Seventh Judicial District Court Judge Don Torgerson ruled in favor of Grand County and the owner of a six-acre lot along Creekside Lane on Wednesday, May 19 in a zoning and land use dispute.
The spat erupted over a decision by the Grand County Commission in January to change the zoning on a planned unit development in Larry White’s name. White is the owner of the six acres; he asked to have the plan, approved by the county in 1990s, amended so he could cluster three sub-acre parcels on the corner of his lot.
The overall number of parcels will remain the same at six, but neighbors of White pushed back against the decision, which they called “arbitrary and capricious,” as it would result in clustering of units on parcels smaller than what the underlying zone allows. The rural residential zone calls for housing densities of no more than one house per acre.
However, because he has a planned unit development for his lot, the land use code grants White more flexibility on how he can configure parcels within the lot. With that flexibility comes the cost of oversight by the county, and in this case, the county approved his plan.
Christina Brinegar and Scot Andersen, who are White’s neighbors, appealed the decision back to the county commission after their January decision. The commission reaffirmed its own conclusions and decisions made by county staff in the process, so Brinegar and Andersen took their case before the court.
The two made their argument earlier in the day on Wednesday before Torgerson, as did Grand County Attorney Christina Sloan.
Torgerson said as he gave his verdict that state law requires a general deference to the land use authority and legislative body of the county, which in this case is the commission, in matters such as this. Ultimately, he said, the decision came down to whether it could be reasonably argued that the zone change benefited the community as a whole and not merely the developer.
Torgerson said that it was indeed reasonable to argue that the zone change was a net benefit to the community at large, meaning that the January decision by the commission was not arbitrary, capricious, or illegal.
“The court finds it is reasonably debatable that this is in the interest of the general welfare,” Torgerson said. “These are housing units that are residential, single-family dwellings that would be built here, and they are surrounded by other, single-family residential dwellings, and even though some of the other parcels in the neighborhood are larger, that doesn’t necessarily change the quality of these as single-family dwellings.”