322 P.3d 662 (Utah 2013), 20130607, Krejci v. City of Saratoga Springs

Docket Nº:20130607
Citation:322 P.3d 662, 2013 UT 74
Opinion Judge:LEE, JUSTICE:
Party Name:ROBERT H. KREJCI, CAROLYN R. KREJCI, LARRY N. JOHNSON, CINDY B. COLLYER, STUART C. COLLYER, RICHARD M. SANFORD, and MARILYN A. SANFORD, Petitioners, v. CITY OF SARATOGA SPRINGS and LORI YATES, Saratoga Springs City Recorder, Respondents, and CAPITAL ASSETS FINANCIAL SERVICES, Real Party in Interest
Attorney:Kevin E. Anderson, Craig M. Call, Christopher B. McCullock, Salt Lake City, for petitioners. Kevin S. Thurman, Saratoga Springs, for respondents. D. Scott Crook, Richard R. Arnold, Jr., Salt Lake City, for real party in interest.
Judge Panel:JUSTICE LEE authored the opinion of the Court, in which CHIEF JUSTICE DURRANT, ASSOCIATE CHIEF JUSTICE NEHRING, JUSTICE DURHAM, and JUSTICE PARRISH joined.
Case Date:December 10, 2013
Court:Supreme Court of Utah
 
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Page 662

322 P.3d 662 (Utah 2013)

2013 UT 74

ROBERT H. KREJCI, CAROLYN R. KREJCI, LARRY N. JOHNSON, CINDY B. COLLYER, STUART C. COLLYER, RICHARD M. SANFORD, and MARILYN A. SANFORD, Petitioners,

v.

CITY OF SARATOGA SPRINGS and LORI YATES, Saratoga Springs City Recorder, Respondents, and CAPITAL ASSETS FINANCIAL SERVICES, Real Party in Interest

No. 20130607

Supreme Court of Utah

December 10, 2013

Released for Publication March 10, 2014.

Kevin E. Anderson, Craig M. Call, Christopher B. McCullock, Salt Lake City, for petitioners.

Kevin S. Thurman, Saratoga Springs, for respondents.

D. Scott Crook, Richard R. Arnold, Jr., Salt Lake City, for real party in interest.

JUSTICE LEE authored the opinion of the Court, in which CHIEF JUSTICE DURRANT, ASSOCIATE CHIEF JUSTICE NEHRING, JUSTICE DURHAM, and JUSTICE PARRISH joined.

OPINION

Page 663

On Petition for Extraordinary Writ

LEE, JUSTICE:

[¶1] This case presents an important constitutional question we recently reserved without resolving--whether site-specific rezoning is legislative action subject to referendum. See Carter v. Lehi City, 2012 UT 2, ¶ 75 n.52, 269 P.3d 141. We now answer that question in the affirmative.

I

[¶2] Capital Assets Financial Services owns approximately twelve acres of property within the City of Saratoga Springs. In 2012, Capital Assets asked the city council to rezone its property from a low density to a medium density residential zone. Capital Assets requested the rezone so that it could develop the land into seventy-seven " mansion style town homes." The city council granted the request by enacting an ordinance rezoning the twelve acres of property. In response, a group of citizens circulated a petition to reverse the ordinance. After obtaining the required signatures, the group submitted the petition to the City and requested that the issue be placed on the ballot as a referendum. The city recorder determined that the petition complied with the requirements of Utah Code section 20A-7-601 and agreed to place it on the ballot.

[¶3] In response, Capital Assets filed a complaint against the City in the Fourth Judicial District Court. It requested a declaratory judgment that the referendum challenged an action of the city council made through its administrative (and not legislative) power. Capital Assets did not name the citizens' group as a party or serve it with process. And although the citizens had actual notice of the proceedings, they did not intervene.

[¶4] The district court ruled in favor of Capital Assets, declaring that the site-specific zoning at issue was administrative and thus not subject to referendum. On June 4, 2013, it ordered the City to declare the petition invalid and enjoined it from placing the referendum on the ballot. The city recorder complied with the order and removed the measure from the ballot. In response, the citizens' group filed a petition under Utah Code section 20A-7-607(4)(a), which authorizes

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" any voter" to apply for an extraordinary writ when a local clerk refuses to file a referendum petition.

[¶5] Capital Assets, as a real party in interest, moved to intervene, challenging the statutory authority of petitioners to seek an extraordinary writ. And it also defended the district court's conclusion that site-specific rezoning is an administrative action that was not properly referable. The City of Saratoga Springs opted not to take a position on the merits of this question.

[¶6] On August 23, 2013, after hearing oral argument, we issued an order granting Capital Assets' motion to intervene, granting the petition, and directing the City to place the referendum on the ballot. This opinion sets forth our reasoning for that decision.

II

[¶7] Capital Assets raises threshold challenges to petitioners' authority to seek an extraordinary writ. It first contends that this case falls outside the domain of the statute invoked by petitioners, Utah Code section 20A-7-607. And alternatively, it claims that petitioners lost any authority they may have had to petition for an extraordinary writ by failing to intervene in the proceeding filed by Capital Assets in the Fourth District. We reject both arguments. We find the petition procedurally proper and conclude that petitioners are not legally barred from pressing it. And we also hold that petitioners have satisfied the standards in Utah R. App. P. 19(b)(4), in that they had no other plain, speedy, or adequate remedy before them.

A

[¶8] By statute, " any voter" may bring a petition for an extraordinary writ when a " local clerk refuses to accept and file any referendum petition." Utah Code § 20A-7-607( 4)(a). Capital Assets asks us to construe the statute to apply only in circumstances where the local clerk independently determines that the petition is legally deficient. Perhaps such a scenario is more common than the present one. But that is no reason to construe the statute to be limited to that circumstance. Here, the clerk first accepted the petition and then rejected it after the district court entered its order. The presence of a court order does not make the clerk's ultimate rejection of the petition any less of a refusal; it was still a refusal, and on that basis it must be deemed to fall under the clear terms of the statute.

[¶9] The statute provides no exception for cases where the local clerk refuses to file the petition because she is ordered by a court to do so--or any criterion by which the basis for the refusal would be relevant. By its terms the statute applies to all refusals. We cannot append additional conditions to the statutory framework by judicial fiat.

B

[¶10] The decision to grant or deny a petition for extraordinary writ is discretionary. Carpenter v. Riverton City, 2004 UT 68, ¶ 4, 103 P.3d 127. Petitions for extraordinary writ are appropriate only where " no other plain, speedy, or adequate remedy exists." Utah R. App. P. 19(b)(4); see also Carpenter, 2004 UT 68, ¶ 4, 103 P.3d 127 ( " [T]his court typically limits itself to addressing only those petitions that cannot be decided in another forum." ). Thus, where " the petition is presented on hotly disputed material allegations of fact and there is no record below," it is more appropriate and practical for litigants to assert their claim in the district court. Carpenter, 2004 UT 68, ¶ 4, 103 P.3d 127. And where a petitioner had an opportunity to file an appeal but failed to do so, it cannot use an extraordinary writ to...

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