The Appellate Group

Northern San Juan County Coalition v. San Juan County

Northern San Juan County Coalition v. San Juan County, 2023 UT App 12 (Appleby, S.J.)

Civil Procedure

Love’s Travel Stops & Country Stores submitted a commercial development plan for a parcel of land located in a quickly developing area of San Juan County. A group of concerned citizens formed the Northern San Juan County Coalition. One member of the Coalition sent a letter to the County which included a GRAMA request for all the communications between Love’s and the County and a call to “investigate this matter immediately and issue a determination.” Months later, the Coalition retained counsel and sent a letter demanding a response. The County responded that the Coalition had failed to appeal within ten days of the County’s approval of Love’s development proposal. The Coalition petitioned the district court for review. The County filed a motion for summary judgment that argued that the Coalition lacked standing because it failed to exhaust its administrative remedies, and Love’s filed a motion to dismiss that argued the Coalition lacked associational standing. The district court granted both motions but held that the Coalition did have associational standing. The Coalition appealed, arguing in part that it had exhausted its administrative remedies. The Utah Court of Appeals affirmed the district court’s decision as it related to the Love’s cross-appeal but reversed on each of the points raised by the Coalition’s appeal, holding:

  • A citizen can successfully appeal a county’s land use decision without using the word “appeal” in its communications.  
  • Although the land use decision was made significantly earlier than 10 days before the Coalition sent its appeal, the appeal was submitted within 10 days of when the public received constructive notice of the decision (through the receipt of the documents requested through the GRAMA request).
  • The Coalition had conducted enough activities for the purpose of “having our voices heard in our county government” that it could be considered an association for standing purposes.

Read the full court opinion