by: Patrick A. Randolph, Jr.
Professor of Law
UMKC School of Law
ZONING AND PLANNING; AGRICULTURAL ZONING: County comprehensive plan that discourages displacement of agricultural land for other uses does not support denial of a conditional use permit to build a golf course on agricultural land zoned for "general use" when applicable zoning permits other non-agricultural uses with impact equivalent to golf course.
Hansen v. Chelan County, 913 P.2d 409 (Wash. App. Div. 3, 1996).
The Washington Court of Appeals, reversing the trial court, held that it was "arbitrary and capricious" for the county Board of Adjustment to refusal the permit on the grounds that the golf course was inconsistent with the goals and policies of the comprehensive plan. The Court found no evidence that a golf course would have a greater effect on the owner's land, or adjacent land, than other uses already permitted outright, such as residential development. The Court relied on the general rule that a special use permit cannot be denied because of its effect on land "unless the effect is greater than that of uses permitted in the district without a special permit."
Comment 1: The Board of Adjustment had made a specific finding that the golf course would tend to accelerate the pace of other landowner's conversion of their land to residential useage, inconsistent with the overall goal of preservation of agricultural activity. It is unclear how the court deals with this finding. It points out that residential activity (even multifamily) was an expressly permitted use under the zoning in effect. Perhaps it is suggesting that a golf course is no more likely than a residential development to promote conversion of adjacent property to residential useage. But is it "arbitrary and capricious" to conclude that the pace of residential conversion will be accelerated when an amenity like a golf course is placed in an area?
Comment 2: Another application of the maxim that zoning lawyers should always remember: "Judges live in single family homes (and play golf)."
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