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Stagecoach Trails MHC, L.L.C. v. City of Benson - 3/5/2013

Arizona Supreme Court Holds That A Party Is Not Required to Exhaust Available Administrative Remedies Before Appealing to the Superior Court When The Pursuit of Administrative Remedies Would Be Futile.

Stagecoach Trails MHC, LLC, has been seeking a permit to install a mobile home in its manufactured home park.  Benson City’s zoning administrator denied the permit application, citing a city zoning regulation.  Stagecoach appealed the decision to the city’s board of adjustment, arguing that it was entitled to replace its mobile home without meeting the requirements of the city’s zoning regulation.  The board of adjustment denied the appeal, and Stagecoach filed a special action in superior court.  While the original special action was pending in superior court, the city’s zoning administrator reconsidered the permit application and again denied the permit, citing new grounds for the decision.  Stagecoach Trails filed supplemental special-action complaints challenging the subsequent decisions of the zoning administrator.   The superior court permitted the complaints, determining that it had continuing jurisdiction over the dispute.  

The court of appeals vacated, in part, holding that the superior court only had jurisdiction over the original special-action complaint and not the supplemental complaints. 

The Arizona Supreme Court accepted review and vacated the opinion of the court of appeals.  Noting that a party must generally exhaust available administrative remedies before appealing to the courts, the Court held that “[e]xhaustion is not required when the pursuit of administrative remedies would be futile.”  The Court found that the key issue in the case had been raised before the city’s board of adjustment in the administrative appeal, and that no purpose would have been served by administrative appeals of the subsequent decisions of the zoning administrator.  The Supreme Court remanded the case to the court of appeals to consider the merits.

Lastly, the Supreme Court vacated the superior court’s award of fees to Stagecoach pursuant to A.R.S. § 12-2030.

Vice Chief Justice Scott Bales authored the en banc opinion.  

Posted by: Grace Rebling

Posted On: 3/25/2013