Justia Zoning, Planning & Land Use Opinion Summaries

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In 1994, SGV bought 547 acres in Alabaster for $1.65 million. The master development plan, approved in 1995, zoned the land as R-2 (90-foot wide single-family residences), R-4 (60-foot wide garden homes), and R-7 (townhomes). Most of the development was completed by 2008, except the 142-acre Sector 16, zoned predominantly for R-4 and R-7 with a small part as R-2. In 2011, the city rezoned Sector 16 for R-2 lots only. SGV filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983, 1985(3), and 1988, alleging that the rezoning “constitute[d] an unlawful taking” without just compensation and denials of procedural and substantive due process. The court rejected the due process claims. The city objected to evidence of the city’s motive and the “lot method” valuation and argued that the case was not ripe for adjudication, since SGV had not sought variances. The court found that a zoning ordinance was a final matter that could be adjudicated. A jury found that there was a regulatory taking without just compensation; that before the taking, the value of the property was $3,532,849.19; and after the taking, the value of the property was $500,000. The court added prejudgment interest and entered a final judgment of $3,505,030.65. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed, rejecting arguments that the just compensation claim was not ripe, that the district court improperly allowed evidence regarding the city’s motivation for enacting th ordinance, and concerning the admission and exclusion of certain other evidence. View "South Grand View Development Co., Inc. v. City of Alabaster" on Justia Law

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In 1958, the Northern Pacific Railroad physically abandoned the 20-mile segment outside of Noxon, Montana. Part of that segment runs through the Finnigan property, which is entirely within the boundaries of the Kanisku National Forest. Several landowners along the right of way sought a judicial decree of abandonment and ultimately gained title to their respective segments of the abandoned railway. The Finnigan property’s then-owner did not seek a judicial decree of abandonment. In 2018, the Finnigan Estate brought suit to quiet its title to the right of way across its property. The district court rejected the action on summary judgment.The Ninth Circuit affirmed. Northern Pacific stopped using the segment in 1958, but the railway was not formally declared abandoned before the 1988 enactment of the Rails-to-Trails Act, 6 U.S.C. 1248(c), so the United States retained its reversionary interest in the land. The Act provides that title “shall remain” with the U.S. for railroad rights-of-way abandoned after October 4, 1988, except to the extent that the right of way was converted to a public highway. To transfer rights-of-way to neighboring landowners, abandonment requires both physical abandonment and a judicial decree of abandonment. The judicial-decree requirement was not met when another parcel in the segment obtained a judicial decree of abandonment that did not cover the Finnigan property. View "Estate of Finnigan v. United States" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the decision of the court of appeals holding that the City of Waconia's ordinance was subject to the procedural requirements of Minn. Stat. 462.357 for municipal zoning, including notice and a public hearing.After Appellants began building a dock extending from their lakeshore property into the lake the City adopted an ordinance that prohibited the construction of the dock. When the construction was nearly complete the City filed a complaint seeking a permanent injunction under the new ordinance to halt further construction and require the dock's removal. The district court granted summary judgment for the City. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding (1) Appellants' appeal was timely; (2) the City's ordinance was subject to the procedural requirements of section 462.357; and (3) because the City failed to comply with the procedural requirements of section 462.357, the ordinance was void, and the permanent injunction against Appellants was also void. View "City of Waconia v. Dock" on Justia Law

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In a California Environmental Quality Act (Act) challenge, the issue presented concerned the adoption of a mitigated negative declaration for and approval of the Newtown Road Bridge at South Fork Weber Creek Replacement Project (the project) by respondents El Dorado County (County) and its board of supervisors (collectively, respondents). The proposed project would replace an existing bridge. Petitioners Newtown Preservation Society, an unincorporated association, and Wanda Nagel (collectively, petitioners) challenged the mitigated negative declaration, arguing, among other things, the project might have significant impacts on fire evacuation routes during construction and, thus, the County was required to prepare an environmental impact report. The trial court upheld the mitigated negative declaration. Petitioners appealed, arguing the trial court erred in upholding the mitigated negative declaration because: (1) substantial evidence supported a fair argument of potentially significant impacts on resident safety and emergency evacuation; (2) the County impermissibly deferred analysis of temporary emergency evacuation impacts; (3) the County impermissibly deferred mitigation of such impacts; and (4) the County deferred analysis of impacts pertaining to construction of a temporary evacuation route. In the published portion of its opinion, the Court of Appeal concluded petitioners’ framing of the fair argument test in terms of the project having “potentially significant impacts on resident safety and emergency evacuation” was erroneous. Petitioners thus failed to carry their burden of showing substantial evidence supported a fair argument of significant environmental impact in that regard. In the unpublished portion of the opinion, the Court concluded the County did not impermissibly defer mitigation and decline to consider the two remaining arguments. Finding no merit in petitioners’ contentions, judgment was affirmed. View "Newtown Preservation Society v. County of El Dorado" on Justia Law

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In this appeal, several Summerville residents and public interest groups (Petitioners) asked the South Carolina Supreme Court to invalidate approval granted by the Town of Summerville Board of Architectural Review (the Board) for construction of a proposed development project (the Project). Petitioners contended the Board violated the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and various Summerville ordinances. At some point during Petitioners' appeal of the Board's decision, Applegate & Co. (the Developer) decided not to go forward with the Project. Since there remained no actual controversy for the Supreme Court to decide, it vacated the court of appeals' decision and dismissed Petitioners' appeal as moot. View "Croft v. Town of Summerville" on Justia Law

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Skidmore’s West Virginia home sits 70-80 feet west of Norfolk’s railroad track, across Loop Creek. In 2001, Norfolk installed a culvert to drain surface water from its tracks into Loop Creek near Skidmore’s home. According to Skidmore, the water streaming from the culvert caused soil erosion and threatened the foundation of her home. Skidmore sued Norfolk in state court, alleging negligence, private nuisance, and trespass.Norfolk obtained a survey and deeds revealing that, in 1903, Norfolk obtained a right of way extending across Loop Creek, over part of the land on the other side. Part of Skidmore’s house sits atop the land over which the right of way runs. Norfolk asserted an affirmative defense that Skidmore lacked standing because she had no right to exclude Norfolk from the land. Skidmore amended her complaint to add claims for adverse possession and prescriptive easement (quiet title claims). Norfolk removed the case to federal court, arguing that the Interstate Commerce Commission Termination Act completely preempts the quiet title claims. The district court dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.The Fourth Circuit vacated. While 49 U.S.C. 10501(b) “entirely displaces” Skidmore’s quiet title claims, a conclusion that complete preemption applies means that the court has jurisdiction over ostensibly state-law claims. On remand, the court must convert Skidmore’s quiet title claims into claims under the Termination Act and may permit Skidmore to amend her complaint to clarify the scope of her Termination Act claims. View "Skidmore v. Norfolk Southern Railway Co" on Justia Law

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The Benalcazars purchased 43 acres in Genoa Township in 2001. The property sits at the northern end of the Township’s more developed areas and abuts the Hoover Reservoir. The parcel was zoned as Rural Residential; development would have required separate septic systems, clear-cutting, and multiple driveways. In 2018, the Benalcazars obtained rezoning of the property to a Planned Residential District, which permits higher density development. Township residents approved a referendum that prevented the amendment from taking effect, O.R.C. 519.12(H).The Benalcazars sued. In a settlement, the Township agreed to change the zoning designation; the Benalcazars agreed to reduce the proposed development from 64 homes to 56 homes, to provide more open space, and to increase the width of some lots. O.R.C. 505.07 provides “Notwithstanding . . . any vote of the electors on a petition for zoning referendum … a township may settle any court action by a consent decree or court-approved settlement agreement which may include an agreement to rezone.” The district court permitted objectors to intervene, dismissed the Benalcazars’ due process claims, but ruled that the Benalcazars stated a plausible equal protection claim, and approved the consent decree. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. The Benalcazars’ due process and equal protection claims are not “frivolous” but “arguable.” The district court had subject-matter jurisdiction and had the authority to approve a settlement. No other merits inquiry was required. View "Benalcazar v. Genoa Township" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, who seeks to knock down his beachfront mansion and to build a new one, filed suit against the town, claiming that the criteria the town's architectural review commission used to deny his building permit violated his First Amendment free speech rights and his Fourteenth Amendment rights to due process and equal protection. In this case, plaintiff wants to knock down his "traditional" beachfront mansion and to build a new one, almost twice its size, in the midcentury modern style. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the town.The Eleventh Circuit concluded that summary judgment was not granted too early and affirmed on the First Amendment claim because there was no great likelihood that some sort of message would be understood by those who viewed plaintiff's new beachfront mansion. The court also affirmed the district court's summary judgment on the Fourteenth Amendment claims because the commission's criteria were not unconstitutionally vague and plaintiff has not presented evidence that the commission applied its criteria differently for him than for other similarly situated mansion-builders. View "Burns v. Town of Palm Beach" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the Land Court's judgment affirming the decision of the Zoning Board of Appeals of the town of Lynnfield upholding the decision of the building inspector ordering Plaintiff to cease and desist offering his family home for short-term rentals, holding that there was no error.On appeal, Plaintiff argued that the use of his home for short-term rentals constituted a prior nonconforming use that was exempt from the town's zoning bylaw that, as amended, expressly forbade short-term rentals in single-residence zoning districts. The Supreme Judicial Court disagreed, holding that Plaintiff's use of the property for short-term rentals was not a permissible use under the town's zoning bylaw as it existed prior to its amendment. View "Styller v. Zoning Board of Appeals of Lynnfield" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court denying Homeowners' request seeking declaratory judgment that the Historic Preservation Ordinance adopted by the Houston City Council was void and unenforceable because it violated the City Charter's limits on zoning and did not comply with certain provisions of Chapter 211 of the Local Government Code, holding that the City did not violate either its Charter or the provisions of Chapter 211.Specifically, the Supreme Court held (1) the ordinance did not implement zoning as that concept is ordinarily understood, and therefore, the City Charter's limits on zoning did not apply in this case; and (2) while Chapter 211 did apply to the ordinance, Plaintiffs failed to prove that the ordinance violated the requirements of Chapter 211 at issue in this case. View "Powell v. City of Houston" on Justia Law