Justia Zoning, Planning & Land Use Opinion Summaries

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Until 2000, Sonoma County grape growers could plant or replant a vineyard “as a matter of right” without governmental approval. A 2000 ordinance, governing “grading, drainage improvement, and vineyard and orchard site development within the unincorporated area of the county” requires growers, other than hobbyists, to obtain an erosion-control permit from the Agricultural Commissioner before establishing or replanting a vineyard. An applicant must submit plans demonstrating compliance with certain directives and must accept certain ongoing agricultural practices. The Commissioner issued the Ohlsons a permit to establish a vineyard on land they own that was being used for grazing, finding that issuing the permit was a ministerial act, exempt from the California Environmental Quality Act, Public Resources Code 21000 (CEQA). The trial court agreed. The court of appeal affirmed. Although the ordinance may allow the Commissioner to exercise discretion when issuing erosion-control permits in some circumstances, the objectors did not show that the Commissioner improperly determined that issuing the Ohlsons’ permit was ministerial. Most of the ordinance’s provisions that potentially confer discretion did not apply to their project, and the objectors failed to show that the few that might apply conferred the ability to mitigate potential environmental impacts to any meaningful degree. View "Sierra Club v. County of Sonoma" on Justia Law

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In 2006, the City of San Diego (City) obtained a Site Development Permit (SDP) to construct a new lifeguard station on Mission Beach. The SDP stated that failure to utilize the permit within 36 months of its issuance would automatically void the permit. Over the ensuing years, the City worked to secure a permit from the California Coastal Commission (Commission) and to obtain funding for the project. Largely because of the economic downtown, the City struggled to find financing for the project and no construction occurred until 2015. At that time, the City notified nearby residents that its contractor would begin construction in March. The City issued building permits in April and its contractor began initial work on the project, then stopped before the summer moratorium on beach construction. In August 2015, before the end of the moratorium, Citizens for Beach Rights (Citizens) brought a petition for writ of mandate and claim for declaratory relief seeking to halt construction on the grounds that the SDP issued in 2006 had expired. The trial court agreed with Citizens and issued a permanent injunction, preventing further construction without a new SDP. The City appealed, arguing Citizens' claims were barred by the applicable statutes of limitations or the doctrine of laches and, even if the action was not time barred, the SDP remained valid in 2015 under the City's municipal code and policies. The City also argued Citizens improperly sought declaratory relief. After review, the Court of Appeal held Citizens' action was barred by the applicable statutes of limitations and, even if Citizens' claims had been timely pursued, the SDP remained valid when construction began. View "Citizens for Beach Rights v. City of San Diego" on Justia Law

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McKee Family I, LLC (McKee) objected to the City of Fitchburg’s rezoning of two lots from a planned development district (PDD) zoning classification to a residential-medium (R-M) zoning classification. McKee sought declaratory judgment, damages, and injunctive relief on the grounds that the rezoning of the lots was unlawful. The circuit court granted summary judgment in favor of the City. Acknowledging that it did not submit an application for a building permit, McKee appealed, arguing that it had a vested right in developing land under the PDD zoning classification. The court of appeals affirmed, holding that McKee did not have a vested right in the PDD zoning classification when the City rezoned the lots. The court declined to address McKee’s constitutional taking argument, reasoning that it was an undeveloped argument. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) McKee did not have a vested right in developing the property under the PDD zoning classification because it did not apply for a building permit and because a PDD zoning classification does not create contractual expectations upon which developers may rely; and (2) because McKee conditioned its takings claim on its claim for vested rights, the Court need not reach McKee’s constitutional takings claim. View "McKee Family I, LLC v. City of Fitchburg" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Dartmouth Corporation of Alpha Delta (Alpha Delta) appealed a Superior Court order affirming a Zoning Board of Adjustment (ZBA) decision in favor of defendant Town of Hanover (Town). The ZBA determined that the use of Alpha Delta’s property at 9 East Wheelock Street (the property) violated the Town’s zoning ordinance. Alpha Delta has been a fraternity for students at Dartmouth College (College) since the 1840s. In 1931, the Town enacted its first zoning ordinance. At that time, Alpha Delta’s property was located in the “Educational District” in which an “[e]ducational use, or dormitory . . . incidental to and controlled by an educational institution” was permitted as of right. Between 1931 and the mid- 1970s, the property was located in various zoning districts where its use by Alpha Delta as a fraternity was allowed as of right. In 1976, the Town enacted its current zoning ordinance, under which the property was located within the “Institution” district. A student residence in the Institution district was allowed only by special exception. In 2015, the College notified Alpha Delta by letter that, due to the fraternity’s violation of the school’s standards of conduct, it had revoked recognition of the fraternity as a student organization. “Derecognition” revoked certain privileges, pertinent here was recognition as a ‘college approved’ residential facility; and use of College facilities or resources. The College notified Alpha Delta that it would be removed from the College’s rooming system under which student room rents are paid through the College, and would no longer be under the jurisdiction or protection of the College’s department of safety and security. Furthermore, the College notified the Town that Alpha Delta no longer had a relationship with Dartmouth College, and notified Alpha Delta that it was the College’s “understanding that under the Town zoning ordinance no more than three unrelated people will be allowed to reside on the property.” The Town’s zoning administrator subsequently notified Alpha Delta by letter that use of the property violated the zoning ordinance. Alpha Delta appealed, but finding none of its arguments availing, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "Dartmouth Corp. of Alpha Delta v. Town of Hanover" on Justia Law

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This case involved the interpretation, and application of Water Code section 51200 and articles XIII C and XIII D of the California Constitution, as approved by California voters in 1996 as Proposition 218, and the interplay between them. Defendants and cross-complainants Reclamation District No. 17 and Governing Board of Reclamation District 17 (collectively "Reclamation") maintained levees and other reclamation works within the district’s boundaries. Plaintiff and cross-defendant Manteca Unified School District (School) owned real property within Reclamation’s boundaries. School filed an action for declaratory relief, arguing section 51200 exempted it from paying assessments to Reclamation and Proposition 218 did not confer such authority. School also sought recovery of over $299,000 previously collected by Reclamation. Reclamation answered and cross-complained for declaratory relief. The trial court found the assessments levied by Reclamation were invalid under section 51200 but denied recovery of assessment payments made during the pendency of the action and concluded School’s action was not barred by the statute of limitations. Reclamation appealed, arguing section 51200 and Proposition 218 allowed assessments against school district property unless the district could show through clear and convincing evidence that the property received no special benefit. School cross-appealed, contending the trial court erred in denying recovery for assessments paid during the pendency of the case. The Court of Appeal concluded the trial court erred in declining to apply the constitutional mandate of Proposition 218 to the statutory exemption from assessments provided by section 51200. Accordingly, the Court reversed the judgment and dismissed the cross-appeal. View "Manteca Unified Sch. Dist. v. Reclamation Dist. No. 17" on Justia Law

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North Carolina filed suit against Alcoa, seeking a declaratory judgment that North Carolina owns a 45-mile segment of the riverbed of the Yadkin River in North Carolina. The district court ruled as a matter of law that Alcoa successfully proved its title to 99% of the relevant segment under North Carolina's Marketable Title Act, N.C. Gen. Stat. 146-79, and to the remaining 1% under the doctrine of adverse possession. The court concluded that the district court did not clearly err in its factual finding that the Yadkin River was not navigable at statehood and did not err in concluding, as a matter of law, that Alcoa has good title to the riverbed. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "North Carolina v. Alcoa Power Generating, Inc." on Justia Law

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Following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, the Louisiana legislature in 2006 passed Act 853 and Act 567, which amended the laws governing compensation for levee servitude appropriations with a particular focus on appropriations for use in hurricane protection projects. The Louisiana Supreme Court granted certiorari in this matter for three purposes: (1) to interpret specific provisions of the 2006 amendments to La. Const. art. I, section 4, La. Const. art. VI, section 42, and La. R.S. 38:281(3) and (4); (2) to determine the amount of compensation that was due a property owner whose property was appropriated by a levee district pursuant to a permanent levee servitude for use in a hurricane protection project; and (3) to determine whether La. R.S. 38:301(C)(2)(f) or La. R.S. 13:5111 governed an award for attorneys’ fees in a levee servitude appropriation dispute. The Court held the 2006 amendments to La. Const. art. I, section 4, La. Const. art. VI, section 42 and 38:281(3) and (4) reduced, rather than eliminated, the measure of damages to be paid to a property owner for the taking of, or loss or damage to, property rights for the construction, enlargement, improvement, or modification of hurricane protection projects from “full extent of the loss” to the more restrictive “just compensation” measure required by the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which was the fair market value of the property at the time of the appropriation, based on the current use of the property, before the proposed appropriated use, and without allowing for any change in value caused by levee construction. Furthermore, the Court held La. R.S. 38:301(C)(2)(f) governed an award for attorneys’ fees in a levee appropriation dispute. View "South Lafourche Levee Dist. v. Jarreau" on Justia Law

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Nandan, LLP appealed the grant of summary judgment and an order denying its N.D.R.Civ.P. 60(b) motion for relief from judgment, ruling that road and utility repairs were incidental to the repair of a water and sewer system damaged by a landslide in Fargo, and that the City of Fargo was therefore not required to pass a resolution of necessity to create an improvement district to fund the repairs. In 2012, a landslide occurred along 32nd Street North in Fargo near where Nandan and Border States Paving, Inc., owned property. The landslide damaged a water main and storm sewer; the street; and Drain No. 10, which was owned, operated, and maintained by the Southeast Cass Water Resource District. The road and adjacent water and sewer lines were owned by Fargo. Fargo created an improvement district to fund repairs to the drain, water main, and sanitary sewer systems on a portion of the drain without adopting a resolution of necessity. Fargo later entered into a joint powers agreement with the District which set forth the parties' obligations for the repairs. The district court granted Fargo's N.D.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim upon which relief could be granted, concluding Nandan and Border States had no right to protest under N.D.C.C. 40-22-06 because the city let the bids for project construction, or under N.D.C.C. 40-22-15 because the project constituted a water or sewer improvement for which a resolution of necessity was not required. Finding that Nandan failed to raise a genuine issue of material fact precluding summary judgment, the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed. View "Nandan, LLP v. City of Fargo" on Justia Law

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Santa Cruz County adopted three ordinances that extended minor exceptions to zoning site standards; altered certain height, density, and parking requirements for hotels in commercial districts; and established an administrative process for approving minor exceptions to the sign ordinance. Aptos argued that the county engaged in piecemeal environmental review in violation of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) (Pub. Resources Code, 21000) when it considered the ordinances separately and failed to act in the manner prescribed by CEQA when it approved a negative declaration for the ordinance altering height, density, and parking requirements for hotels in commercial districts, because it failed to consider the environmental impacts that may ensue from future hotel developments. The court of appeal rejected those arguments. Although the county is in the process of modernizing some of its zoning regulations, this modernization process does not constitute a single project under CEQA. The court upheld the negative declaration for the hotel ordinance as adequate. The county should consider the potential environmental impacts resulting from reasonably foreseeable future development resulting from the ordinance. Future hotel developments, however, were wholly speculative at the time the negative declaration was adopted. View "Aptos Council v. County of Santa Cruz" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, a tattoo artist and long-time resident of Long Beach, filed suit against the City, alleging that the City's zoning ordinances violated the First Amendment by unreasonably restricting his ability to open and operate a tattoo shop in Long Beach. The district court entered judgment for the City. The court concluded that the district court inaccurately narrowed plaintiff's claims in its order by framing plaintiff's challenge as only to the conditional use permit (CUP) requirement, when plaintiff also challenged the location restrictions on tattoo shops; ignoring plaintiff's claim that the CUP process vests unbridled discretion in the City; and stating that plaintiff's claim only concerned his desire to open a shop at 316 Elm Street in the East Village Arts District, when this was just one of three locations that plaintiff initially identified in his letter to the City. The court held that plaintiff has standing to bring a facial first amendment challenge to the City's zoning ordinances where he was not required to first apply for, and then be denied, a CUP to bring this claim under a permitting system that allegedly gives City officials unfettered discretion over protected activity; plaintiff has standing to bring an as-applied First Amendment challenge to the City's zoning ordinances where it appeared likely that the City would take action against plaintiff if he opened a tattoo shop without a CUP; plaintiff raised a cognizable claim that the City's zoning ordinances constituted an unlawful prior restraint on speech; and plaintiff raised a cognizable claim that the City's ordinances constituted unlawful time, place, or manner restrictions on speech. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded for further proceedings. View "Real v. City of Long Beach" on Justia Law