Palmer v. City of Phoenix (3/30/2017)

May 2, 2017

Arizona Court of Appeals Division One holds that a dedication of a road to the City of Phoenix for the “use of the public” does not prohibit the City from later abandoning the roadway.

In response to an application by Grand Canyon University, and over the challenge of adjoining landowners, the City of Phoenix approved abandonment and sale of a portion of a public road.  The City’s approval was subject to several stipulations preserving use of that road by neighboring landowners.  Neighboring landowners sought special action relief barring the City’s abandonment and sale as contrary to the dedication of the road to the City, state law, and City Code.  The landowners also claimed that abandonment by public sale was improperly orchestrated by the City to ensure that the University would be the sole bidder.  The superior court rejected the landowners’ claims, holding that the City’s decision was not arbitrary, capricious, or an abuse of discretion.

The Court of Appeals affirmed.  First, it reasoned that a public sale subject to numerous stipulations was not barred by the relevant statute or City Code provisions governing municipal abandonment of property.  Additionally, the City was not barred from abandoning property it owned because the original dedication to the City was subject to the long-recognized municipal right to abandon property that it determines is no longer necessary for public use.  Finally, the Court held that the landowners could not challenge the City’s decision to abandon the road because they did not suffer special damages from that abandonment and had failed to prove that the City’s decision was fraudulent or otherwise illegal.

Judge Norris authored the opinion; Judges Jones and McMurdie concurred.