Justia Zoning, Planning & Land Use Opinion Summaries

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Granite Northwest sought to expand its mining operations in Yakima County, Washington. The Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation (Yakama) opposed the expansion, arguing it would disturb ancient burial grounds and a dedicated historical cemetery. Despite these objections, Yakima County issued a conditional use permit and a State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA), ch. 43.21C RCW, mitigated determination of nonsignificance to Granite Northwest. Yakama challenged both in superior court. The court later stayed the SEPA challenge while Yakama exhausted its administrative appeal of the conditional use permit as required by the Yakima county code. In Yakama’s administrative appeal, the hearing officer modified the conditional use permit to require a separate permit from the Washington State Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation but affirmed Yakima County’s issuance of the permit. Yakama appealed the hearing examiner’s decision to the county board of commissioners. On April 10, 2018, at a public meeting where Yakama representatives were present, the board passed a resolution affirming the hearing officer’s decision and denying Yakama’s appeal. Three days later, a county planner sent an e-mail and letter to Yakama with the resolution attached. The letter noted the county code required written notification of the decision and stated that the administrative appeal had been exhausted. On May 2, 2018, 22 days after the resolution was adopted and 19 days after the county planner’s letter, Yakama filed a new petition in superior court. Yakima County and Granite Northwest (collectively, Granite NW) moved to dismiss the second petition as untimely under RCW 36.70C.040(4)(b) because the 21-day filing period began on the date the board of commissioners passed its resolution and Yakama’s petition was 1 day late. Granite NW also moved to dismiss the previously stayed petition, arguing the stay was conditional on Yakama timely filing its administrative appeal. Yakama responded that RCW 36.70C.040(4)(b) was inapplicable and instead RCW 36.70C.040(4)(a) governed the filing period, which began when the county planner transmitted the written resolution to Yakama. The superior court agreed with Yakama, finding Yakama’s land use petition was timely filed, and accordingly, did not dismiss Yakama’s earlier petition. The Court of Appeals reversed in an unpublished decision, concluding the later petition was not timely and did not address the previously stayed petition. After review, the Washington Supreme Court concluded Yakama's petition was timely filed. The Court of Appeals was reversed. View "Confederated Tribes & Bands of the Yakama Nation v. Yakima County" on Justia Law

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Bernard Boudreau appealed the environmental division’s dismissal of his appeal of a Manchester Development Review Board (MDRB) decision for lack of jurisdiction. The Vermont Supreme Court concluded that Boudreau’s appeal was a collateral attack on a zoning decision barred by the exclusivity-of-remedy provision in 24 V.S.A. 4472, and therefore affirmed. View "In re Hopkins Certificate of Compliance (Boudreau, Appellant)" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Fortieth Burlington, LLC filed suit to challenge the City of Burlington’s decision that there was a reasonable need to lay out a portion of roadway for part of a project known as the Champlain Parkway. The superior court granted the City summary judgment, concluding that Fortieth lacked standing under the relevant statute and general standing principles because Fortieth did not have a legal interest in any of the properties from which legal rights would be taken. On appeal, Fortieth argued it had standing to challenge the City’s necessity decision, that it did not receive proper notice of the necessity hearing, and that the City did not properly assess the necessity of the project. Finding no reversible error, the Vermont Supreme Court affirmed. View "Fortieth Burlington, LLC v. City of Burlington" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, the Friends of Pine Street d/b/a Pine Street Coalition (Coalition), filed suit attempting to challenge the City of Burlington’s necessity order relating to the construction of the Champlain Parkway project. The superior court granted the City summary judgment on the basis that the Coalition lacked standing under both the relevant statute and general standing principles. On appeal, the Coalition argued it had standing to appeal the City’s necessity determination to the superior court, and that the City failed to satisfy the procedural and substantive requirements of the statute. Finding no reversible error, the Vermont Supreme Court affirmed. View "Friends of Pine Street d/b/a Pine Street Coalition v. City of Burlington" on Justia Law

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Water levels in Eagle Lake, near Vicksburg, are controlled by the Muddy Bayou Control Structure, part of the Army Corps of Engineers’ Mississippi River flood control program. Eagle Lake's predictable water levels allowed the plaintiffs to build piers, boathouses, and docks. In 2010, the Corps determined that “sand boils” threatened the stability of the nearby Mississippi River Mainline Levee, a component of the same flood-control program. Unusually wet weather in 2011 exacerbated the problem. The Corps declared an emergency, finding that the rise in nearby water levels threatened the structural integrity of the levee and “that the likelihood of breach was over 95%.” The Corps decided to flood Eagle Lake to reduce pressures along the levee. Because of that action, the levee did not breach. A breach would have resulted in widespread flooding affecting “about a million acres and possibly between four thousand to six thousand homes and businesses.” The damage to the plaintiffs’ properties would have exceeded the damage caused by raising the lake level. The plaintiffs sued, seeking compensation. The Federal Circuit reversed the Claims Court’s finding that the government was liable and award of $168,000 in compensatory damages. The relative benefits doctrine bars liability. The plaintiffs were better off as a result of the Corps’ actions. If the government had not raised the water level, the levee would almost certainly have breached, and the plaintiffs would have suffered more damage. View "Alford v. United States" on Justia Law

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From 1906 -1970, the companies manufactured industrial materials at an East Chicago, Indiana Superfund Site. In the 1970s, the East Chicago Housing Authority constructed “West Calumet,” a low-income residential building, on that site. In 2017, former West Calumet tenants sued the companies based on the tenants’ exposure to hazardous substances. Defendant Atlantic Richfield removed the case to federal court, asserting a government contractor defense because its predecessor, ISR, operated during World War II. ISR sold lead and zinc to entities who were under contract with the government to produce the goods for the military. ISR itself held five Army contracts. The materials made by ISR were critical wartime commodities that had to be manufactured according to detailed federal specifications. Other regulations effectively prevented ISR from selling to distributors for civilian applications. Defendant DuPont asserted that the government directed it to build a facility for the government and then lease it from the government to produce Freon-12 and hydrochloric acid solely for the government. The district court remanded, finding that most of the Companies’ government business occurred outside the relevant time frame. The Seventh Circuit reversed. Atlantic Richfield worked "hand-in-hand with the federal government to achieve a task that furthers an end of the federal government.” The Companies’ wartime production was a small but significant portion of their relevant conduct; the federal interest in the matter supports removal. Atlantic Richfield set forth sufficient facts regarding its government contractor defense. View "Baker v. E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Co." on Justia Law

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The Colorado State Engineer, and the Division Engineer for Water Division 3 (the “Engineers”), brought claims against Nick Meagher for injunctive relief, civil penalties, and costs, arising from Meagher’s failure to submit Form 6.1, "Water Use Data Submittal Form," as required by Rule 6.1 of the Rules Governing the Measurement of Ground Water Diversions Located in Water Division No. 3, The Rio Grande Basin (the “Measurement Rules”). Meagher appealed the water court’s orders denying his motion to dismiss the Engineers’ claims and granting the Engineers summary judgment on those claims, contending the court erred by: (1) denying his motion to dismiss because the Engineers’ claims were mooted by his ultimate submission of Form 6.1; (2) granting summary judgment for the Engineers based on an erroneous interpretation of Rule 6.1 and section 37-92-503, C.R.S. (2019), and notwithstanding the existence of genuine issues of material fact as to his culpable mental state and the amount of the civil penalties to be imposed; (3) enjoining future violations of Rule 6.1; and (4) awarding costs and fees to the Engineers. Finding no reversible error, the Colorado Supreme Court affirmed the water court's judgment. View "Colorado v. Meagher" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Paul Martin appealed a superior court order denying his request for declaratory and injunctive relief against defendant City of Rochester (city), ruling that the city’s technical review group (TRG) was not a public body for purposes of New Hampshire's Right-to-Know Law, and that the city’s copy fee schedule was in compliance with RSA 91-A:4, IV (Supp. 2016). On appeal, plaintiff argued that: (1) the TRG was a “public body,” as defined by RSA 91-A:1-a, VI(d) (2013), because it was an “advisory committee,” and is therefore subject to the open-meeting requirement of RSA 91-A:2 (Supp. 2019); and (2) the city’s copy fee schedule was prohibited by RSA 91-A:4, IV, because it charged citizens requesting a copy of a public record more than the “actual cost” of making the copy. Plaintiff requested copies of certain documents from the city relating to the planning board and the TRG. The city charged a fee for making copies of city records or files: for black and white photocopies, the fee was fifty cents per page for the first ten pages and ten cents per page thereafter. After a bench trial, the court denied plaintiff’s prayers for relief. The New Hampshire Supreme Court disagreed with plaintiff's interpretation of RSA 91- A:1-a, I: plaintiff read the phrase "primary purpose" as relating only to the TRG’s role in “considering” an application, not necessarily “advising” on it. Under this reading, plaintiff contended the TRG’s primary purpose was to consider whatever “subject matter . . . the city manager has designated for consideration.” Further, the Supreme Court concurred with the superior court's finding that the City's fee for photocopying was based upon the actual cost of copying, and not the labor associated with making the copies. Accordingly, the trial court's judgment was affirmed. View "Martin v. City of Rochester" on Justia Law

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The Township of Manalapan challenged the condemnation award in favor of defendants entered after a jury trial. The issue was whether the trial court erred in admitting testimony that the condemned property’s highest and best use would require a variance without first determining whether there was a reasonable probability the variance would be granted. The New Jersey Supreme Court concluded evidence that risks misleading the jury into assuming a zoning variance for purposes of calculating a property’s value must not be admitted absent a judicial finding it was reasonably probable that the variance will be obtained. Therefore, the trial court erred by allowing the jury to consider testimony that the highest and best use of the subject property would require a variance without first confirming the probability of securing that variance. View "Township of Manalapan v. Gentile" on Justia Law

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Appellant, North Murrieta Community, LLC (North Murrieta), was the master developer of a large development project in the City of Murrieta (the City) called the Golden City Project. North Murrieta sought to take advantage of certain statutory land use planning tools that enabled builders to lock in place regulations, conditions, and fees municipalities could enforce against them while a project proceeds. In July 1999, North Murrieta obtained approval for a vesting tentative map on part of the Golden City Project property. In March 2001, four months before the map would expire, North Murrieta and the City entered a development agreement covering the entire Golden City Project property. The agreement extended the term of the vesting tentative map for 15 years and also locked in place regulations and fees the City could enforce against the developer on the entire project for the same period. The development agreement explicitly allowed the City to impose new fees on North Murrieta to mitigate the effects of development, provided the new fees were generally applicable and designed to address effects not fully mitigated by fees or exactions in place when the parties entered the development agreement. The City subsequently passed the Western Riverside County Transportation Uniform Mitigation Fee Program Ordinance (the TUMF ordinance), which was designed for just that purpose. In 2017, the City charged the new mitigation fees to a subsequent purchaser and developer of a subset of the affected properties. The builder made $541,497 in TUMF payments from July to October 2017, and the City transferred the bulk of those funds to respondent, Western Riverside Council of Governments (WRCOG). Both the developer and North Murrieta protested the fees. North Murrieta asked the trial court to order return of the TUMF payments and requested declarations that the City couldn’t impose the new mitigation fees under the extended vesting tentative map until it expired in 2019 and can’t impose those fees under the development agreement until it expires in 2021. The trial court held the development agreement established the parties’ rights and permitted the City to impose the new fees under the TUMF ordinance. North Murrieta appealed. The Court of Appeal affirmed, agreeing with the trial court. Though the vesting tentative map limited the fees the City could collect to those in place when the City approved the map, North Murrieta agreed to modify those rights by entering the development agreement with the City. The development agreement was a contract, which the trial court correctly enforced. View "North Murrieta Community, LLC v. City of Murrieta" on Justia Law