Zoning commission’s authority in reviewing proposed cluster development within context of county’s comprehensive zoning plan; spirit of the plan vs. applicable standards: CITIZENS FOR THE PRESERVATION OF JESSAMINE CNTY V. COOPER DEVELOPMENT (COA 10/17/08

CITIZENS FOR THE PRESERVATION OF JESSAMINE COUNTY, LLC V.
COOPER DEVELOPMENT, LLC
ZONING:  Zoning commission's authority in reviewing proposed cluster
development within context of county's comprehensive zoning plan; spirit of the
plan vs. applicable standards
2007-CA-001460
PUBLISHED: AFFIRMING IN PART, REVERSING AND REMANDING IN PART
PANEL: VANMETER PRESIDING; WINE, LAMBERT CONCUR
JESSAMINE COUNTY
DATE RENDERED: 10/17/2008 

Cooper Development, LLC ("Cooper") sought approval from the Jessamine County/City of Wilmore Joint Planning Commission ("Commission") for a cluster development of 45 residential lots on a 156 acre tract within an agriculture zone. The Citizens for Preservation of Jessamine County, LLC ("Citizens") opposed the cluster development. After a hearing, the Commission denied the proposed cluster development. The Commission acknowledged that a cluster development is permitted in agricultural zones if it complies with the cluster development standards. However, the Commission found that the proposed cluster development (1) failed to demonstrate adequate septic systems; (2) failed to demonstrate adequate landscaping and buffering; (3) failed to demonstrate consumer demand for this type of residential development; and (4) generally conflicted with the spirit and intent of the comprehensive plan. 

Cooper appealed to the Jessamine Circuit Court which reversed the Commission's decision. Cooper and the Commission entered into a settlement agreement whereby Cooper agreed to certain enhancements to the development in return for the Commission's approval of the same. The settlement agreement was contingent upon the resolution of this action. 

Citizens appealed from the decision of the Jessamine Circuit Court. The Court of Appeals found that the comprehensive plan allowed cluster developments if they comply with specific standards. Thus, the Court held that the Commission's role was strictly ministerial and limited to determining if the proposal complied with the applicable standards. The Court ruled that the Commission exceeded its authority when the Commission concluded that it had the discretion to deny the proposed development based upon the spirit of the comprehensive plan or on its perception of the lack of need for the development. However, the Court held that the circuit court erred in substituting its judgment for that of the Commission on questions of whether the proposed development had adequate buffering and sewage disposal. It found the Commission's determinations on those points to be supported by substantial evidence.

Digested by Sam Hinkle

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