Justia Zoning, Planning & Land Use Opinion Summaries

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The case involves MRose Development Co., LLC and Jason Schumacher (MRose) who sought to develop farmland located along Swan Lake in Turner County into 15 lakefront lots. The land was currently included in an agricultural zoning district, and due to residential density restrictions, MRose applied to rezone the land into a lake residential district. The Turner County Board of County Commissioners (the County) denied the application, and MRose appealed to the circuit court.The circuit court reversed the County's decision, interpreting Turner County's zoning ordinance to require approval of the rezoning application as a purely ministerial act because the land was situated along Swan Lake. The County appealed this decision.The Supreme Court of the State of South Dakota reversed the circuit court's decision. The court found that the circuit court erred in its interpretation of the 2008 Zoning Ordinance, which it believed required the County to approve MRose's rezoning application. The Supreme Court held that no provision in the entire 2008 Zoning Ordinance stated that lakefront property must be zoned Lake Residential simply by virtue of its location. The court also held that the County's decision to deny MRose's rezoning application was not arbitrary, as MRose failed to meet its burden of proof that the County acted arbitrarily. View "Mrose Development Co. v. Turner County Bd. Of Commissioners" on Justia Law

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The case revolves around a dispute over a 15,000 square foot vacation home, the Chesapeake, located in Currituck County, North Carolina. The home is owned by Elizabeth LeTendre and has been the subject of litigation for over a decade regarding its compliance with county and state zoning requirements. The home's design includes a central area and two side wings, each structurally independent and less than 5,000 square feet. LeTendre's neighbors, Marie and Michael Long, contested that the Chesapeake violated a county zoning ordinance, which was upheld by the North Carolina Court of Appeals. The County then sued LeTendre to enforce the mandate and hold her in contempt if she refused to comply.LeTendre removed the case to federal court, seeking a declaratory judgment that the Chesapeake now complies with both county and state requirements. She argued that a recent amendment to North Carolina’s state zoning law abrogated the previous ruling. The district court agreed with LeTendre, holding that the County’s interpretation of a single-family detached dwelling, as applied to the Chesapeake, is “inconsistent with the State Building Code’s definition of a dwelling.”The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's decision. The court held that the Building Code Council’s determination that the Chesapeake is “a building” controls. The court rejected the appellants' arguments that the district court's ruling violated principles of res judicata and the Rooker-Feldman doctrine, stating that the court was not reviewing whether the previous rulings correctly interpreted the Ordinance, but rather that the zoning amendment made the Council decision controlling. View "Currituck County v. LeTendre" on Justia Law

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The United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit reviewed a case involving a group of plaintiffs who owned properties near proposed wind turbine sites in Page County, Iowa. The plaintiffs sued the county, its board of supervisors, and county officials after the board issued a commercial wind energy permit to Shenandoah Hills Wind Project, LLC (SHW). The plaintiffs claimed that the issuance of the permit violated the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, the Iowa Constitution, Iowa Code, and county ordinances. They also claimed that county officials violated the Iowa Open Meetings Act by holding nonpublic meetings on SHW's application. The defendants removed the case to federal court based on the federal due process claim.The district court dismissed the federal due process claim for lack of prudential standing and as implausibly pleaded under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). It also dismissed the state claims as time-barred under Iowa law and implausibly pleaded under Rule 12(b)(6). After the district court's decision, the county revoked the permit. Despite the revocation, the plaintiffs appealed the district court's order.The Court of Appeals held that the county's revocation of SHW's permit mooted the plaintiffs' claims, except for their claims under the Iowa Open Meetings Act. The court affirmed the district court's exercise of supplemental jurisdiction over these remaining claims and its dismissal of them. The court vacated the remainder of the district court's order and remanded the case to the district court with instructions to dismiss the non-Open Meetings claims as moot. View "Hunter v. Page County, Iowa" on Justia Law

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This case involves a dispute over a real estate development project in Beaufort County, South Carolina. The developer, Road, LLC, purchased a 229-acre peninsula with plans to develop it. However, the project was contingent on resolving two disputes concerning the only access road to the peninsula. The first dispute involved neighboring landowners who claimed ownership of a parcel of land the access road crossed. The second dispute involved Beaufort County's denial of the developer's request for a zoning variance to relocate and improve the access road. The developer, the neighboring landowners, and Beaufort County settled both disputes in a written "Settlement Agreement." However, the developer eventually defaulted on its loan and the lender took title to the peninsula. After the developer's options to repurchase the peninsula expired, Beaufort County purchased the peninsula to prevent its development. Road, LLC argued that Beaufort County breached the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing in the Settlement Agreement by purchasing the peninsula, thereby extinguishing any opportunity Road might later gain to sell the parcel to another developer.The trial court initially ruled in favor of Road, LLC, but later granted Beaufort County's motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict, arguing that there was no breach of the Settlement Agreement and that Road presented no evidence to support the jury's $5 million award. The court of appeals affirmed the trial court's decision on the grounds that there was no evidence Beaufort County was the proximate cause of Road's damages and that the evidence showed Road did not suffer $5 million in damages because the property was still worth $5 million after the County purchased the peninsula.The Supreme Court of South Carolina affirmed the court of appeals' decision in result. The court held that the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing cannot create new contractual duties not expressly stated or fairly implied in the contract itself. The court found that the Settlement Agreement did not prohibit Beaufort County from purchasing the peninsula once the developer's option expired. Therefore, the court concluded that Beaufort County could not have breached the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing in the Settlement Agreement. View "Road, LLC and Pinckney Point, LLC v. Beaufort County" on Justia Law

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The case revolves around a major land development project proposed for multiple parcels of real estate in North Kingstown, Rhode Island. The project was approved by the North Kingstown Planning Commission in 2012. The North Kingstown Town Council amended the zoning ordinance to create a Compact Village District (CVD) zone, which included the developers' property. In 2017, the town council again amended the zoning ordinance for the town’s CVD zone, limiting commercial building coverage and providing a ratio of buildings on the property. The developers challenged the ordinance in federal court, alleging that their project had vested prior to the 2017 ordinance’s limitations. After mediation and settlement discussions, a proposed consent judgment was prepared. The town council approved the consent judgment and the planning commission approved the developers’ preliminary plan for the project.The North Kingstown Zoning Board of Review upheld the planning commission's decision, concluding that the consent judgment recognized the developers’ vested rights and that the project was not bound by the subsequent 2017 zoning amendments. Rickey Thompson, a property owner within 200 feet of the project, filed an action in the Superior Court seeking a declaratory judgment that the town council was not authorized to enter into the consent judgment and that the planning commission should not have relied upon the terms of the consent judgment to review the developers’ application for preliminary plan approval.The Superior Court granted the defendants' motion for summary judgment, finding that Thompson had made an improper collateral attack on the consent judgment, as a nonparty, and that the town had the authority to enter into the agreement. Thompson appealed this decision.The Supreme Court of Rhode Island affirmed the judgment of the Superior Court. The court found that Thompson, as a nonparty to the consent judgment, lacked the requisite standing to challenge the agreement and was thus barred from making a collateral attack on what is a valid, final judgment in federal court. The court also found that the town had the authority to enter into the agreement and the consent judgment did not illegally constrain the planning commission’s authority. The court rejected Thompson’s argument that the consent judgment illegally amended the town’s zoning ordinance. The court also found that Thompson's argument that the town and the developers engaged in contract zoning was not raised in Superior Court and was thus waived. View "Thompson v. Town of North Kingstown Zoning Board of Appeals" on Justia Law

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The case revolves around a dispute between Long Lake Township and Todd and Heather Maxon. The township alleged that the Maxons were storing junk cars on their property, violating a zoning ordinance, a nuisance law, and a 2008 settlement agreement. As the property was not visible from the street, the township hired a drone operator to take aerial photographs and video of the property without the Maxons' permission or a warrant. The Maxons moved to suppress the aerial photographs and all other evidence obtained by the township from the drone, asserting that the search was illegal under the Fourth Amendment.The Grand Traverse Circuit Court denied the Maxons’ motion, reasoning that the drone surveillance did not constitute a search. The Court of Appeals, in a split decision, reversed the lower court's ruling, holding that the drone surveillance violated the Fourth Amendment. The township appealed to the Supreme Court, which ordered the parties to file supplemental briefs regarding whether the exclusionary rule applied to the facts of this case. The Supreme Court then vacated its earlier order and remanded the case to the Court of Appeals for consideration of whether the exclusionary rule applied. On remand, the Court of Appeals, in a split decision, held that the exclusionary rule did not apply and that the photographs and video could not be suppressed regardless of whether the township unreasonably searched the Maxons’ property.The Michigan Supreme Court, in a unanimous opinion, held that the exclusionary rule may not be applied to civil enforcement proceedings that effectuate local zoning and nuisance ordinances and seek only prospective, injunctive relief. The court found that the costs of excluding the drone evidence outweighed the benefits of suppressing it, and the exclusionary rule therefore did not apply. The decision of the Court of Appeals was affirmed, and the case was remanded to the trial court for further proceedings. View "Long Lake Township v. Maxon" on Justia Law

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This case involves a dispute over a contract zone agreement that would have allowed development on a property in Saco, Maine. The property owners, Amarjit Singh Dhillon and Ajinder Kaur, appealed from a lower court's grant of partial summary judgment to Michael Dahlem, who owns neighboring property and challenged the contract zone agreement. Dahlem cross-appealed from the court's dismissal of his Rule 80B appeal and denial of his motion to reconsider that dismissal, and from the court's denial of summary judgment on two counts in his complaint.The lower court had granted summary judgment to Dahlem on several counts, declaring that the 2017 agreement became null and void in 2019 and thereafter could not be amended, was invalid and unlawful for noncompliance with the City’s contract zoning ordinance, and was inconsistent with Maine’s Mandatory Shoreland Zoning statute and therefore preempted and invalid. The court denied summary judgment to all parties on the count of whether the 2021 agreement was compatible with the City’s comprehensive plan.The Maine Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the lower court's decision in all respects and dismissed Dahlem’s cross-appeal as moot. The court held that Dahlem properly challenged the 2021 agreement by asserting claims for declaratory relief, that the 2017 agreement became null and void on November 20, 2019, and could not thereafter be amended, that the 2021 agreement was invalid and unlawful under the City’s contract zoning ordinance, and that the 2021 agreement was preempted by the Mandatory Shoreland Zoning provisions. View "Dahlem v. City of Saco" on Justia Law

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The Greenwald Family Limited Partnership, a landowner in the Village of Mukwonago, Wisconsin, had a longstanding positive relationship with the Village, collaborating on several development projects. However, this relationship soured after a failed land deal in 2014 and several other conflicts. The Partnership sued the Village, alleging that it had been irrationally singled out for unfavorable treatment, violating its Fourteenth Amendment rights. The Partnership pointed to several adverse municipal decisions, focusing primarily on the failed land deal and a new road that was rerouted from the Partnership’s property.The case was initially filed in state court but was later removed to federal court. The district court concluded that the Village had a rational basis for its actions regarding the failed land deal, the new road, and other decisions affecting the Partnership’s properties. The court entered summary judgment in favor of the Village and relinquished jurisdiction over the state-law claims.The case was then brought before the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. The court affirmed the district court's decision, stating that the Partnership had failed to show that the Village’s actions lacked any conceivable rational basis. The court found that the Village’s decisions were rationally related to its legitimate interests in promoting its land-use objectives and protecting public funds. The court concluded that the Partnership was a disappointed landowner, but not a victim of unconstitutional discrimination. View "Greenwald Family Limited Partnership v. Village of Mukwonago" on Justia Law

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The case involves a dispute over the incorporation of the proposed City of St. George in Louisiana. The petition for incorporation was filed in 2018 and was approved by the governor, leading to a special election in which 54% of voters approved the incorporation. However, a legal challenge was filed by Baton Rouge’s Mayor-President and a Metropolitan Councilman, arguing that the petition for incorporation was deficient and that the proposed city would be unable to provide public services within a reasonable period of time. They also contended that the incorporation would have an adverse impact on Baton Rouge.The trial court denied the incorporation, finding that the petition minimally satisfied the statutory requirements and that the incorporation was unreasonable. The court found that St. George would operate at a deficit, affecting the timely provision of public services, and that lost tax revenue would significantly impact Baton Rouge. The court of appeal affirmed the denial of incorporation, finding the petition deficient as it failed to include a plan for the provision of services.The Supreme Court of Louisiana reversed the lower courts' decisions. The court found that the lower courts erred in their calculations of St. George's operating costs and potential revenues. The court also found that the lower courts failed to consider the cost savings that would result from Baton Rouge no longer having to provide services to St. George. The court concluded that St. George could provide public services within a reasonable period of time and that the incorporation was reasonable. The court therefore rendered judgment in favor of the proponents of incorporation. View "BROOME VS. RIALS" on Justia Law

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A group of developers, collectively referred to as "The Preserve," entered into an agreement in 2011 to purchase land in Richmond, Rhode Island, with the intention of operating an outdoor shooting range and gun club. The town council and planning board initially supported the project, but a subsequent zoning ordinance amendment prohibited such uses. The Preserve was not notified of these changes. In 2016, a new zoning district was created, once again permitting indoor and outdoor shooting ranges. The Preserve claimed that the two-year delay caused substantial revenue loss. They also alleged that the town imposed arbitrary fees, delayed the approval process, and engaged in other discriminatory practices that increased their costs and hindered their development efforts.The Superior Court dismissed The Preserve's claims for violations of substantive due process, tortious interference with contract and prospective business advantages, civil liability for crimes and offenses, and a violation of the civil Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) statute. The court found that the claims were either barred by the statute of limitations or failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted.The Supreme Court of Rhode Island affirmed the judgment of the Superior Court. The court held that the claims for civil liability for crimes and offenses and civil RICO were barred by a three-year statute of limitations because they were considered torts. The court also found that the statute of limitations was not tolled for the tortious interference claims, as the harm allegedly present was merely the consequence of separate and distinct acts that had occurred prior to the final approval of the land development for the resort. Therefore, all of The Preserve's claims were time-barred. View "The Preserve at Boulder Hills, LLC v. Kenyon" on Justia Law