New Case Summary – Baker v. Carlson

Posted on: January 26th, 2021 by rplehn

Utah Supreme Court

November 28, 2018

2018 UT 59 (Click for text of opinion)

The Utah Supreme Court affirmed the district court’s ruling that a resolution to amend a site development master plan was referable, whereas a resolution to amend a development agreement made in relation to the site development master plan was not referable. 

A developer purchased the land on which the old Cottonwood Mall once stood and the rights to a redevelopment project which was abandoned by the previous owner. Holladay’s zoning code provides two steps for development: (1) submission of a site development master plan (SDMP) to the City for approval to serve as a guide for overall development and design of the entire site; and (2) once an SDMP has been approved, the City and developer must enter into an Agreement for the Development of Land (ADL), which grants certain rights pursuant to the SDMP.

Holladay City approved two resolutions, one approving a proposal to amend the original SDMP, and the other approving a proposal to amend the original ADL. A group of Holladay citizens petitioned to subject these resolutions to vote by public referendum. The City declined to place the referenda on the ballot—determining that the resolutions were administrative in nature and therefore not referable. The citizens initiated a lawsuit, and the district court awarded summary judgment for the citizens as to their claim that the resolution regarding the SDMP was referable, while also granting summary judgment to the City as to their claim that the resolution regarding the ADL was not referable. Both parties appealed.Applying the test set forth in Carter v. Lehi City, 2012 UT 2, 269 P.3d 141, the court affirmed the district court’s ruling in determining that the SDMP resolution was made after considering broad, competing policy considerations, was generally applicable and was legislative in nature and therefore referable. The ADL resolution, however, was found to be administrative in nature and not referable because it had very limited and specific applicability in that it applied only to those parties that negotiated its terms and the City did not weigh broad-competing policy considerations in approving this resolution.