Evans v. Teton County, Supreme Court of Idaho (2003)

Facts: Teton Springs is a developer that proposes to convert 780 acres of mostly undeveloped farmland and wetland in southern Teton County into a PUD consisting of a golf course, equestrian facility, ski facility, 100-room hotel, swimming pool, restaurants, and other amenities, as well as over 500 residences including ranch estates, golf estates and overnight cabins. The area surrounding the PUD includes the Targhee National Forest to the south and a mix of agricultural, residential and commercial uses elsewhere, including the city of Victor, Idaho; the appellants, Richard Evans and Matthew Finnegan reside on 2.5 acre residential lots near the PUD. Approximately 140 acres of the 780 acres are located within the "Area of City Impact", an unincorporated area of Teton County neighboring Victor.

On June 12, 2000, the Teton County Board of Commissioners and the city of Victor both approved the PUD and granted the requested zone change from A-2.5 to R-1 (agricultural to residential?). These actions were taken following a public process in which the Teton County Planning and Zoning Commission conducted public hearings, and received input from the Idaho Department of Water Resources, the U.S. EPA, the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality and various other federal, state, county and local agencies. Further, the Zoning Commission issued Findings of Fact and Conclusions on May 9 in support of its decision; these were adopted by the Board of Commissioners.

The appellants have filed a Petition for Judicial Review of Teton Springs' application for approval of a PUD and zone change, alleging that the Board of Commissioners violated Teton County Zoning Ordinance, the Teton County Subdivision Ordinance and the Teton County Comprehensive plan by approving the PUD and granting a zone change, and that the appellants would suffer substantial injury (no further detail on this).

Procedure: The district court affirmed the Board of Commissioner's approval and zone change.

Issue: Is it reasonable for the Board of Commissioners to approve a PUD that does not conform to the Zoning and Subdivision Ordinances nor the Comprehensive Plan for a residential zone, or is it an invalid exercise of police power?

Holding: The supreme court also affirmed the Board of Commissioner's approval and zone change.

Rationale:
  1. First, the opinion points out that "there is a strong presumption that the actions of the Board of Commissioners, where it has interpreted and applied its own zoning ordinances, are valid."
  2. Further, the court finds that the PUD does conform to the Zoning and Subdivision Ordinances because it is an "Residential, Commercial or Industrial PUD (referred to an 'RCI PUD')" and so the commercial uses are permissible.
  3. The court counters higher densities than allowed in R-1 are permissible because the subdivision ordinance gives the Board of Commissioners discretion in PUDs, as long as the Board determines the proposal will not negatively impact public health, safety and welfare.
  4. Finally, the court asserts that Comprehensive Plan conformity is not an issue, as the Comprehensive Plan "is not a zoning ordinance by which a development's compliance is measured. Rather, the Comprehensive Plan provides guidance to the local agency charged with making zoning decisions.

Notes: In addition, there is some deliberation about the Findings of Facts and Conclusions issued by the Zoning Commission; the appellants have argued that they are inadequate to show the PUD complies with the Zoning and Subdivision Ordinances and the Comprehensive Plan. The court's answer is that the Idaho Code sections are not violated because the entire record of the public process, including staff reports, PUD application revisions and submitted materials from other public agencies, together show compliance sufficiently.