New Case Summary – Moulding Inv. v. Box Elder County

February 23, 2024

Utah Court of Appeals

2024 Ut App 23 (click for full text of opinion)

The Utah Court of Appeals ruled that the district court properly dismissed an equal protections claim arising from a denial of an applicant’s rezone request to operate a landfill. 

Moulding Investments sought a rezone of 225 acres of unzoned land to the Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) zone. Several years prior, the County had approved the rezone of other property to the MSW zone to become the Promontory Point Landfill (PPL). The County denied Moulding’s proposed rezone and Moulding sued alleging the County had violated the constitution by failing to afford Moulding equal protections under the law.

The Court of Appeals reasoned that to support a “class-of-one” element for an equal protection claim, the plaintiff must identify comparators that are similarly situated in all material respects, which is a substantial burden in the land use context because each property has unique characteristics. While Moulding alleged that the two rezone proposals were similarly situated, as they both proposed landfills in Box Elder County, were both publicly opposed, and had other similarities, the Court of Appeals found that there were just as many differences between the two; primarily, the two decisions were separated by several years, and were considered by entirely different County Commissions which may have had differing political preferences, as well as the fact that the other proposal came first, its initial application had been approved before Moulding ever submitted a proposal. The Court therefore concluded that the two decisions were not similarly situated, and ruled that the district court had properly dismissed Moulding’s equal protections claim.