Hodgson v. Farmington City

August 12, 2014

Utah Court of Appeals

August 7, 2014

2014 UT App 188 (Click for full text of opinion)

The Utah Court of Appeals upheld a City’s decision that a barn was unsafe and required repair or demolition.  The barn has also been used as a billboard for several years, but had deteriorated to the point that the City decided to act.  The owners received an order to repair or demolish the building, which they appealed through an administrative board, the district court, and, finally the Court of Appeals.

The Court concluded that the “arbitrary and capricious” review standard was appropriate for the matter.  The property owners argued that a different (and presumably more stringent) standard should apply, due to an amendment to Title 10 which applied to administrative hearings.  However, the Court decided the arbitrary and capricious standard was applicable.  A decision is arbitrary if it is not supported by substantial evidence.

The owners also argued that the barn was an outdoor sign, and thus not subject to the Uniform Code for the Abatement of Dangerous Buildings (UCADB) , which had been adopted by the City.  In an earlier case involving the barn, the Utah Supreme Court held that the sign could continue as a nonconforming use.  However, that case did not address whether the barn was a structure, or whether it was exempt from regulation.  The Court agreed that it was subject to the UCADB, and that the City had authority to order that it be repaired or demolished.

The Court also found there was sufficient evidence supporting the City’s findings, and that the written order of the administrative appeals board was adequate.  The owners failed to “marshal” the evidence, and show that the board should have reached a different conclusion.  The findings of fact were detailed enough to show the steps by which the ultimate conclusion was reached.

It appears that the owners do not necessarily need to demolish the building, only repair it so that it is safe.  The case did not address the nonconforming status of the sign on the barn.