Best Practices For Approving + Denying Land Use Applications

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Let’s imagine for a moment that you are Mayor of a small town.  You hear from your constituents through the grapevine that someone in your small town has applied for a permit to construct a brand new kid’s arcade. But, your constituents are worried, as they’ve heard horror stories about all the fights that happen between extremely competitive parents at kid’s arcades. The last thing you want in your town as Mayor is a business that could become a magnet for civil discord and lawsuits. 

You stop by Town Hall to talk to staff to see if the rumor mill is true, who confirms they did receive an application.  Much to your chagrin, staff informs you that their application is timely and meets all the current requirements of your local code.  Worse, it’s a permitted use in your commercial zoning district, meaning there are no requirements for public meetings or hearings to consider the application.  You know your constituency isn’t going to like not having a say in whether or not this business comes to town.

So…now what? Do you have to approve every single application that comes through the doors of Town Hall, even if you don’t think it will have a good impact on your community? 

Yeah, kinda. In this particular example, this application is an example of an administrative decision. Remember, administrative decisions are based less on public opinion and more on what the established laws and regulations require. (For more information, check out our “Administrative v. Legislative Decisions” module).  

However, there are different issues that can affect a land use authority in their administrative judgment: 

  • Due Process 
  • Statutory Requirements 
  • Arbitrary or Capricious Standards 
  • Good Cause 

You may be asking yourself what exactly those are.  Well, there is only one way to know – click to find out!

Special Note: The Office of the Property Rights Ombudsman has provided funding for this training program from the 1% surcharge on all building permits in the State of Utah.

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