Queen Creek Summit, LLC v. Davis (10/30/2008): Arizona Court of Appeals Division One Holds that in a Condemnation Proceeding in Which the State’s compliance with A.R.S. § 12-1115(A) Is Challenged, The Landowner Bears the Burden of Proof by Clear and Convincing Evidence, And on the Merits, The Trial Court Correctly Concluded that the Public Good of Gilbert’s Water Pipeline Outweighed the Private Injury to the Landowner.
Queen Creek Summit, LLC (QCS) owns the land on which Canyon State Academy sits. The Town of Gilbert instituted proceedings against QCS to condemn a pipeline easement through the middle of Canyon State Academy. The trial court found that QCS failed to meet its burden of proving that Gilbert had improperly decided that the public good of locating the water pipeline through the middle of campus outweighed the private injury to QCS. QCS appealed.
The Arizona Appeals Court affirmed. A.R.S. § 12-1115(A) provides that “[w]here land is required for public use, the state, or its agents in charge of such use, may survey and locate the land, but it shall be located in the manner which will be most compatible with the greatest public good and the least private injury.” Relying on language in the Supreme Court’s opinion in Chambers v. State ex rel. Morrison, 82 Ariz. 278, 312 P.2d 155 (1957), the Court concluded that the landowner, here QCS, bears the burden of proof – by clear and convincing evidence – that the state actor, here the Town of Gilbert, failed to comply with A.R.S. § 12-1115(A). Turning to the merits, the Court concluded that the trial court properly balanced the “greatest public good” and “least private injury” requirements of the statute. In particular, QCS failed to prove that Gilbert did not consider QCS’s private injury or that its private injury justified the substantial time and expense of placing the pipeline in an alternative location. Finally, using rational basis review, the Court rejected QCS’s equal protection challenge on similar grounds because Gilbert offered testimony that an alternative location “would involve additional costs, complications, obstacles, and delays beyond those involved with the proposed route.”
Judge Barker authored the opinion; Judges Brown and Timmer concurred.