Minor v. Cochise County

In Minor v. Cochise County, 125 Ariz. 170, 171-72, 608 P.2d 309, 310-11 (1980), the Arizona Supreme Court considered whether the appellants had failed to exhaust their administrative remedies by filing a special action to set aside the county planning department's issuance of a building permit for a chemical manufacturing plant, instead of appealing to the board of adjustment. The planning department had concluded the chemical plant was exempt from county zoning regulations under A.R.S. 11-830, because it was located within the right-of-way of a railroad. Minor, 125 Ariz. at 171, 608 P.2d at 310. The former version 11-830, currently 11-812, restricted the scope of what a county may regulate in enacting land-use ordinances. With respect to a tract of land that is five contiguous commercial acres or more, subsection (A)(2) of the statute provides, in relevant part, that "nothing contained in any ordinance . . . shall . . . prevent, restrict or otherwise regulate the use or occupation of land or improvements for railroad, mining, or metallurgical . . . purposes." As the court of appeals decision makes clear, the county had adopted a restriction on zoning identical to 11-812. Minor v. Cochise Cnty., 125 Ariz. 174, 175, 608 P.2d 313, 314 (App. 1979), vacated, 125 Ariz. 170, 608 P.2d 309. At the supreme court, appellants argued that because the "primary issue" in the case involved the interpretation of a statute, which is a question of law for the courts to resolve, "the exhaustion doctrine was inapplicable" and the superior court had erred by dismissing the action. Minor, 125 Ariz. at 172, 608 P.2d at 311. Although the language was the same in the statute and ordinance, in Minor the issue was the interpretation of the county ordinance. The supreme court concluded the parties were required to exhaust their administrative remedies because A.R.S. 11-807, now 11-816, see 2010 Ariz. Sess. Laws, ch. 244, 7; 2011 Ariz. Sess. Laws, ch. 124, 5, gave the board of adjustment the authority to interpret county zoning ordinances. Minor, 125 Ariz. at 172, 608 P.2d at 311. The court reasoned, "Where a board is specifically empowered to act by the Legislature, the board should act before recourse is had to the courts." Id.