Justia Zoning, Planning & Land Use Opinion Summaries

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Livermore adopted a General Plan and a Downtown Specific Plan in 2004, for which it certified an environmental impact report (EIR). A subsequent EIR (SEIR) was certified in 2009, after amendments to the Downtown Specific Plan increased the amount of development allowed. In 2018, Livermore approved a plan for redeveloping city-owned sites in the “Downtown Core” with park space, retail buildings, cultural facilities, multifamily workforce housing, a public parking garage, and a hotel. Livermore selected Eden to develop the housing. Addenda to the SEIR were prepared. The proposed housing project comprised two four-story buildings with 130 affordable housing units. . Livermore’s Planning Commission approved Eden’s application. The city approved design review and a vesting tentative parcel map, finding that no substantial changes were proposed that would require major revisions to the previous EIR, SEIR, or addenda and that the project was exempt from the California Environmental Quality Act (Pub. Resources Code 21000) as consistent with a specific plan for which an EIR had been certified and as infill development.The trial court required SLD to file an undertaking of $500,000 in its challenges to the approvals, finding that the action was brought for the purpose of delaying affordable housing and that the undertaking would not cause SLD undue economic harm. The court of appeal rejected arguments that the project was inconsistent with the planning and zoning law and that further review of the environmental impacts was necessary and upheld the requirement that SLD post a bond. View "Save Livermore Downtown v. City of Livermore" on Justia Law

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In 1993 the Village of Channahon approved the plat of a residential subdivision lying within the DuPage River Special Flood Hazard Area. The Village subsequently issued permits for the construction of houses in this subdivision, all of which experience flooded basements when the river is at high water. The current owners of these houses contend that the Village violated the Constitution either by granting the permits to build or by failing to construct dykes to keep water away.The Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of their suit, noting the plaintiffs do not contend that the Village required them to build where they did or dig basements, or took any steps after the houses’ construction that made flooding worse. The Constitution establishes rights to be free of governmental interference but does not compel governmental intervention to assist persons. Even if the Village violated a local ordinance and a federal regulation, 44 C.F.R. §60.3(c)(7), by granting the applications without insisting that the houses be built higher, the Constitution does not entitle private parties to accurate enforcement of local, state, or federal law. The Village did not take anyone’s property, either by physical invasion or by regulation that prevented the land’s use. The river, which did invade their basements, is not a governmental body. Government-induced flooding of limited duration may be compensable but the -plaintiffs have not plausibly alleged that the water in their basements is “government-induced.” View "Billie v. Village of Channahon" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court dismissing Appellants' complaint against the Town of Lynnfield, Massachusetts and several of the town's agencies and employees (collectively, Lynnfield) in this dispute over Appellants' spring water business, holding that there was no error or abuse of discretion.Appellants owned and operated the Pocahontas Spring in Lynnfield, Massachusetts, which sat on protected wetlands subject to state and local regulations. When Appellants sought to revive their spring water business and to maintain the Spring for Native Americans as a source of healing water. Appellants brought this complaint alleging that Lynnfield conspired to have neighbors lodge false complaint about Appellants' allegedly unlawful activities at the Spring and Lynnfield would respond to intimidate Appellants and interfere with their business. The First Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of the complaint, holding that Appellants' failure adequately to brief their two First Amendment claims proved fatal in this case. View "Gattineri v. Town of Lynnfield, Mass." on Justia Law

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Defendant Department of General Services and real party Joint Committee on Rules of the California State Senate and Assembly (collectively DGS) prepared an environmental impact report (EIR) to determine the environmental effects of a project they proposed which would significantly affect the California State Capitol Building in Sacramento (Historic Capitol). DGS would demolish the State Capitol Building Annex attached to the Historic Capitol and replace it with a larger new annex building, construct an underground visitor center attached to the Historic Capitol’s west side, and construct an underground parking garage east of the new Annex. Plaintiffs Save Our Capitol! and Save the Capitol, Save the Trees filed petitions for writ of mandate contending the EIR did not comply with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). The trial court denied the petitions. Plaintiffs appealed the judgment, arguing: (1) the EIR lacked a stable project description; (2) the EIR did not adequately analyze and mitigate the project’s impacts on cultural resources, biological resources, aesthetics, traffic, and utilities and service systems; (3) the EIR’s analysis of alternatives to the project was legally deficient; and (4) DGS violated CEQA by not recirculating the EIR a second time before certifying it. The Court of Appeal reversed in part, finding the EIR’s project description, analyses of historical resources and aesthetics, and analysis of alternatives did not comply with CEQA. Judgment was affirmed in all other respects. View "Save Our Capitol! v. Dept. of General Services" on Justia Law

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Petitioner Town of Amherst (Town) appealed Housing Appeals Board (HAB) orders vacating the denial by the Town’s planning board (Board) of subdivision and site plan approval sought by the respondents, Migrela Realty Trust II and GAM Realty Trust (collectively, Applicant). In November 2020, Applicant filed a subdivision/site plan approval application with the Board for 54 age-restricted and unrestricted housing units. Applicant previously had been granted a conditional use permit (CUP) for “an increased project density” of up to 54 units under the Town’s since-repealed Integrated Innovative Housing Ordinance (IIHO). During the review process with respect to the subdivision/site plan application, the project’s density was reduced from 54 to 49 units. The composition of age-restricted and unrestricted units was also modified, with the final plan designating 14 units as age-restricted, 65-and-older units and the remaining 35 units as unrestricted. In April 2021, the Board denied the site plan because: (1) the Board perceived conflicts between the proposed project and federal law; and (2) “the proposed design does not protect and preserve the rural aesthetic the Town has consistently valued, as is required by Section 4.16A of the Zoning Ordinance.” Finding no reversible error in the HAB's orders, the New Hampshire Supreme Court affirmed judgment in favor of Applicant. View "Appeal of Town of Amherst" on Justia Law

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This dispute involves three construction projects (the “Projects”) in Galveston County, Texas. Defendants, Binnacle Development, Lone Trail Development, and SSLT, are land developers. Each developer contracted with R. Hassell Properties, Inc. to complete paving and infrastructure projects in Galveston County Municipal Utility District (“MUD”) No. 31. The three Hassell contracts were form MUD contracts created by MUD attorneys. Each contract stated that it was “for Galveston County Municipal Utility District No. 31.” Hanover subsequently sued the developers in federal court to recover the contract balances on the Projects. The liquidated-damages clause would, if enforced, amount to an offset of $900,000. Both parties moved for summary judgment. The district court concluded that because no district is a party to the contracts at issue, the economic disincentive provision from the Water Code does not apply. On the second issue, the district court found that the damages clauses in the contracts constitute an unenforceable penalty. The court granted summary judgment for Hanover.   The Fifth Circuit affirmed. The court held that Section 49.271 allows “economic disincentive” clauses only in contracts where a district is a contracting party. Because no district is party to the Hassell contracts, they cannot incorporate “economic disincentive” clauses permitted under the Texas Water Code. The court also wrote it would not disturb the district court’s finding that the clause is an unenforceable penalty under Texas law. View "Hanover Ins v. Binnacle Development" on Justia Law

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Landowner Frances Nesti appealed two civil-division orders resolving multiple claims in favor of the Vermont Agency of Transportation (VTrans). In 2006, VTrans rebuilt Route 7 in South Burlington and Shelburne. The new system directed stormwater downhill from the road in a westerly direction toward Lake Champlain. Nesti’s property abutted the lake, west of Route 7. Stormwater flowed over the depression from time to time before 2006. Nesti engaged in a series of conversations with VTrans and Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) personnel regarding the issue beginning in 2009 or 2010. Nesti filed suit at the end of 2018, seeking damages and injunctive relief. She initially pleaded takings, trespass, and private-nuisance claims, and later added claims of ejectment and removal of lateral support. VTrans moved to dismiss all claims on the basis that each was barred by the six-year statute of limitations for civil actions, 12 V.S.A. § 511, and the doctrine of sovereign immunity. VTrans also argued the ejectment and lateral support causes of action failed to state a claim. Nesti countered that the fifteen-year statute of limitations for actions for recovery of land, 12 V.S.A. § 501, applied to each claim rather than § 511, and the continuing-tort doctrine caused her trespass and nuisance claims to continually accrue with each new runoff event, even if the claims were subject to § 511. The civil division dismissed Nesti’s takings, trespass and nuisance claims, concluding that the applicable statute of limitations was § 511, not § 501. However, the court permitted Nesti’s trespass and nuisance claims to proceed to summary judgment on the question of whether they were continuing torts, and denied the State’s motion to dismiss them under the doctrine of sovereign immunity. VTrans moved to dismiss the remaining claims, but the civil division denied the motion, but found VTrans was not equitably estopped from raising a statute-of-limitations defense. The Vermont Supreme Court concluded Nesti's claims were time-barred under the § 511, and affirmed the civil division's judgment. View "Nesti v. Agency of Transportation et al." on Justia Law

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Adams Outdoor Advertising owns billboards throughout Wisconsin, including 90 in Madison. Madison’s sign-control ordinance comprehensively regulates “advertising signs,” to promote traffic safety and aesthetics. The ordinance defines an “advertising sign” as any sign advertising or directing attention to a business, service, or product offered offsite. In 1989, Madison banned the construction of new advertising signs. Existing billboards were allowed to remain but cannot be modified or reconstructed without a permit and are subject to size, height, setback, and other restrictions. In 2009, Madison prohibited digital displays; in 2017, the definition of “advertising sign” was amended to remove prior references to noncommercial speech. As amended, the term “advertising sign” is limited to off-premises signs bearing commercial messages.Following the Supreme Court’s 2015 “Reed” decision, Adams argued that any ordinance treating off-premises signs less favorably than other signs is a content-based restriction on speech and thus is unconstitutional unless it passes the high bar of strict scrutiny. The judge applied intermediate scrutiny and rejected the First Amendment challenge. The Supreme Court subsequently clarified that nothing in Reed altered its earlier precedents applying intermediate scrutiny to billboard ordinances and upholding on-/off-premises sign distinctions as ordinary content-neutral “time, place, or manner” speech restrictions. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the suit. View "Adams Outdoor Advertising Limited Partnership v. City of Madison, Wisconsin" on Justia Law

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A Vermont trial court determined that both the Town of Isle La Motte and the road commissioner Shelby Turner were entitled to qualified immunity and granted their motions for summary judgment after concluding that decisions regarding road alterations were discretionary, “involv[ing] an element of judgment or choice,” rather than ministerial, meaning “prescribe[d].” The underlying tort action in this appeal followed an August 2016 motor vehicle accident in the Town: Plaintiff Paul Civetti was driving a propane truck on Main Street when he lost control of the vehicle causing it to roll over and come to rest on its roof. Plaintiff argued defendants were negligent in failing to widen Main Street in accordance with Vermont Town Road and Bridge Standards, causing his accident. The State of Vermont promulgated Town Road and Bridge Standards to serve as guidance for municipalities when they decide to construct or alter a town highway. Plaintiff filed a negligence claim against defendants the Town of Isle La Motte and Turner, in his capacity as road commissioner, seeking damages for plaintiff’s injuries. The parties disputed what authority, if any, the Town Selectboard delegated to the road commissioner to construct, lay out, and alter Town roadways. The Vermont Supreme Court agreed with the trial court that deciding whether to widen Main Street was discretionary, thus entitling both the Town and the road commissioner to qualified immunity. The Court therefore affirmed. View "Civetti v.Town of Isle La Motte, et al." on Justia Law

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In this action brought by the City of Sioux Falls seeking to have a partially completed house demolished under a City ordinance the Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court's grant of summary judgment to the City, finding that the City had shown that "normal construction" had ceased for over eighteen months and allowing the City to demolish the structure on the property.In 2013, Defendants began construction on a house. Construction later stalled. The City issued an order for demolition to Defendants, finding the structure in violation of a City ordinance providing that a structure be demolished if "there was been a cessation of normal construction of any structure for a period of more than 18 months...[.]" When Defendants failed to commence demolition the City brought this complaint seeking enforcement of the ordinance. The circuit court granted summary judgment to the City. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the City met its burden of establishing the absence of "normal construction" for a period of eighteen months. View "City of Sioux Falls v. Strizheus" on Justia Law