Justia Zoning, Planning & Land Use Opinion Summaries

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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

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The issue in this case relates to Captain Sam’s Spit on Kiawah Island, South Carolina. Twice before, the Administrative Law Court (ALC), over the objections of the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC), granted permits for the construction of an extremely large erosion control device in a critical area. Both times, the South Carolina Supreme Court found the ALC erred. In this third appeal, the Coastal Conservation League raised numerous issues with respect to the approval of another “gargantuan structure” designed to combat the erosive forces carving into the sandy river shoreline, especially along its narrowest point called the "neck," in order to allow a developer to construct a road to facilitate development of fifty houses. DHEC, reversing its prior stance, issued four permits to construct the steel wall, which the ALC upheld. The Supreme Court found the ALC erred in three respects: (1) in accepting DHEC's narrow, formulaic interpretation of whether a permit that indisputably impacts a critical area warrants the more stringent review normally accorded to such structures; (2) in relying on the protection of Beachwalker Park to justify the construction of the entire wall; and (3) in determining the public will benefit from the wall based on purely economic reasons. Accordingly, judgment was reversed. View "SC Coastal Conservation League v. SCDHEC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the orders of the district court finding that the City of Bellevue lacked authority to adopt an ordinance to annex Landowners' land, holding that the district court erred by finding that the annexation was invalid for the reasons it identified.Landowners filed separate complaints asserting that the City had exceeded its authority and powers granted to a city of the first class by Neb. Rev. Stat. 16-130 because the subject land was not adjacent to or contiguous with the existing City limits and was agricultural and rural in character. The two actions were consolidated, and the district court found in favor of Landowners. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the district court erred by finding that Landowners' properties were rural in character and were neither contiguous nor adjacent to the City. View "Darling Ingredients Inc. v. City of Bellevue" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the order of the district court granting summary judgment for the County of Sarpy and declaring two annexation ordinances and a zoning extension ordinance adopted by the City of Gretna invalid, holding that the ordinances were valid.In seeking to have the ordinances adopted by Gretna declared invalid, Sarpy County argued that Gretna exceeded its annexation authority under Neb. Rev. Stat. 17-407(2) because the annexed area included twenty-two parcels with agricultural land that was rural in character. The district court granted summary judgment for Sarpy County. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the annexed area was urban, rather than rural, in character, and the ordinances were a lawful exercise of Gretna's annexation powers. View "County of Sarpy v. City of Gretna" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court dismissing Appellants' challenges to certain amendments to the Fairfax County Zoning Ordinance and the imposition of a Transient Occupancy Tax, holding that the circuit court did not err.Appellants owned or possessed homes within Fairfax County. In 2018, the Board of Supervisors of Fairfax County amended the Zoning Ordinance (the STL Amendment) redefining a dwelling and adding definitions for "transient occupancy" and "short-term lodging." The Board also amended the County Code to impose a transient occupancy tax of two percent of the cost of the short-term lodging (the TOT Amendment). Appellants brought a declaratory judgment action challenging the validity of the STL Amendment and the TOT Amendment. The trial court dismissed Appellants' claims with prejudice. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the trial court did not err in dismissing Appellants' challenges to the amendments. View "Norton v. Board of Supervisors of Fairfax County" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court determining that the Historic Alexandria Foundation lacked standing to pursue the claims asserted in this case, holding that there was no error in the circuit court's judgment.Vowell, LLC filed applications to obtain certain permits for the renovation of property located in the Old and Historic District of the City of Alexandria. The Old and Historic Alexandria District Board of Architectural Review (the BAR) approved Vowell's applications, and the City Council affirmed the BAR's decision. The Foundation appealed the City's Council decision. The circuit court dismissed the matter with prejudice, concluding that the petition did not establish that the Foundation was an aggrieved party with standing to pursue the appeal. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the Foundation lacked standing because the allegations of the petition failed to establish that the Foundation suffered particularized harm that differed from that suffered by the public in general. View "Historic Alexandria Foundation v. City of Alexandria" on Justia Law