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Farley v. Utah County

Court of Appeals of Utah

March 28, 2019

Kenyon L. Farley and Irene Farley, Appellants,
v.
Utah County, Appellee.

          Fourth District Court, Provo Department The Honorable Claudia Laycock No. 150400689

          Vincent C. Rampton, Attorney for Appellants

          Jody K. Burnett and Robert C. Keller, Attorneys for Appellee

          Judge Diana Hagen authored this Opinion, in which Judges Michele M. Christiansen Forster and Jill M. Pohlman concurred.

          HAGEN, JUDGE.

         ¶1 Kenyon L. Farley and Irene Farley (collectively, the Farleys) submitted an application (the Application) to create an agriculture protection area to shield their land from any future zoning decisions and municipal regulations that would interfere with agricultural use. In response to the Application, Utah County's Board of Commissioners (Utah County) received two modification requests (the Modification Requests), seeking to exclude portions of the Farleys' land that might be needed to widen roads or install utility lines in the future. After considering the Application and the Modification Requests, Utah County approved a modified application that excluded the challenged portions from the agriculture protection area. The Farleys appealed the decision to the district court, which granted summary judgment in favor of Utah County. The Farleys now appeal the district court's order, arguing that under state and local law, Utah County lacked discretion to do anything except approve the Application. We affirm.

         BACKGROUND[1]

         ¶2 The Farleys are landowners in Utah County. In 2014, they submitted the Application to Utah County, requesting the creation of an agriculture protection area. An agriculture protection area is a geographic area that is granted "specific legal protections," Utah Code Ann. § 17-41-101(3) (LexisNexis 2017), intended to exempt the land from zoning decisions and municipal regulations that would restrict farming practices, see id. § 17-41-402 (limitations on local regulations); id. § 17-41-403 (nuisances); id. § 17-41-404 (policy of state agencies); id. § 17-41-405 (eminent domain restrictions); id. § 17-41-406 (restrictions on state development projects). Soon thereafter, Utah County received the Modification Requests. First, Payson City Municipal Corporation and Payson City Power and Light (collectively, Payson) requested that Utah County exclude from the protected area an easement where Payson intended to install a utility line at an undetermined time in the future. Second, the Utah County Engineer's Office (the Engineer's Office) requested that Utah County exclude rights-of-way for two roads currently crossing a portion of the proposed agriculture protection area because, according to Utah County's General Plan, these roads had been identified as collector and arterial roads that may be widened at an unspecified time.

          ¶3 Pursuant to Utah law, the Application and the Modification Requests were referred to the Utah County Agriculture Protection Area Advisory Board (the Advisory Board) and the Utah County Planning Commission (the Planning Commission) for their separate review, comments, and recommendations. Ultimately, the Advisory Board and the Planning Commission returned conflicting recommendations. The Advisory Board recommended that the Application be approved as originally submitted, while the Planning Commission recommended that it be approved with the Modification Requests.

         ¶4 Utah County considered the conflicting recommendations at four public hearings. While the Application was under consideration, Utah County and the Farleys discussed potential agreements designed to address the concerns raised by Payson and the Engineer's Office about the potential need to acquire property to widen roads or install utility lines, but no agreement was reached. Consequently, Utah County considered the Application along with the Modification Requests.

         ¶5 In a two-to-one decision, Utah County approved the Application with the Modification Requests, concluding that its decision was warranted under Utah Code section 17-41-305, which, among other things, required it to consider "anticipated trends in agricultural and technological conditions." Id. § 17-41-305(5)(a). Utah County acknowledged that although it wanted to afford the Farleys the protections guaranteed to real property within agriculture protection areas, it also had a duty to protect previously planned corridors. In balancing these conflicting interests, Utah County determined that approving the Application without the Modification Requests would not be in the best interests of the general welfare, health, and safety of its citizens.

         ¶6 The Farleys filed a complaint with the district court, appealing the decision to exclude portions of their property from the agriculture protection area. In the complaint, the Farleys alleged that Utah County's decision: (1) was arbitrary, capricious, and contrary to the law; (2) violated their due process rights; (3) violated their equal protection rights; and (4) entitled them to relief under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. In addition, relying on 42 U.S.C. § 1988, the Farleys requested all costs and attorney fees.

         ¶7 Utah County and the Farleys filed cross-motions for summary judgment. After hearing argument on the motions, the district court granted summary judgment in favor of Utah County. In its order, the district court first determined that the governing statutes provided Utah County with discretion in deciding whether to approve the Application with or without the Modification Requests, and that, at a minimum, Utah County's decision was reasonably debatable. Second, the court concluded that because the Farleys had only a unilateral expectation that Utah County would approve the Application without the Modification Requests, their due process rights had not been violated. Finally, the court determined that the Farleys had failed to demonstrate that they had been treated differently from similarly situated landowners and that Utah County had acted with personal animus to deny them equal protection of the laws. The district court did not address the Farleys' claims under § 1983 and § 1988.

         ¶8 The Farleys appeal.

         ISSUE AND STANDARD OF REVIEW

         ¶9 The Farleys contend the district court erred in granting summary judgment in favor of Utah County. Summary judgment is appropriate only when "there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Utah R. Civ. P. 56(a). On appeal, we review a district court's grant of summary judgment for correctness, affording no deference to the ...


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