Rotter v. Coconino County

In Rotter v. Coconino County, 169 Ariz. 269, 271, 818 P.2d 704, 706 (1991), the issue was whether the statute allowing a nonconforming business use to expand by 100 percent of the original area also granted the right to expand the nonconforming use onto an adjoining parcel acquired after the passage of the ordinance. The Arizona Supreme Court held that the landowner did not have a right to expand his nonconforming use onto such an adjacent parcel. 169 Ariz. at 279, 818 P.2d at 714. In Rotter, the court concluded that an ordinance pertaining to an expansion or change of a nonconforming use must be construed to further the public policy goal of eliminating nonconforming uses. Id. at 276-77, 818 P.2d at 711-12. Then the court noted that "in accordance with ... the restrictive policy that governs interpretation of nonconforming use statutes, most American jurisdictions hold that a nonconforming use is limited to the site or area that was nonconforming when the ordinance was enacted." Id. at 277, 818 P.2d at 712 (citing Norton Shores v. Carr, 81 Mich. App. 715, 265 N.W.2d 802, 805. The Arizona Supreme Court discussed the relationship between a county zoning ordinance that regulated nonconforming uses and the state enabling statutes. The court noted that, while the legislature had expressly announced that the "'elimination of nonconforming uses in a zoned municipal district is for a public purpose,'" id. at 276 n.7, 818 P.2d 711 n.7, quoting A.R.S. 9-462.02, the legislature had never articulated a similar policy with respect to county zoning decisions. The court found, however, that both governmental subdivisions were similarly enabled to exercise their police powers to zone and to determine suitable permissible uses. Id. In the absence of express legislation to the contrary, the court declined to announce a nonconforming use policy that varied between types of governmental authorities. Instead, the court found that the legislature had intended to adopt a uniform land-use policy and did not limit a county's authority to exercise its police power merely because the legislature had less artfully articulated the scope of county authority. Id.