Justia Zoning, Planning & Land Use Opinion Summaries

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The Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court's judgment declining to declare that the City of Rapid City unlawfully bargained away its police power when it entered into a settlement agreement with Epic Outdoor Advertising under which the City agreed to amend certain sign ordinances and grant Epic two sign permits, holding that the circuit court did not err. Lamar Advertising brought this appeal. By notice of review, Epic asserted that the circuit court erred in denying its request that the court declare invalid a similar settlement agreement executed between Lamar and the City. The Supreme Court affirmed in all respects, holding (1) because the City did not contract away its police powers by agreeing to amend the sign code, and because Lamar did not establish that the City acted unreasonably or arbitrarily when it amended the sign code, the circuit court did not err in denying Lamar's motion for summary judgment requesting a declaration that the settlement agreement and the ordinance agreements were invalid; (2) challenges to the granting of permits, such as those brought by Lamar, must be pursued through the administrative process; and (3) the circuit court did not err in failing to find the settlement agreement previously entered into between Lamar and the City invalid. View "Lamar Advertising Of South Dakota, LLC v. City of Rapid City" on Justia Law

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Caquelin's land was subject to a railroad easement. The Surface Transportation Board granted the railroad permission to abandon the line unless the process (16 U.S.C. 1247(d)) for considering the use of the easement for a public recreational trail was invoked. That process was invoked. The Board issued a Notice of Interim Trail Use or Abandonment (NITU), preventing effectuation of the abandonment approval and blocking the ending of the easement for 180 days, during which the railroad could try to reach an agreement with two entities that expressed interest in the easement for trail use. The NITU expired without such an agreement. The railroad completed its abandonment three months later. Caquelin sued, alleging that a taking occurred when the government, by issuing the NITU, prevented the termination of the easement during the 180-day period. Following a remand, the Claims Court again held that a taking had occurred. The Federal Circuit affirmed, rejecting the contention that the multi-factor approach adopted for government-created flooding in the Supreme Court’s 2012 “Arkansas Game” decision displaced the categorical-taking analysis adopted in Federal Circuit precedents for a NITU that blocks termination of an easement. The categorical taking analysis is applicable even when that NITU expires without a trail-use agreement. A NITU does not effect a taking if, even without a NITU, the railroad would not have abandoned its line during the period of the NITU. Here, the evidence permits a finding that abandonment would have occurred during the NITU period if the NITU had not issued. View "Caquelin v. United States" on Justia Law

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Joel Kennamer appealed a circuit court's dismissal of his complaint seeking a declaratory judgment, a preliminary injunction, and a permanent injunction against the City of Guntersville, the City's mayor Leigh Dollar, each member of the Guntersville City Council, and Lakeside Investments, LLC ("Lakeside"). Kennamer's complaint sought to prevent the City from leasing certain City property to Lakeside. Kennamer asserted that the City had erected a pavilion on "Parcel One" for public use and that residents used Parcel One for public fishing, fishing tournaments, truck and tractor shows, and public festivals and events. As for Parcel Two, Kennamer alleged that in 2000, the City petitioned to condemn property belonging to CSX Transportation, Inc. ("CSX"), "for the purpose of constructing [a] public boat dock and a public recreational park." In 2019, the City approved an ordinance declaring the development property "is no longer needed for public or municipal purposes." The development agreement, as updated, again affirmed that the development property would be used "for a mixed-use lakefront development containing restaurants, entertainment, retail, office space, high density multi-family residential, and other appropriate commercial uses, including parking." Thereafter, Kennamer sued the City defendants arguing the City lacked the authority to lease to a third-party developer City property that had been dedicated for use as, and/or was being used as, a public park. Finding that the City had the statutory authority to lease the property to the third-party developer, the Alabama Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court's dismissal. View "Kennamer v. City of Guntersville et al." on Justia Law

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The Insalacos own property atop of a slope. At the bottom of the slope is Wilkie Creek. Hope Lutheran Church owns property on the other side of the creek. After a landslide made their house uninhabitable, the Insalacos sued the Church and adjoining landowners, including the Du/Wongs. They alleged that water runoff from the Church caused the creek to rise, which caused their backyard to flood. The flooding saturated the soil in their backyard, which caused the landslide. The Du/Wongs filed a cross-complaint, alleging tort causes of action related to the landslide and seeking indemnification. The court granted the Church summary judgment. The court of appeal reversed The trial court erred in denying a timely motion by the Insalacos for a continuance to take additional discovery (a site inspection) and oppose the summary judgment motion. They presented a detailed declaration from their attorney explaining the particular facts essential to opposing the motion that may exist but could not then be presented. As to the Du/Wongs, concededly material facts were disputed. The Church placed at issue how much rain fell on the date of the incident, whether there are “two ways in which water flow in a creek could destabilize a slope,” and whether the channel of Wilkie Creek is stable and shows no evidence of recent erosion. View "Insalaco v. Hope Lutheran Church of West Contra Costa County" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court, holding that an amendment to the City of Providence's zoning ordinance that restricted the number of college students who may live together in single-family homes in certain residential areas in Providence did not violate Plaintiffs' right to equal protection or due process under the Rhode Island Constitution. Plaintiffs, a real estate investment company, and four individuals who were college students and housemates leasing the real estate investment company's property, filed a declaratory judgment action against the City seeking to invalidate the amendment, arguing that the City had violated the Due Process Clause and Equal Protection Clause of the Rhode Island Constitution. The hearing justice entered judgment in favor of the City. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the amendment was rationally related to the legitimate state purpose of preserving the residential character of certain neighborhoods and that there was no constitutional violation. View "Federal Hill Capital, LLC v. City of Providence" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Benjamin McCormick brought this action against the State of Oregon for injuries he sustained while recreating in Lake Billy Chinook. The State moved for summary judgment, asserting that it was entitled to recreational immunity under ORS 105.682. In response, plaintiff contended that the state did not “directly or indirectly permit” the public to use the lake for recreational purposes. Specifically, he contended that, under both the public trust doctrine and the public use doctrine, the public already had a right to use the lake for recreational purposes and, therefore, the State did not “permit” that use. The trial court granted the State summary judgment, but the Court of Appeals reversed. On review, the Oregon Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeals decision. For the purposes of the recreational immunity statute, the Supreme Court held an owner could “permit” public recreational use of its land, even if it could not completely prohibit that use. More specifically, an owner could “permit” public recreational use of its land if, among other alternatives, it made that use possible by creating access to and developing the land for that use. View "McCormick v. Oregon Parks & Recreation Dept." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs SLPR, L.L.C. (SLPR), Ann Goodfellow, trustee of the survivor's trust of the Goodfellow Family Trust (Goodfellow), and Jerry Cannon and Michael Morris, trustees of the Sewall Family Trust (Sewall) (together Plaintiffs) appealed a judgment entered in favor of defendant State of California (State) in their action against State and the San Diego Unified Port District (Port) (together Defendants) arising out of damage to their bayside properties in the City of Coronado (City) allegedly caused by dredging of the San Diego Bay (Bay). The United States Navy dredged an area of the Bay within the Naval Air Station North Island Turning Basin in 1998 and 2002 and the United States Army Corps of Engineers (Army) dredged the central navigation channel of the Bay from 2004 to 2005. In a previous decision relating to this matter, the Court of Appeal concluded, inter alia, the trial court erred in granting summary judgment on Plaintiffs' quiet title action because there were triable issues of material fact on the meaning of a facially ambiguous 1931 judgment in favor of City and against J.D. and A.B. Spreckels Investment Company (Spreckels), owner of real property along the Bay's shoreline and Plaintiffs' predecessor-in-interest, and other defendants regarding whether that judgment fixed the bayside boundaries of Plaintiffs' properties or whether it located only the current position of the mean high tide line (MHTL) at that time and retained the ambulatory MHTL as the legal boundaries of their properties. On remand, Plaintiffs filed a third amended complaint, alleging causes of action for quiet title, inverse condemnation related to the quiet title cause of action (by SLPR and Arendsee), inverse condemnation (by Plaintiffs), nuisance, and removal of lateral support. The trial court sustained State's demurrer to the third, fourth, and fifth causes of action. The court subsequently conducted a bench trial on the first and second causes of action and, after admitting and considering extrinsic evidence regarding the meaning of the Spreckels judgment, found that the judgment had fixed the boundaries between Plaintiffs' properties and the public tidelands. The court then entered judgment in favor of State and against Plaintiffs. Finding no reversible error in that judgment, the Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court. View "SLPR, L.L.C. v. San Diego Unified Port District" on Justia Law

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Petitioner New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services (DES) appealed a decision by the New Hampshire Wetlands Council remanding an administrative order issued by DES that directed respondents Bryan and Linda Corr to cease and desist unpermitted work on their lakefront property. The Corrs owned property in Moultonborough located on the shore of Lake Winnipesaukee. When they purchased the property, it contained a dry boathouse, positioned approximately two feet from the shore, which was partially collapsed as a result of snow load. The boathouse was considered a “grandfathered” or nonconforming structure for purposes of the Shoreland Protection Act. The Corrs made plans to replace the boathouse. They hired a land use consultant to assist them with the process, which required approvals from the Town of Moultonborough, as well as DES. After obtaining the building permit from the Town and the PBN from DES, the Corrs commenced construction. They spent over $100,000 on the permitted structure. When the structure was framed and nearing completion, DES visited the site to conduct an inspection, purportedly in response to a complaint the department had received. Subsequently, DES issued a Letter of Deficiency to the Corrs informing them that the structure was 27 feet tall, and therefore not compliant with DES regulations. The Corrs appealed DES’ administrative order to the Council. In their appeal, the Corrs raised four alternative arguments as to how DES had acted unlawfully and unreasonably in issuing its order. The New Hampshire Supreme Court agreed with the Corrs that DES did not have the authority to limit the height of their structure. The COurt affirmed the Council's decision to the extent that it concluded that a 12-foot height restriction did not apply to the Corrs’ structure. However, the Court vacated all other aspects of the Council’s decision, remanding with instructions to grant the Corrs’ appeal and to vacate DES’ administrative order, which relied solely on the alleged height violation. In light of the result reached, the Court did not address any additional arguments raised by the parties. View "Appeal of New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services" on Justia Law

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The issue presented for the Louisiana Supreme Court's review stemmed from a class action suit relating to plaintiffs' inverse condemnation claims against the State, and whether those claims were prescribed under La. R.S. 13:5111 and/or 28 U.S.C. 2501. In 2006, plaintiffs Steve Crooks and Era Lea Crooks filed a “Class Action Petition to Fix Boundary, For Damages and For Declaration [sic] Judgment.” The Crookses alleged that they represented a class of landowners in the Catahoula Basin whose property is affected by the increased water levels from a congressionally-approved navigation project authorized under the River and Harbor Act of 1960 to promote navigation on the Ouachita and Black Rivers. In conjunction with that project, the State of Louisiana signed an “Act of Assurances,” which obligated the State to provide the federal government with all lands and property interests necessary to the project free of charge, and to indemnify the federal government from any damages resulting from the project. Ultimately, the trial court certified the plaintiffs as one class, but subdivided that class into two groups – the “Lake Plaintiffs” and the “Swamp Plaintiffs” – depending on the location of the properties affected. The lower courts relied on the decision in Cooper v. Louisiana Department of Public Works, 870 So. 2d 315 (2004) to conclude the one-year prescriptive period for damage to immovable property found in La. C.C. art. 3493 governed and the continuing tort doctrine applied to prevent the running of prescription on the plaintiffs’ claims. The Supreme Court determined the lower courts erred in relying on Cooper and held that the three-year prescriptive period for actions for compensation for property taken by the state set forth in La. R. S. 13:5111 governed, and plaintiffs’ inverse condemnation claims were prescribed. View "Crooks v. Louisiana Dept. of Nat. Resources" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the judgment of the superior court affirming a decision of the Town of York Board of Appeals purporting to grant Daniel and Susan Raposa's appeal from a decision of the Town's Code Enforcement Officer (CEO), holding that because the Board's written findings of fact directly nullified its decision to grant the appeal, the matter must be remanded for further proceedings. The Raposas contacted the Town's CEO to express their concern that Joshua Gammon's use of his property was not consistent with his predecessor's lawful nonconforming use. The CEO determined that Gammon's operation of his business on his property was not a change in use from his predecessor's use of the property. On appeal, the Board granted the Raposas' appeal as to the change-of-use issue. In the Board's written decision, however, the Board stated, "The use of the lot by Mr. Gammon's landscaping business does not constitute a change of use but is an intensification of the same use." The superior court affirmed, concluding that the Board's written decision was the operative decision for judicial review. The Supreme Judicial Court held that because the Board's written decision contained factual findings directly contradicting its initial decision, the matter must be remanded for further proceedings. View "Raposa v. Town of York" on Justia Law