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A planning commission may not disregard the regulations set forth in the subdivision ordinance and substitute its own discretion in lieu of fixed standards applying to all cases similarly situated. A planning commission is authorized and required to determine whether a plat presented is in compliance with the particular subdivision regulations. Once compliance is had, no discretionary power to disapprove exists.
Robert Richardson, a property owner, submitted a subdivision application that met the requirements of the city's subdivision ordinance. Nonetheless, the Little Rock Planning Commission (“Commission”) disapproved the application based on the marginal development potential of the land. The trial court affirmed, holding that the commission had the discretionary authority to disapprove. On appeal, the court reversed.
Does a planning commission have discretionary power to disapprove a subdivision plat which meets minimum requirements set forth in the subdivision ordinance?
The record clearly demonstrates that the Commission denied approval of the plat based upon considerations not authorized by the ordinance. Pursuant to the subdivision ordinance Section 37.14(e)(3), Richardson received a letter setting forth two reasons for denial: (1) Proximity of a proposed cul-de-sac to the adjacent lots and (2) marginal development potential of the land, resulting in unusual lot shapes and means for access. The final plat submission from which Richardson appeals does not contain a cul-de-sac, and the subdivision ordinance did not contain the term "marginal development potential." In fact, there was testimony to the effect that the term "marginal development potential" was formulated ad hoc as a reason for denying Richardson’s plat. Thus, the Planning Commission exceeded its authority when it denied approval of the preliminary plat on considerations other than the minimum standards set forth in the subdivision ordinance.