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In 2012 and 2013, petitioners submitted permit applications to the San Juan County Department of Community Development. The county code listed 19 items that a party must submit to complete an application, one of which is paying "[t]he applicable fee." Petitioners paid the applicable fees, and the permits were issued. On March 18, 2015, almost three years later, petitioners filed this lawsuit, seeking a partial refund of the fees they now characterized as "illegally excessive" in violation of RCW 82.02.020. They sought certification as a class action lawsuit for everyone who paid San Juan County for consideration of land use and building permits, modifications, or renewals during the preceding three years. Petitioners requested a declaratory judgment, payment to the putative class reaching back three years for any amount found to be an overcharge, and attorney fees. The trial court dismissed the suit, finding the Land Use Petition Act (LUPA) governed, and a failure to file suit within 21 days barred the action. Finding no reversible error, the Washington Supreme Court affirmed dismissal. View "Cmty. Treasures v. San Juan County" on Justia Law

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Curtis and Karen Erickson appealed and the Cass County Joint Water Resource District cross-appealed after the district court ordered condemnation of the Ericksons' properties, determined the amount of just compensation, and awarded the Ericksons' attorney fees and costs. After a bench trial, each Each party presented evidence about the value of the properties, including testimony from appraisers. The district court found the Ericksons were entitled to just compensation for the properties in the amount of $48,200. The Ericksons moved for attorney fees and costs under N.D.C.C. 32-15-32. The District opposed the request, arguing the requested amount of attorney fees and costs was unreasonable. The court granted the Ericksons' motion and ordered the District to pay the Ericksons $114,346.47 in fees and costs. The Ericksons argued the district court erred in determining the amount of just compensation, contending the court failed to properly compensate them for the properties' "highest and best use." The District argued the district court misapplied the law by awarding the Ericksons the full amount they requested for attorney fees and costs. The North Dakota Supreme Court concluded the district court did not misinterpret or misapply the law and the court did not act in an arbitrary, unreasonable, or unconscionable manner when it decided to award attorney fees and costs. Therefore, the Court concluded the trial court did not abuse its discretion by awarding fees and costs. View "Cass County Joint Water Resource District v. Erickson" on Justia Law

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Kelly Dickson and Donna DeFusco owned adjacent parcels of land near Big Lake. The property’s original 160 acres were homesteaded in 1958 by their father, Benjamin Cowart, who received a patent from the federal government in 1965. He later purchased two 40-acre tracts that bordered his acreage to the southeast. Dickson and DeFusco inherited the property upon their mother’s death in 2007. At issue in this case are two easements the superior court found to exist across Dickson and DeFusco’s property. The first involved the Historic Iditarod Trail that was first surveyed in the early 1900s. The second easement was for part of Homestead Road and was created in 1958 when a neighbor, Charles Sassara, Sr., used a D8 Caterpillar to improve access to his and other homesteads in the area. The owners appealed a decision in favor of the Alaska Department of Natural Resources (DNR), that recognized an RS 2477 right of way over their property for the Historic Iditarod Trail and a prescriptive easement for public use of a road. The owners argued the evidence did not support the court’s findings of the right of way and the easement; that the court made a number of procedural and evidentiary errors that collectively deprived them of procedural due process; and that the large attorney’s fees award in favor of the State was excessive in light of its likely deterrent effect and the State’s decision to vigorously litigate this case for its precedential effect. The Alaska Supreme Court concluded the superior court did not clearly err in its findings of fact, and affirmed its decision recognizing the RS 2477 right of way for the Historic Iditarod Trail and the prescriptive easement for the road. The Supreme Court found no abuse of discretion in the court’s procedural and evidentiary rulings. However, the Court concluded there may have been a compelling reason to vary the presumptive attorney’s fees award under Alaska Civil Rule 82(b)(3), and remanded for the superior court’s further consideration of this issue. View "Dickson v. Alaska, Dept. of Natural Resources" on Justia Law

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In 2007, the Site, in Trainer Borough, was owned by SCT, and used for making corrosion inhibitors, fuel additives, and oil additives. SCT kept flammable, corrosive, and combustible chemicals. Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection (PADEP) determined that “there is a release or threat of release of hazardous substances or contaminants, which presents a substantial danger to human health or the environment. The federal EPA initiated removal actions. SCT could not afford the cleanup expenses, including electricity to power pollution control and security equipment, The power company was going to shut off the Site's electricity, so PADEP assumed responsibility for the bills. Delaware County forced a tax sale. Buyers purchased the Site for $20,000; the purchase agreement stated that the Site had ongoing environmental issues and remediation. Trainer Custom Chemical took title in October 2012. The EPA and PADEP completed their removal actions in December 2012. PADEP had incurred more than $818,000 in costs. The buyers had demolished many of the Site’s structures; reclaimed salvageable materials were sold for $875,000. In 2014, PADEP received reports indicating that hazards still existed at the Site; its buildings had asbestos-containing materials. PADEP sued under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), 42 U.S.C. 9601-28, and Pennsylvania’s Hazardous Sites Cleanup Act (HSCA), to recover cleanup costs. The Third Circuit held that the Buyer is liable for environmental cleanup costs incurred at the Site both before and after the Buyer acquired it. View "Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection v. Trainer Custom Chemical LLC" on Justia Law

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From 1910 until 1986, Greenlease Holding Co. (“Greenlease”), a subsidiary of the Ampco-Pittsburgh Corporation (“Ampco”), owned a contaminated manufacturing site in Greenville, Pennsylvania. Trinity Industries, Inc. and its wholly-owned subsidiary, Trinity Industries Railcar Co. (collectively, “Trinity”), acquired the site from Greenlease in 1986 and continued to manufacture railcars there until 2000. An investigation by Pennsylvania into Trinity’s waste disposal activities resulted in a criminal prosecution and eventual plea-bargained consent decree which required, in relevant part, that Trinity remediate the contaminated land. That effort cost Trinity nearly $9 million. This appeal arose out of the district court’s determination that, under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (“CERCLA”), and Pennsylvania’s Hazardous Sites Cleanup Act (“HSCA”), Trinity was entitled to contribution from Greenlease for remediation costs. The parties filed cross-appeals challenging a number of the district court’s rulings, including its ultimate allocation of cleanup costs. The Third Circuit ultimately affirmed the district court on several pre-trial rulings on dispositive motions, vacated the cost allocation determination and remanded for further proceedings. View "Trinity Industries Inc v. Greenlease Holding Co." on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's denial of Westsiders' petition for writ of mandate seeking to invalidate an amendment to the Los Angeles General Plan, which changed the land use designation of a five-acre development site from Light Industrial to General Commercial. The court held that the City's interpretation of its own charter was entitled to great weight and respect unless shown to be clearly erroneous and must be upheld if it has a reasonable basis; the City satisfied the "significant social, economic, or physical, identity" test; Westsiders failed to show that the City violated the Charter by amending the General Plan for the project; the City was not required to make explicit findings that the lot constituted a "geographic area" or that " the lot has a significant economic or physical identity;" and Westsiders waived its spot zoning argument. View "Westsiders Opposed to Overdevelopment v. City of Los Angeles" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff-respondent San Diego Unified Port District (District) unsuccessfully asked defendant-appellant California Coastal Commission (Commission) to certify an amendment of District's port master plan to authorize hotel development in the East Harbor Island subarea, including construction of a 175-room hotel by real party in interest Sunroad Marina Partners, LP (Sunroad). District filed a petition for peremptory writ of mandate challenging Commission's denial of certification, and the trial court in January 2017 issued the writ, finding Commission violated provisions of the California Coastal Act of 1976 and "impermissibly set policy" by setting a maximum rental rate or fixing room rental rates. Commission did not appeal that ruling, but reheard District's application and again denied certification, finding the master plan amendment lacked sufficient specificity to adequately protect lower cost visitor and public recreational opportunities, including overnight accommodations. On objections by District and Sunroad, the trial court in August 2017 ruled that Commission had essentially conditioned its certification on the provision of lower cost overnight accommodations, which "infring[ed] on the wide discretion afforded to the District to determine the contents of land use plans and how to implement those plans." The court ruled that Commission acted in excess of its jurisdiction and did not proceed in the manner required by law. Commission appealed the August 2017 postjudgment order, contending it complied with the writ, but afterwards, in the face of Port's and Sunroad's objections, the trial court expanded the writ's scope, thereby exceeding its jurisdiction. Commission asked the Court of Appeal to find it complied with the writ as issued, reverse the order sustaining District and Sunroad's objection, and direct the trial court to discharge the writ. Furthermore, the Commission contended it properly denied District's proposed amendment on remand. The Court of Appeal narrowly reviewed the correctness of the trial court's postjudgment ruling that Commission exceeded its jurisdiction or acted contrary to law in denying certification of District's proposed master plan amendment. Doing so, the Court held the trial court erred by relying in part on provisions of the Act governing a local government's authority and imposing limits on Commission's jurisdiction with respect to local coastal programs, which did not pertain to port master plans or master plan amendments. Furthermore, the Court concluded the lower court engaged in an impermissibly broad interpretation of a provision of the Act barring Commission from modifying a master plan amendment as a condition of certification. View "San Diego Unified Port Dist. v. Cal. Coastal Commission" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court’s denial of Appellants’ application for a writ of mandamus to compel the Deuel County Auditor accept the three petitions submitted by Appellants seeking referendum on an ordinance amending the Wind Energy System requirements of the Deuel County Zoning Ordinance, holding that the circuit court properly denied Appellants’ petition for writ of mandamus. The Auditor rejected two of the petitions Appellants submitted, leaving an insufficient number of valid signatures to trigger a referendum election. Appellants sought a writ of mandamus to compel the Auditor to accept the rejected petitions and schedule a special election on the ordinance. The circuit court denied application, concluding that the two petitions were properly rejected because they did not substantially comply with the statutory requirements of S.D. Codified Laws 7-18A-17. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the petitions failed substantially to comply with the requirements of the statute. View "Thompson v. Lynde" on Justia Law

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The city’s General Plan policy LU-7 encourages new neighborhood commercial facilities and supermarkets to be located to maximize accessibility to all residential areas. Wal-Mart proposed to expand its store to add 36,000 square feet for a 24-hour grocery/supermarket. The city's draft environmental impact report (EIR) concluded the project was “consistent” with LU-7, stating: “There are no existing grocery stores within a 1-mile radius …project would install bicycle storage facilities and enhance pedestrian facilities to improve accessibility.” Objectors claimed that the project would close existing neighborhood-serving grocery stores, is located in a large commercial area, and would contribute to an over-concentrated area. The planning commission declined to approve the original EIR, citingPolicy LU-7. The city council granted an appeal. Previous litigation concerned noise and traffic impacts and resulted in a revised EIR and reapproval. Opponents then challenged the approval based on the General Plan. The trial court concluded the petition was barred by res judicata and the statute of limitations and that substantial evidence supported the approval. The court of appeal affirmed. The project is in a new growth area with increasing residential communities and is located at least a mile from the next closest supermarket but it may place stress on other local supermarkets. Considering the evidence as a whole, the decision was not palpably unreasonable, and did not exceed the city’s “broad discretion.” View "Atwell v. City of Rohnert Park" on Justia Law

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In 2010, the Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) condemned an access point from Bangerter Highway to the West Point Shopping Center. At the time of the condemnation, the shopping center was owned by FPA West Point, LLC. FPA leased buildings in the shopping center to a number of businesses, including K MART Corporation (Kmart). Both FPA and Kmart entered the condemnation proceedings, asserting rights to just compensation. The first appeal (Utah Department of Transportation v. FPA West Point, LLC) addressed valuation methods in the context of a condemnation award determination. In that case, the Utah Supreme Court held that courts must use the aggregate-of-interests approach (which determines the value of properties with divided ownership interests by assessing the value of each property interest separately) in deciding the amount of a condemnation award. In this appeal the issue presented for the Supreme Court's review centered on whether the district court erred by granting a condemnation award to Kmart, a lessee, even though Kmart’s lease contained a clause terminating its leasehold interest in the event of a condemnation. The Court held that it did: because the termination clause extinguished all of Kmart’s compensable property interests, Kmart was not entitled to compensation. Accordingly, the district court’s grant of a condemnation award to Kmart was reversed. View "UDOT v. Kmart Corp." on Justia Law