Justia Zoning, Planning & Land Use Opinion Summaries
United Water & Sanitation Dist. v. Burlington Ditch Reservoir & Land Co.
This appeal stemmed from an application for a conditional water storage right filed by United Water and Sanitation District, a special water district formed in Elbert County, Colorado, acting through the United Water Acquisition Project Water Activity Enterprise (“United”). United sought to secure various water rights in Weld County. United’s original applications were consolidated in a set of four cases. In response to a motion for determination of questions of law from opposer Farmers Reservoir and Irrigation Company (“FRICO”) in the consolidated cases, the District Court for Water Division 1 (“water court”) concluded that United’s applications failed to demonstrate non-speculative intent to appropriate water. In response to this ruling, United withdrew its applications in the consolidated cases and, a week later, filed a new application in Case No. 16CW3053 for a conditional water storage right that was the subject of this appeal. Pertinent here, United sought to appropriate water for use in a proposed residential development in another county. In support of its new application for a conditional storage right, United offered a new, purportedly binding contract with the landowners of the proposed development. United also claimed for the first time that its status as a special district qualified it for the governmental planning exception to the anti-speculation doctrine. FRICO opposed United's application, and the water court determined United's new application likewise failed to demonstrated non-speculative intent to appropriate water. The water court found that United was acting as a water broker to sell to third parties for their use, and not as a governmental agency seeking to procure water to serve its own municipal customers. Consequently, the water court held, United did not qualify for the governmental planning exception to the anti-speculation doctrine. United appealed. But concurring with the water court's judgment, the Colorado Supreme Court affirmed: United was ineligible for the governmental planning exception to the anti-speculation doctrine. View "United Water & Sanitation Dist. v. Burlington Ditch Reservoir & Land Co." on Justia Law
Tzakis v. Maine Township
The plaintiffs filed suit concerning flood damage to their Maine Township property after heavy rains in September 2008, alleging that public entities breached duties owed to them with respect to a stormwater drainage system located near their properties. Plaintiffs claimed that certain actions by the defendants increased water flow to the area and that there has been major flooding in the past. After a 2002 event, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources discovered “numerous bottlenecks and obstructions to flow as the causes of the invasive flooding” in the community. The trial court dismissed, finding that the defendants owed no duty to plaintiffs under the public duty rule and plaintiffs had not alleged any special duty. In the meantime, the Illinois Supreme Court (Coleman) abolished the public duty rule, which provided that a local governmental entity does not owe any duty to individual members of the public to provide adequate governmental services. The trial court found that the new law set forth in Coleman should not be retroactively applied.The Illinois Supreme Court affirmed. Coleman clearly established a new principle of law, overturning decades of existing precedent. Given these circumstances and the two rationales for abolishing the public duty rule, the new law announced in Coleman would not be thwarted by its prospective application. Prospective application avoids substantial inequitable results for defendants who have relied upon the public duty rule throughout the long course of this litigation. View "Tzakis v. Maine Township" on Justia Law
County of Monterey v. Bosler
Plaintiff County of Monterey (County) appealed when the trial court denied its petition for writ of mandate and complaint for declaratory and injunctive relief. The County was the successor agency for its former redevelopment agency ("RDA"), and challenged decisions by the Department of Finance (Department) relating to a development known as the East Garrison Project, which was part of the Fort Ord Redevelopment Project located on a closed military base in Monterey. The County claimed the trial court erroneously determined that a written agreement entered into between its former RDA and a private developer (real party in interest, UCP East Garrison, LLC) was not an enforceable obligation within the meaning of the dissolution law because the former RDA did not have the authority to approve the agreement on the date the governor signed the 2011 dissolution legislation. The County further contended the trial court erred in determining the County failed to show the Department abused its discretion in disapproving two separate requests for funding related to administration of the East Garrison Project. The County claimed these administrative costs were expended to complete an enforceable obligation within the meaning of the dissolution law, and therefore the Department should have approved its requests for payment of such costs. Finally, the County argued the Department’s application of the dissolution law improperly impaired UCP’s contractual rights. The Court of Appeal rejected each of the County's contentions and affirmed judgment. View "County of Monterey v. Bosler" on Justia Law
Thai Meditation Association of Alabama, Inc. v. City of Mobile
After the City denied zoning permits to construct a Buddhist meditation and retreat center in a residential area of Mobile, the Association and its incorporators filed suit alleging violations of the Free Exercise and Equal Protection Clauses of the United States Constitution, several provisions of the federal Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA), the Alabama Constitution, and state common-law principles.The Eleventh Circuit held that the district court applied the wrong standard in evaluating plaintiffs' claims under RLUIPA's substantial-burden provision and the Free Exercise Clause, and that the district court should reconsider those claims on remand under the proper standard, but that the district court properly rejected plaintiffs' claims under RLUIPA's equal-terms and nondiscrimination provisions and the Equal Protection Clause. The court also held that the district court misread the Alabama Religious Freedom Amendment (ARFA) and should reconsider plaintiffs' ARFA claim under the court's interpretation, but that the district court correctly rejected plaintiffs' negligent-misrepresentation claim. Therefore, the court vacated in part and remanded for further proceedings. The court affirmed the district court's rejection of plaintiffs' remaining claims. View "Thai Meditation Association of Alabama, Inc. v. City of Mobile" on Justia Law
In re Diverging Diamond Interchange Act 250 (R.L. Vallee, Inc.)
Plaintiff R.L. Vallee, Inc. appealed the Environmental Division’s decision granting an Act 250 permit to the Vermont Agency of Transportation (VTrans) for a highway project involving the reconfiguration of an interstate exit. Vallee argued the court applied the incorrect standard in analyzing phosphorus discharges under Act 250 Criterion 1, and improperly evaluated the evidence of phosphorus and chloride discharges under Criterion 1. The Vermont Supreme Court found the Environmental Division applied the correct legal standard to evaluate discharges, and properly considered the evidence before it in determining that the project complies with Criterion 1. View "In re Diverging Diamond Interchange Act 250 (R.L. Vallee, Inc.)" on Justia Law
Northern New England Telephone Operations, LLC d/b/a FairPoint Communications – NNE v. Town of Acworth
This appeal arose from a consolidated cases filed by plaintiff Northern New England Telephone Operations, LLC d/b/a FairPoint Communications-NNE (FairPoint), against several New Hampshire towns and cities, asserting claims of ultra vires taxation and disproportionate taxation. As “representative municipalities” in the “test cases” established for this litigation, defendants, the Town of Durham and the Town of Hanover (Towns), appealed two superior court orders challenging: (1) the grant of summary judgment on the ultra vires ruling because they contended the agreements authorizing such use or occupation did not satisfy the requirements of RSA 72:23, I(b) (2012) (amended 2017, 2018, 2020); and (2) the superior court’s decision after trial, arguing that the court committed several errors in concluding that FairPoint was entitled to abatements of its tax assessments from the Town of Durham and the Town of Hanover for tax years 2013 and 2011 respectively. The New Hampshire Supreme Court agreed with the Towns that the superior court erred with respect to the tax on the value of FairPoint's use or occupation of municipal rights-of-way was ultra vires. FairPoint’s use or occupation of municipal rights-of-way was not pursuant to a perpetual lease that gave rise to an independently taxable property interest; FairPoint met its burden to prove it was taxed disproportionately by the Towns. Judgment was affirmed in part, reversed in part and consequently abating the two tax assessments at issue. View "Northern New England Telephone Operations, LLC d/b/a FairPoint Communications - NNE v. Town of Acworth" on Justia Law
AMCAL Chico LLC v. Chico Unified School Dist.
Plaintiff AMCAL Chico, LLC (AMCAL) constructed a dormitory complex that would house unmarried university students within the boundaries of defendant Chico Unified School District (the District). The District imposed school impact fees on the complex, and AMCAL filed suit seeking a refund of the fees. The trial court granted the District’s motion for summary judgment. AMCAL appealed, arguing the fees had to be refunded because: (1) the District failed to comply with Government Code section 66001; (2) the fee was an invalid special tax; and (3) the fee was an improper taking. The Court of Appeal determined the imposed fee was reasonable and complied with the Mitigation Fee Act. Therefore, the fee was not an invalid tax, nor was it a taking. View "AMCAL Chico LLC v. Chico Unified School Dist." on Justia Law
Burns Concrete v. Teton County
This appeal arose from a dispute over the construction of a ready-mix concrete manufacturing facility in Teton County, Idaho. In 2007, Burns Holdings entered into a development agreement with Teton County regarding property owned by Burns Concrete. The development agreement required the construction of a permanent concrete manufacturing facility on the property within 18 months of the execution of the agreement, but allowed operation of a temporary facility in the meantime. Burns Concrete, the concrete company that would operate the facility, and Burns Holdings, a holding company that was to eventually take title to the property, wanted to build a permanent facility that was 75-feet tall, but the applicable zoning ordinance limited building heights to 45-feet. The County denied Burns Holdings’ application for a conditional use permit and its subsequent application for a variance to exceed the height limit. The Burns Companies operated the temporary facility for several years but never constructed the permanent facility. In 2012, the County sent written notice revoking the authority to operate the temporary facility and demanding that the temporary facility be removed. The Burns Companies subsequently filed this action, stating claims for breach of contract, declaratory judgment, and unjust enrichment. The County counterclaimed, alleging breach of contract and seeking declaratory judgment for the removal of the temporary facility. This began a multi-year period of litigation that included two appeals to the Idaho Supreme Court, each followed by a remand to the district court. This case has returned to the Supreme Court again, this time as a result of the parties’ cross-appeals of the district court’s grant of partial summary judgment in favor of the Burns Companies on their breach of contract claim, its award of $1,049.250.90 in damages, and its award of attorney fees. The Supreme Court affirmed the district court’s grant of partial summary judgment on the issue of breach of contract, but vacated the district court’s judgment for a recalculation of damages. In its recalculation of damages, the district court was instructed to reverse its reduction of damages by the difference between the Temporary Facility’s sales and cost of sales. The Supreme Court vacated the district court’s award of attorney fees and remanded the matter for an explanation of the district court’s reduction of requested attorney fees. View "Burns Concrete v. Teton County" on Justia Law
Bay Point Properties, Inc. v. Mississippi Transportation Commission
The case originated from an action brought by Bay Point Properties, Inc. against the Mississippi Transportation Commission in which Bay Point sought damages resulting from inverse condemnation. After the verdict, Bay Point filed a motion requesting attorneys’ fees, costs, and expenses. The trial court awarded $500 in nominal damages and denied Bay Point’s request for attorneys’ fees, costs, and expenses. Finding no reversible error, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed the trial court's judgment. View "Bay Point Properties, Inc. v. Mississippi Transportation Commission" on Justia Law
Tiburon/Belvedere Residents United to Support the Trails v. Martha Co.
Before the 1972 effective date of Civil Code section 1009(b), the California Supreme Court held that an implied by law dedication is established when “the public has used the land ‘for a period of more than five years with full knowledge of the owner, without asking or receiving permission to do so and without objection being made by anyone.’” Since the 1920s, Martha has owned 110 acres of undeveloped land on the Tiburon peninsula, which has views of Angel Island, San Francisco, and the Golden Gate Bridge. In 2017, TRUST filed suit to quiet title, in favor of the public, to recreational easements over trails on the property, arguing that, nearly 50 years ago, the public’s use of trails on Martha’s property established a recreational easement under the doctrine of implied dedication.The court of appeal affirmed judgment in favor of Martha. Substantial evidence supports a finding that Martha’s attempts to deter trespassers showed it did not acquiesce to public dedication. There was “a running battle between some users, who took down signs and fences”, and owners, who repaired them, indicating both that the users did not believe that they had a right to use the property and that the owner made bona fide efforts to deter them. View "Tiburon/Belvedere Residents United to Support the Trails v. Martha Co." on Justia Law