Megan Mason Dister
In Griswold v. Homer Advisory Planning Commission, 484 P.3d 120 (Alaska 2021), the supreme court held a city planning commission properly granted a business a conditional use permit for setback reductions. (Id. at 123–24). The Reynoldses, owners of a bicycle shop, applied to Homer’s Advisory Planning Commission (the Commission) for a conditional use permit to extend their store’s entryway into a setback required in the Homer City Code. (Id. at 124). Griswold, a local property owner, expressed opposition to the project, claiming the Commission could not grant the setback reduction because it did not count as a use, so it should be a request for a variance and the setback reduction may cause issues with snow removal. (Id. at 124–25). The Commission approved the conditional use permit application. (Id. at 125). Griswold appealed first to an administrative law judge, and then to the superior court, which both affirmed the grant of the conditional use permit. (Id.). Griswold appealed, raising similar arguments to his original opposition and claiming the superior court judge should be disqualified because of his comment that Griswold pursued the litigation based on “some old grudge.” (Id.). The supreme court found the Commission properly granted a setback reduction with a conditional use permit rather than a variance because the City of Homer has legislative discretion in granting conditional use permits for setback reductions and the Commission properly applied the city code in granting the permit. (Id. at 126–28). Additionally, the staff report, support from the city planner, and testimony from neighbors provided substantial evidence to support the Commission’s findings. (Id. at 128–29). The supreme court denied the request to disqualify the superior court judge, reasoning the judge’s comments were reasonable opinions and not an improper bias. (Id. at 129–30). Affirming the superior court’s decision, the supreme court held a city planning commission properly granted a business a conditional use permit for setback reductions. (Id. at 123–24).