Justia Zoning, Planning & Land Use Opinion Summaries

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Since 1972, Mendocino County has approved aggregate and asphalt production on the site; it approved a 2002 permit after review under the California Environmental Protection Act (CEQA). In 2009, the County proceeded under CEQA, prepared an environmental impact report, and updated its General Plan, changing the site’s designation from Rangeland to Industrial, then rezoned 61 parcels, including the site, to conform to updated use designations. Grist Creek acquired the site and wanted to resume aggregate and asphalt production; there had been little production due to market conditions and equipment had been removed. Due to environmental impacts, Grist initially pursued only an aggregate and concrete operation. The Planning Department undertook CEQA review; the County adopted a conditional negative declaration. Later, Grist Creek proposed asphalt production. The County Board of Supervisors declared that proposal was neither a new nor a changed, industrial use. The Planning Department issued a “Notice of Exemption” for “[r]esumption of . . . aggregate processing plant,” The air pollution control officer issued an Authority to Construct without further environmental review. The court dismissed a CEQA suit against the Air Quality Management District. The court of appeal reversed; CEQA claims are allowed against air quality management districts, but the suit does not challenge any land use designations or authorizations. The District (a separate governmental agency) only assessed the proposal’s impact on air quality and issued an “Authority to Construct.” Even under CEQA, this is an administrative proceeding; the only possible relief is invalidation of the Authority to Construct. View "Friends of Outlet Creek v. Mendocino County" on Justia Law

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Two township residents appealed the circuit court’s denial of their request that the court issue a writ of mandamus compelling the township to repair and maintain two secondary roads. The court concluded that the township proved that it was unable to perform its mandatory duty to repair and maintain the roads. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court did not abuse its discretion when it denied the writ because the township proved that it was unable to perform its legal duty because it would be unable to procure the funds necessary to repair and maintain the roads, and because the township proved that it had not willfully placed itself in a position where it could not perform its legal duty. View "Asper v. Nelson" on Justia Law

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Property owners Carolyn Kutzke and Karen Kapp applied to the City of San Diego (City) for a vesting tentative parcel map and related permits to allow them to subdivide two adjacent lots totaling 1.45 acres (property) into four lots, retain an existing residence on one lot, and build a new residence on each of the remaining lots (project). The local community planning board recommended denial of the project; however, the planning commission approved it and certified a mitigated negative declaration for it. A citizen appealed the planning commission's decision to the City council. The City council granted the appeal and reversed the planning commission's decision, finding the project's mitigated negative declaration was inadequate, particularly as to the project's potential impacts on geology, land use, and public safety; the project was inconsistent with the applicable community plan; and requested deviations from applicable development regulations were inappropriate for the project's location and would not result in a more desirable project. The owners petitioned the Court of Appeal for mandamus relief from the superior court order reversing the City’s decision. The Court of Appeal reversed the superior court, finding substantial evidence to support the City’s findings. View "Kutzke v. City of San Diego" on Justia Law

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The Ada County Highway District (“ACHD”) appealed a district court judgment awarding $148,390.21 plus prejudgment interest and attorney’s fees to Brooke View, Inc. d/b/a The Senator (“Brooke View”) as just compensation for a parcel of property that ACHD condemned and took possession of under the State’s eminent domain powers. ACHD argued on appeal that the district court misconstrued the law when it allowed Brooke View to recover the cost to repair damage to a wall on Brooke View’s property, which the jury found had been caused by the construction of improvements on the taken parcel. After review, the Idaho Supreme Court found the district court erred in instructing the jury on "just compensation," and those instructions prejudiced ACHD. Furthermore, the Court found the district court erred in admitting certain evidence on events, activities and damages that occurred during construction of improvements on the property. The Court vacated the award of attorney fees, and remanded this case for further proceedings. View "Ada Co Hwy Dist v. Brooke View, Inc." on Justia Law

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Substantively, in three somewhat interconnected claims, Joe and Yvette Hardesty (collectively, Hardesty) attacked State Mining and Geology Board (Board) findings, contending the trial court misunderstood the legal force of his 19th century federal mining patents. He asserted he had a vested right to surface mine after the passage of SMARA without the need to prove he was surface mining on SMARA’s operative date of January 1, 1976. He argued the Board and trial court misapplied the law of nonconforming uses in finding Hardesty had no vested right, and separately misapplied the law in finding that his predecessors abandoned any right to mine. These contentions turned on legal disputes about the SMARA grandfather clause and the force of federal mining patents. Procedurally, Hardesty alleged the Board’s findings did not “bridge the gap” between the raw evidence and the administrative findings. Hardesty also challenged the fairness of the administrative process itself, alleging that purported ex parte communications by the Board’s executive director, Stephen Testa, tainted the proceedings. The Court of Appeal reviewed the facts, and found they undermined Hardesty’s claims: the fact that mines were worked on the property years ago does not necessarily mean any surface or other mining existed when SMARA took effect, such that any right to surface mine was grandfathered. However, the Court agreed with the trial court’s conclusions that, on this record, neither of these procedural claims proved persuasive. Accordingly, the Court affirmed the judgment denying the mandamus petition. View "Hardesty v. State Mining & Geology Board" on Justia Law

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Court had discretion to permit government-condemnor to withdraw a portion of deposit of estimated just compensation. Three parcels of privately-owned property were condemned for a public park. In the owner’s appeal, the Supreme Court of Hawaii held that the presence or lack of physical unity is not dispositive of whether a condemnee is entitled to severance damages. A deposit of estimated just compensation does not become conditional, and blight of summons damages do not begin to accrue, when a condemning authority objects to a condemnee’s motion to withdraw funds based on the fact that the condemnee’s entitlement to such funds is unclear. The court in an eminent domain proceeding has discretion to permit a governmental entity to withdraw a portion of a deposit of estimated just compensation when the deposit has not been disbursed to the landowner, the government acted in good faith in seeking to adjust the estimate to accurately reflect the value of the property on the date of the summons, and the adjustment will not impair the substantial rights of any party in interest. View "County of Kauai v. Hanalei River Holdings Limited" on Justia Law

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Municipal ordinances banning coal combustion residuals from landfills were preempted by Puerto Rico Environmental Quality Board’s approval of the disposal. AES Puerto Rico, a coal-fired power plant owner, claimed that two municipal (Humacao and Peñuelas) ordinances banning the approved handling of "coal combustion residuals" (CCRs) were preempted by federal and Commonwealth law and violated various provisions of the federal and Puerto Rico constitutions. The Puerto Rico Environmental Quality Board (EQB) had authorized disposal of coal ash at the El Coquí and Peñuelas Valley landfills within those municipalities. The district court granted summary judgment for the municipalities on AES's federal claims and declined to exercise jurisdiction over the Commonwealth claims. The First Circuit reversed, holding that the local ordinances may not be enforced to the extent they directly conflict with Commonwealth law as promulgated by the EQB. View "AES Puerto Rico, L.P. v. Trujillo-Panisse" on Justia Law

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Clare Sikora filed a declaratory judgment action against the City of Rawlins challenging the City’s issuance of a building permit to her next-door neighbors, Jared and Kasandra Ramsey. The district court ruled in favor of the City. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the district court properly found that Sikora failed to exhaust her administrative remedies; and (2) the district court did not err in finding that the the municipal ordinance governing restoration of a nonconforming building allows for demolition of the nonconforming building and reconstruction of the building within the same footprint - the type of construction undertaken by the Ramseys. View "Sikora v. City of Rawlins" on Justia Law

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Plaza de Panama Committee (the Committee) appealed the denial of its motion for attorney fees under Code of Civil Procedure section 1021.5. The Committee filed the motion after it successfully appealed a judgment granting a petition for writ of mandamus filed by Save Our Heritage Organisation (SOHO), in which SOHO challenged the approval by the City of San Diego (City) of a site development permit for a revitalization project in Balboa Park (the project). This appeal presented two related issues for the Court of Appeal’s review: whether the Committee, as a project proponent, could obtain a section 1021.5 attorney fees award and, if so, whether the court could impose such an award against SOHO. After review, the Court concluded a project proponent may obtain a section 1021.5 attorney fees award if the project proponent satisfies the award's requirements. Furthermore, the Court concluded while SOHO did not dispute the Committee satisfied the award's requirements, SOHO was not the type of party against whom the court may impose such an award because SOHO did nothing to compromise public rights. The Court, therefore, affirmed the order. View "Save Our Heritage Org. v. City of San Diego" on Justia Law

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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