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Wilson Advisory Committee, A Wyoming Nonprofit Corporation v. Board of County

December 21, 2012


Appeal from the District Court of Teton County The Honorable Timothy C. Day, Judge

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

Before KITE, C.J., and HILL, VOIGT, BURKE, and DAVIS, JJ.

NOTICE: This opinion is subject to formal revision before publication in Pacific Reporter Third. Readers are requested to notify the Clerk of the Supreme Court, Supreme Court Building, Cheyenne, Wyoming 82002, of any typographical or other formal errors so that correction may be made before final publication in the permanent volume.

[¶1] The Teton County Board of Commissioners (the Board) approved a Final Development Plan Application by C&J, LLC (C&J). C&J owns 2.04 acres of property in Wilson, Wyoming. The northern portion of the property is zoned for commercial use, while the southern portion is zoned for a single-family residence. The plan approved by the Board allowed C&J to construct five residential units and one affordable housing unit in the single-family residential zone. It also allowed commercial parking and other commercial uses. The number of residential units permitted has since been reduced to four.

[¶2] Appellant Wilson Advisory Committee, a non-profit corporation representing citizens concerned about the development of Wilson, petitioned the district court for review. The district court affirmed the Board's decision, and the Wilson Advisory Committee appealed. We affirm in part and remand to require the Board to make findings called for by its own regulations.


[¶3] 1. Did the approved plan's increase of the overall residential density of the southern tract violate Teton County's Land Development Regulations?

2. Did the Board make the findings required by its Land Development Regulations as a predicate to allowing more intense use of the single-family residential portion of a dual-zoned property?

3. If so, were the Board's findings arbitrary and capricious or contrary to law?


[¶4] C&J, LLC owns 2.04 acres of land in Wilson, Wyoming. The property originally consisted of two separate parcels, each located in a different zoning district. The northern parcel of 0.58 acres was originally zoned Auto-Urban Commercial (AC). The southern, 1.46-acre tract was zoned Neighborhood Conservation -- Single Family (NC-SF), meaning that only one single-family dwelling could ordinarily be constructed on it.

[¶5] In 2007, a Minor Boundary Adjustment permitted by Teton County Land Development Regulations combined the two tracts into a single parcel for development. See Teton County Land Development Regulation § 6300 (Oct. 2006) (hereinafter LDRs). Notice of this action was given to adjacent landowners. None of them contested or appealed the boundary adjustment. The property continued to be located in two different zoning districts, limiting the use of each tract to that permitted within the applicable district.

[¶6] In 2008 the northern portion of the property was rezoned to Wilson Commercial (WC) by an amendment to the county's official zoning district map. The WC zoning designation was created to encourage the development of nonresidential uses which would serve the neighboring population. In contrast, NC-SF districts served to preserve the character of existing residential neighborhoods. There was no objection to or appeal from the 2008 rezoning of the northern portion of the property.

[¶7] On December 22, 2010, C&J submitted a Final Development Plan Application to the Teton County Planning Department. C&J was the first entity to attempt development in the new WC zoning district. It requested approval to construct three commercial buildings, five residential units, two accessory residential units, and one affordable housing unit on the property. The plan called for five regular residential units, one affordable housing unit, and commercial parking to be built on the 1.46 acres zoned for a single-family residence under the NC-SF designation.

[¶8] The Teton County Planning and Zoning Commission (the Planning Commission) held two public meetings on C&J's application.*fn1 At the first, held on November 29, 2010, several citizens voiced concerns about the project's impact on adjacent wetlands, parking, and local traffic.

[¶9] The Planning Commission extended its consideration of the application to another meeting held on January 24, 2011. At that meeting, public comment included additional expressions of concern about wetland preservation and the project's compliance with zoning regulations applicable to the NC-SF parcel. The Planning Commission staff explained its belief that the 2007 boundary adjustment allowed for commercial construction on the NC-SF portion of the property in accordance with applicable LDRs and that the project's proposed location of structures allowed for mitigation of any possible adverse wetland impacts. The Planning Commission voted unanimously to recommend approval of the proposed development to the Board.

[¶10] C&J's application came before the Board at a public meeting held on March 1, 2011. The Board considered a Planning Commission staff report on the proposed project. The staff report indicated that the project complied with applicable LDRs, but acknowledged that local residents had raised a number of objections to the planned development. The Board postponed a decision on the project until its next regular meeting, which was to be held on March 15, 2011.

[¶11] In the interim, the Planning Commission staff prepared a revised report. The revised staff report included the following additional discussion of the project's compliance with the Teton County Comprehensive Plan:

The proposal contains elements that would promote and support diverse economic and social populations that do not adversely affect environmental quality or wildlife and scenic resources. It offers a spectrum of housing types, especially for resident workers. The development is proposed in a location that is served by existing transportation and utility infrastructure, and the intensity of use proposed for this property is consistent with the stewardship goals of this chapter.

It also described the density and location of developments located in more than one zoning district:

Density calculations are based on the acreage in each zoning district. The more intense commercial portion of the development is located in the WC district; however, due to the presence of Edmiston Spring Creek and its associated wetlands, there is considerable residential density permitted in the portion of the property zoned NC-SF.

The revised report contained an extensive discussion of the project's impact on adjacent wetlands and recommended approval of the proposed development.

[¶12] At the March 15, 2011 Board meeting, counsel for Appellant Wilson Advisory Committee spoke in opposition to the project, as did some local residents. Counsel for C&J and representatives of the Planning Commission staff responded to the citizens' concerns, including those relating to environmental impacts. County Commissioner Schwartz moved to approve C&J's application, subject to a number of conditions, "based upon finding that the application meets with all applicable standards set forth in the Teton County Land Development Regulations and Comprehensive Plan." The Board approved the application subject to the adoption of written findings of fact and conclusions of law.

[¶13] On April 11, 2011, the Board issued its "Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law and Order Granting Final Development Plan Approval." It found, among other things, the following:

10. On March 9, 2011, Planning Staff submitted a Revised Staff Report accompanied by a Memo . . . , a copy of which is attached hereto as Exhibit B and made a part hereof. The Revised Staff Report reflected that the applicant had modified his site plan to avoid any encroachment into the wetland setback . . . .

It continued:

16. The application of C&J, LLC for Final Development Plan approval complies with all applicable provisions of the Teton County Comprehensive Plan as more fully set forth on pp. 10-11 of the staff report dated

3.9.11 (Exhibit B).

17. The application of C&J, LLC for Final Development Plan Approval complies with all applicable provisions of the Teton County Land Development Regulations as more fully set forth on pp. 12-20 of the staff report dated 3.9.11 (Exhibit B) . . . .

The Board approved the project with thirty-two conditions which are not relevant to this appeal.

[¶14] Appellant timely petitioned for review of the Board's decision by the Ninth Judicial District Court. The district court affirmed the Board's order in almost all respects, but remanded to the Board for the limited purpose of recalculating the number of residential dwelling units. At oral argument before the district court, counsel for the Board admitted that the final development plan provided for five regular residential units, but the LDRs only allowed four. Counsel further indicated this error would not affect overall square footage calculations. The Board promptly held a hearing and ordered a reduction in the number of permissible residential units from five to four without waiting for remand. All other density calculations remained unaffected, and Appellant does not challenge this modification. This minor error has therefore been corrected.*fn2

[¶15] Appellant timely appealed the decision upholding approval of the development application. It does not take issue with the proposed density recalculation.


[¶16] The Wyoming Administrative Procedure Act governs our review. Gilbert v. Bd. of Cnty. Comm'rs of Park Cnty., 2010 WY 68, ¶ 10, 232 P.3d 17, 23 (Wyo. 2010) ("The issues before the Court in this appeal require application of our standard for reviewing the actions of an administrative agency."); Northfork Citizens For Responsible Dev. v. Bd. of Cnty. Comm'rs of Park Cnty., 2010 WY 41, ¶ 50, 228 P.3d 838, 855 (Wyo. 2010) ("By definition, a board of county commissioners is an 'agency' subject to the WAPA.") (citing Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 16-3-101(b)(i); Holding's Little America v. Bd. of Cnty. Commr's of Laramie Cnty., 670 P.2d 699, 701-02 (Wyo. 1983)); Bd. of Cnty. Comm'rs of Teton Cnty. v. Teton Cnty. Youth Servs., 652 P.2d 400, 410-12 (Wyo. 1982) (clarifying that boards of county commissioners' decisions are reviewed in the same manner as other administrative actions).

[¶17] Under Wyoming Rule of Appellate Procedure 12.09, our review is limited to a determination of matters specified in § 16-3-114(c) of the Wyoming Administrative Procedure Act. W.R.A.P. 12.09(a). ...

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