single Family Development Compatible with existing Developments."[2]

         ¶4 Although platted contemporaneously with the Subdivision's other lots, Dority Springs is unique among its neighbors for several reasons. To begin with, Dority Springs is located on the Subdivision's outermost rim, across the street from lots in the Park Meadows Subdivision No. 5. Those lots, also zoned for single-family dwellings, are much smaller than the average Subdivision lot and range between one-quarter and four-fifths of an acre in size. Down the street, there are also condominiums, a golf course, and a large fitness and recreation center. But behind and to both sides of Dority Springs, the Subdivision's lots are much larger, averaging nearly 1.7 acres.

         ¶5 Most importantly, Dority Springs is unique among the Subdivision's lots because of its unusual history. The lot, which contains springs and a pond, once served as a convenient water source for Park City firefighters. But after fire hydrants were installed, the Park City Fire Department had no need to access water on the lot. The special character of Dority Springs' wetlands, including its original utility as a natural water source for fighting fires, appears to explain why Dority Springs is exempt from the Subdivision's Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions (the CC&Rs).

         ¶6 Nearly all lots in the Subdivision are subject to the Subdivision's CC&Rs, which expressly prohibit lot owners from further subdividing their lots. Rather mysteriously, however, two lots are exempted from the CC&Rs' limitations. Dority Springs is one of them. While the CC&Rs themselves do not offer a reason for Dority Springs' exemption, the Bakers and the City agree that the most likely explanation is that the lot was not intended for residential development when the Subdivision was initially platted. They observe that Dority Springs' first building permit was not granted until 1993, nearly twenty years after the Subdivision was established and after the lot had lost its value to Park City firefighters as a water source. Moreover, while the CC&Rs exempt Dority Springs from all of the CC&Rs' generally applicable restrictions, the plat diagram included with the CC&Rs also designates Dority Springs as "Open Area."

         ¶7 Hoping to take advantage of their exemption from the Subdivision's CC&Rs, the Bakers petitioned the Council for a plat amendment that would allow them to subdivide Dority Springs and build a house on the newly created lot. As proposed, their plat amendment and construction plans complied with all the regulatory requirements of the LMC's Single-Family District.

         ¶8 The Bakers' petition was referred to the Park City Planning Commission (the Commission), which held two separate hearings on the matter. During those hearings, the Commission heard testimony from the Bakers, other homeowners who reside in the Bakers' neighborhood, and a representative from the Subdivision's homeowners' association. The Commission also heard testimony from a representative of Alliance Engineering, a civil engineering and surveying firm that prepared a survey of the site for the Commission's review. Finally, the Commission discussed whether the Council should consider the character of lots outside the Subdivision when making its decision or restrict the scope of its deliberations to the Subdivision alone.

         ¶9 The Commission forwarded a report to the Council in which it recommended that the Bakers' requested plat amendment be denied. The Commission supported its recommendation with sixty-three "findings of fact" and four "conclusions of law, " all of which it included in its report, along with a summary of the evidence it reviewed during its proceedings. The Commission's four enumerated "conclusions of law" were as follows:

1. The proposed plat amendment is not consistent with the Park City Land Management Code and applicable State Law regarding lot combinations.
2. The public will be materially injured by the proposed plat amendment as the proposed plat amendment is not compatible with the direct neighborhood in terms of lot size and depth.
3. Approval of the plat amendment does adversely affect health, safety, and welfare of the citizens of Park City.
4. There is Good Cause to deny the proposed plat amendment as the plat does cause undue harm on adjacent property owners because the proposal is not compatible with existing Single ...

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