DATE:  3/24/2006

Centre Estates, owner of undeveloped land zoned for agricultural use, filed an application to change the zoning classification of the property to commercial use in 1999.  The application was denied.  Centre Estates filed another application in 2002 to rezone the property for commercial use.  After a hearing, the Danville-Boyle County Planning Commission (“Commission”) issued findings and recommendations (“Findings”) on the request recommending that the request be denied for five reasons, including the fact that there had been no significant changes in circumstances related to the property since the same request in 1999 and therefore the proposal should be denied by administrative res judicata.  The City of Danville (“City”) adopted the Findings and denied the zone change request.  Centre Estates appealed.

The circuit court found that Centre Estates’ application was not barred by administrative res judicata but that the application of the doctrine did not deprive Centre Estates of a fair hearing.  The circuit court held that administrative res judicata did not apply because a zoning ordinance stated that the Commission may prohibit the reconsideration of a map amendment identical to a denied map amendment for only one year.  The court also found that the Commission’s refusal to grant the zone change was arbitrary because the Commission found that the existing zoning was inappropriate but made no finding as to the appropriate zoning classification.  The court remanded the matter to the Commission for adoption of findings as to the appropriate zoning classification and a recommendation to rezone the property according to such classification.  The Commission appealed.

The court of appeals reversed, holding that the Findings were based on substantial evidence.  According to the court, KRS 100.213(1) requires that there be findings both (1) that the existing zoning is inappropriate and (2) that the proposed zoning is appropriate to support a zoning map amendment.  The court stated that neither finding was made by the Commission, reasoning that a finding that the existing zoning “may be inappropriate” does not equate to a finding that such zoning “is inappropriate.” 

Although stating it was unnecessary to reach the administrative res judicata issue, the court nonetheless stated that it had “no quarrel” with the circuit court’s ruling that the doctrine was inappropriately applied by the Commission.

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