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The takeover: city appoints appeals hearing officer

May 08, 2018 03:31PM ● Published by Cassie Goff

Paxton Guymon will serve as the new Cottonwood Heights appeals hearing officer. (Paxton Guymon/York Howell & Guymon)

By Cassie Goff | cassie@mycityjournals.com

Meet Cottonwood Heights new appeals hearing officer (AHO), Paxton R. Guymon.

Guymon was appointed by Cottonwood Heights City Manager John Park, with advice from city staff and consent from the the city council. As the AHO, Guymon’s duties include “hearing and deciding appeals where it is alleged that there is an error in any order, requirement, decision or determination made by an administrative official or the planning commission in the enforcement or interpretation of this title or any ordinance adopted pursuant thereto, including conditional use decisions and subdivisions or subdivision amendments.” He can also “authorize variances from the terms of this title pursuant to the procedures and standards of the city.” His role as AHO is outlined in Chapter 19.92 in the city’s Code of Ordinances.

Previously, the board of adjustment acted as an appeal authority for the city. However, the Utah Legislature enacted the Municipal Land Use, Development, and Management Act (LUDMA) in 2005, “which essentially re-wrote Utah’s prior legal framework under which Utah’s cities are empowered to enact land use regulations within their respective jurisdictions,” said city attorney Shane Topham. “One change was to empower cities to use a single hearing officer as their ‘appeal authority,’ instead of a five-person board of adjustment.”

“The city decided to have someone trained and experienced in law, rather than have a board of adjustment with people from different backgrounds who were not legally trained,” Guymon said.

Topham explained that “proponents of the hearing officer approach believe that it ultimately is more cost effective on an overall basis than the traditional board of adjustment approach. And that the approach should allow the correct and legally defensible land use decision to be reached more efficiently; while at the same time reducing the chances of further costly appeal of the matter to district court.” 

The AHO of Cottonwood Heights must be a law-trained individual, and with over 20 years of experience, Guymon certainly is. Guymon began his education at the University of Utah where he graduated with an honors bachelor of arts. He became licensed as a real estate sales agent before attending and graduating from the University of Utah’s College of Law with a doctor of jurisprudence.

After graduating from law school, Guymon worked as a judicial law clerk to Justice Leonard Russon on the Utah Supreme Court. He has also served in many other capacities, including chairing the Real Property Section of the Utah Bar, serving as a board member for the Utah Land Use Institute, teaching seminars for the National Business Institute on topics including real estate litigation in Utah and evictions and landlord-tenant law in Utah, co-chairing the Government Relations Committee for the Utah State Bar and speaking at conferences sponsored by the Utah Land Use Institute and the Utah Association of Realtors.

Currently working as a managing partner with the law firm York Howell & Guymon, Guymon practices many areas of real estate law, including real estate litigation matters, land use and zoning, subdivisions, land acquisitions and development, real estate finance, condominiums, owners associations and a wide variety of real estate transactions.

Guymon has been consistently selected as one of Utah’s Legal Elite by Utah Business magazine, a top real estate lawyer in the Mountain States Super Lawyers magazine, and named one of the top 100 lawyers in the entire mountain states region by Super Lawyers magazine. 

As for acting as the AHO for Cottonwood Heights, “I feel like I’m very qualified,” Guymon said. “I have a lot of experience handling this kind of work for private clients. I’ve handled all sorts of land use applications, city councils, planning commissions and matters involving appeals hearing officers in other cities.” 

“I like doing work for cities. I usually represent developers and property owners in law practice so this gives me a nice variation,” Guymon said. 

Previously, Guymon served on the city’s planning commission for six years. “I think Cottonwood Heights is a great city. I love the location, the amenities and the people. There’s a very talented staff that works for the city. It’s good to work with people like that.” 

Topham was pleased with the decision to appoint Guymon as the AHO. “I’ve known Paxton professionally for many years and worked closely with him while he served on the city’s planning commission. Based on my long experience with Paxton, I have the upmost respect for his knowledge of Utah land use law, his character and his wisdom, and think he’ll do a commendable job as a land use officer for Cottonwood Heights.”

“This is my way of contributing to the city,” Guymon said. Even though he could make more money with private clients, he chooses to serve as the AHO because he likes staying involved and wants to continue to grow and learn.

Even though Guymon has only been appointed for about two months, he knows his process for making a decision. “I take into account reports by city staff, application materials by property owners and my own knowledge of real estate law,” he explained.

“My goal is to be as impartial, objective and professional as possible in making accurate decisions that are supported by the law,” Guymon said. “I hope to make friends, not enemies, and earn people’s respect.”

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