Ferre v. Salt Lake City

May 31, 2019

2019 UT App 94, 444 P.3d 567 (May 31, 2019) (cert. denied) 

The Utah Court of Appeals upheld a judgment in favor of Salt Lake City in allowing a special exception for construction of a two-story house that exceeded Salt Lake City Code’s maximum height allowance.

A house began construction on the lot directly south of homeowner Jeremy Ferre’s property. The house under construction sat on property uniquely situated and accessed by a long driveway and multiple easements from the “block face” street on which Ferre’s property is located. After beginning construction, it was discovered the foundation was not dug deep enough, and a special exception was sought for an additional height for the house of nine feet and eight inches more than permitted by code.

Salt Lake City’s code allows special exceptions to building height restrictions when certain criteria are met, one requirement being that an exception must be “in keeping with the development pattern of the block face.” Finding the house was not directly located in the block face, the senior planner found the property to be compatible with the existing scale and intensity of the neighborhood, and the Commission granted the special exception application over Ferre’s objections. Ferre sought judicial review and the district court concluded that there is no requirement that the building be on a block face to be eligible for a special exception, and declined to disturb the Commission’s decision.

On appeal, the Utah Court of Appeals held that the requirement in the municipal code that the special exception be consistent with the development pattern of the block face was inapplicable because the property at issue was not located on a block face. The Court did not find the code’s silence as to properties not situated on a block face to exclude such properties from all reasonable land use exceptions. Therefore, the city planning commission properly considered the characteristics and existing structures in the neighborhood to determine whether the additional height of the house was in keeping with the regulatory purpose of the City’s zoning ordinances.