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Burks v. City of Maricopa

Court of Appeals of Arizona, Second Division

July 16, 2018

Bonita Burks, an individual, Plaintiff/Appellant,
v.
City of Maricopa, an Arizona municipal corporation; City of Maricopa City Council, in its official capacity; Christian Price, in his official capacity as City of Maricopa Mayor; Marvin L. Brown, in his official capacity as City of Maricopa Vice Mayor and Councilmember; Peggy Chapados, in her official capacity as City of Maricopa Councilmember; Julia R. Gusse, in her official capacity as City of Maricopa Councilmember; Vincent Manfredi, in his official capacity as City of Maricopa Councilmember; Nancy Smith, in her official capacity as City of Maricopa Councilmember; Henry Wade Jr., in his official capacity as City of Maricopa Councilmember; City of Maricopa Planning and Zoning Commission; Kazi Haque, in his official capacity as City of Maricopa Planning and Zoning Administrator, Defendants/Appellees, and Private Motorsports Group LLC, an Arizona limited liability company, Real Party in Interest/Appellee.

          Appeal from the Superior Court in Pinal County No. S1100CV201701360 The Honorable Robert C. Olson, Judge

          Timothy A. La Sota PLC, Phoenix By Timothy A. La Sota Counsel for Plaintiff/Appellant

          Sims Murray Ltd., Phoenix By Kristin M. Mackin Counsel for Defendant/Appellee City of Maricopa

          Coppersmith Brockelman PLC, Phoenix By Roopali H. Desai and D. Andrew Gaona Counsel for Real Party in Interest/Appellee

          Presiding Judge Vásquez authored the decision of the Court, in which Judge Eppich and Chief Judge Eckerstrom concurred.

          MEMORANDUM DECISION

          VÁSQUEZ, PRESIDING JUDGE.

         ¶1 Bonita Burks appeals the trial court's judgment in favor of the City of Maricopa and various officials (collectively the City) and Private Motorsports Group LLC (PMG) in her action to enjoin the permitting and construction of an automobile racing facility. Burks argues the court erred in dismissing this action for lack of standing. Alternatively, she contends the standing requirement should be waived. For the following reasons, we affirm.

         Factual and Procedural Background

         ¶2 The material facts in this case are undisputed. In July 2017, Burks filed a complaint against the City and PMG seeking a declaratory judgment and injunctive relief to prevent the permitting and construction of an automobile racing facility at the northwest corner of Ralston Road and State Route 283 in Maricopa. The proposed facility would sit on 280 acres and include two automobile racetracks totaling 4.2 miles, a clubhouse, storage facilities, garage condominiums, and a go-kart racing track. Burks's complaint challenged the City's and PMG's compliance with the appropriate regulations during the transition from Maricopa's old zoning code, established when the city was incorporated in 2003, to its new zoning code, established in 2014.

         ¶3 In her complaint, Burks maintained that the proposed property for the racing facility was designated as "CI-2 - Industrial Zone" under the old code and that a racetrack is only permitted on property zoned "GC - General Commercial," "GO - General Office," or "SC - Shopping Center" under the new code. She thus reasoned that PMG needed to have the property rezoned and then be granted a conditional-use permit to comply with the new code. Because PMG sought a conditional-use permit without first rezoning the property, Burks argued that PMG's request was "improper, unlawful, and violates the New Code."

         ¶4 In addition, Burks alleged that, shortly after the Maricopa City Council approved PMG's application for a conditional-use permit, a referendum application was filed with the City to allow its citizens to vote on that decision at the next general election. However, according to Burks, the City Council then passed Ordinance No. 17-07, which allows the City Council to call for a special election on referendums. She reasoned that Ordinance No. 17-07 "was employed as a mere pretext in order to expedite the vote on the Referendum" regarding PMG's conditional-use permit.

         ¶5 With her complaint, Burks filed a motion for a temporary restraining order and requested an evidentiary hearing on the matter. The City and PMG opposed the motion, arguing that "Burks lacks standing and is not entitled to injunctive relief." In a related motion to dismiss, the City and PMG asserted that Burks lacked standing because "[s]he lives more than five miles from the affected Property and did not sustain special damages or any particularized injury." The trial court scheduled oral argument, directing that "all issues shall be heard together," and ordered the parties to try to resolve "all evidentiary matters." After further briefing on whether to hold an evidentiary hearing, the court denied Burks's request. However, during the hearing, the court allowed the parties to present testimony and exhibits as part of a "limited [e]videntiary [h]earing." The parties also stipulated to consolidating "all pending requests in a hearing on the merits," pursuant to Rule 65(a)(2), Ariz. R. Civ. P.

         ¶6 The trial court subsequently issued an under-advisement ruling, concluding that Burks "lack[ed] standing to challenge the issuance of the use permit, since there is no evidence that [she] will suffer any injury that is more substantial than suffered by the community at large." The court also declined to waive standing, noting that "courts are highly reluctant to grant such an exception." Although it went on to address the issue of the City's and PMG's compliance with the regulations, the court explained that its findings were "dicta and non-binding on the parties." It noted that it was addressing the merits of Burks's complaint because the City and PMG "request[] that all issues be heard," "time is of the essence," "judicial economy is served by considering this issue," and "an appellate court may ultimately exercise its discretion to waive standing." The court concluded that the City and PMG needed to comply with the new zoning code but had failed to do so. It further found that the language in the new code did not "nullify the statutory authority of the City Council to adopt [Ordinance No. 17-07]" because that was a "matter of legislative discretion." The court entered a judgment in favor of the City and PMG. This appeal followed. We have jurisdiction pursuant to A.R.S. §§ 12-120.21(A)(1) and 12-2101(A)(1).

         Standard ...


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