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At issue was whether Plaintiff was entitled to relief under Rule 60(b)(6) of the Superior Court Rules of Civil Procedure from an order directing him to remove a garage from his property. In 2014, the superior court ordered Plaintiff to remove a garage he built on his property that violated the setback requirements set forth in the Town of Tiverton’s zoning ordinance. Thereafter, the Town removed the garage from Plaintiff’s property and placed a lien on the property for $69,300 in fines imposed by a 2015 contempt order. In 2016, Plaintiff filed a motion to vacate the 2014 order. The trial judge denied the motion. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) because the superior court possessed subject matter jurisdiction to order Plaintiff to remove his garage, and because the granting of the 2014 order did not violate due process, the order was not void; but (2) the unique circumstances of this case and its procedural flaws presented a manifest injustice justifying relief from the operation of the order under Rule 60(b)(6). View "McLaughlin v. Zoning Board of Review of the Town of Tiverton" on Justia Law

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The Jim Hutton Foundation (“Foundation”) owned surface-water rights in the Republican River Basin. The Foundation believed that permitted groundwater wells that people had begun to install in the underlying groundwater basin - the Northern High Plains Basin (“NHP Basin”) - were not in fact pumping designated groundwater, and were injuring its senior surface-water rights. The Foundation sued, hoping to alter the groundwater basin's boundaries to exclude any improperly permitted designated-groundwater wells. The Foundation filed this action in water court, arguing that a legislative amendment to the statutory process to challenge the designation of a groundwater basis, prohibited any challenge to alter a designated groundwater basin's boundaries to exclude a well that already received a permit. The Foundation claimed the amendment deprived surface-water users of the ability to petition the Commission to redraw the NHP Basin’s boundaries to exclude permitted well users upon a showing that groundwater was improperly designated when the NHP Basin’s designation became final. The water court dismissed this claim for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, concluding the Commission must first determine whether the water at issue is designated groundwater before subject matter jurisdiction will vest in the water court, meaning the Foundation’s constitutional claim could not become ripe until it satisfied the Commission that the water was not designated groundwater. The Foundation appealed. The Colorado Supreme Court affirmed the water court and concluded that, because jurisdiction did not vest in the water court until the Commission first determined the water at issue was not designated groundwater, the water court properly dismissed the claim. View "Jim Hutton Educ. Found. v. Rein" on Justia Law

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The Surface and Transportation Board (STB) has regulatory authority over rail carriers, 49 U.S.C. 10501(b). A "discontinuance" allows a rail carrier to preserve a rail corridor for possible reactivation of service; "abandonment" removes the line from the system and terminates the railroad’s common carrier obligation. The 1983 Amendments to the National Trails System Act created an alternative process, “railbanking,” 16 U.S.C. 1241, which maintains STB jurisdiction over the dormant corridor, but allows a third party to assume responsibilities for the right-of-way, preserve the right-of-way for future rail use, and, in the interim, convert the corridor into a recreational trail. The railroad first initiates abandonment proceedings; a party interested in acquiring the corridor then requests an STB Notice of Interim Trail Use (NITU). If an agreement is reached, the STB suspends abandonment proceedings, preventing state law reversionary interests in the corridor from vesting. Property owners who believed they had a reversionary interest began claiming that railbanking constituted a taking: the threshold question is whether the claimant has a compensable property interest, which is often answered by analyzing the original deeds that conveyed the property to the railroad. In 2012, BNSF initiated proceedings to abandon a corridor. The Chicago Department of Transportation indicated interest in railbanking. The STB issued an NITU, giving BNSF until April 2014, to negotiate an agreement, after which the corridor would be abandoned. After numerous extensions, BNSF has neither reached an agreement nor abandoned the corridor. The Federal Circuit affirmed the Claims Court: the deeds between the predecessors-in-interest to the claimants and the original railroad conveyed the property to the railroad in fee simple rather than only an easement. There was no taking of any reversionary interest. View "Chicago Coating Co., LLC v. United States" on Justia Law

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The Surface and Transportation Board (STB) has regulatory authority over rail carriers, 49 U.S.C. 10501(b). A "discontinuance" allows a rail carrier to preserve a rail corridor for possible reactivation of service; "abandonment" removes the line from the system and terminates the railroad’s common carrier obligation. The 1983 Amendments to the National Trails System Act created an alternative process, “railbanking,” 16 U.S.C. 1241, which maintains STB jurisdiction over the dormant corridor, but allows a third party to assume responsibilities for the right-of-way, preserve the right-of-way for future rail use, and, in the interim, convert the corridor into a recreational trail. The railroad first initiates abandonment proceedings; a party interested in acquiring the corridor then requests an STB Notice of Interim Trail Use (NITU). If an agreement is reached, the STB suspends abandonment proceedings, preventing state law reversionary interests in the corridor from vesting. Property owners who believed they had a reversionary interest began claiming that railbanking constituted a taking: the threshold question is whether the claimant has a compensable property interest, which is often answered by analyzing the original deeds that conveyed the property to the railroad. In 2012, BNSF initiated proceedings to abandon a corridor. The Chicago Department of Transportation indicated interest in railbanking. The STB issued an NITU, giving BNSF until April 2014, to negotiate an agreement, after which the corridor would be abandoned. After numerous extensions, BNSF has neither reached an agreement nor abandoned the corridor. The Federal Circuit affirmed the Claims Court: the deeds between the predecessors-in-interest to the claimants and the original railroad conveyed the property to the railroad in fee simple rather than only an easement. There was no taking of any reversionary interest. View "Chicago Coating Co., LLC v. United States" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court dismissed with prejudice a land developer’s claim against a county commissioner in his official capacity, holding that the developer did not have standing to pursue its claim for injunctive relief against the county commissioner. In its complaint, the developer sought mandamus relief requiring the county engineer to submit the developer’s completed plat application to the Fort Bend County Commissioners Court for approval. At issue in this appeal was the injunctive relief the developer sought against the commissioner, alleging that the commissioner inappropriately instructed the county engineering department to delay processing the submitted plat and construction plans. The commissioner filed a plea to the jurisdiction claiming that the developer’s suit against him in his official capacity was barred by governmental immunity. The trial court denied the plea. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that because an individual county commissioner in Fort Bend County lacks legal authority to receive, process, or present a completed plat application to that county’s commissioners court for approval, the developer failed to show a substantial likelihood that the injunction it sought will remedy its alleged injury. View "Meyers v. JDC/Firethorne, Ltd." on Justia Law

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In this appeal, at issue before the Delaware Supreme Court was whether stipulated court orders agreed to in 2005 by a property owner and the Town of Cheswold prevented the Town from enacting new ordinances affecting the property. Applying res judicata, the Superior Court found that they did, and entered a judgment prohibiting the Town from enacting any ordinance impairing the property owner’s existing development rights. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the 2005 stipulated orders did not prohibit the Town from enacting future ordinances affecting the property. "If the Town eventually adopts a new ordinance, any future litigation over the property owner’s vested rights should be resolved by applying the balancing test in In re 244.5 Acres of Land, 808 A.2d 753 (Del. 2002)." View "Town of Cheswold v. Central Delaware Business Park" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that a party alleging error by a land use authority is no longer required to establish that the “decision would have been different” but for the error under the standard set forth in Springville Citizens for a Better Community v. City of Springville, 979 P.2d 332 (Utah 1999). Instead, a party can establish prejudice by showing a reasonable likelihood that the error changed the land use authority’s decision. Appellants brought this lawsuit challenging the South Salt Lake City Council’s decision to close a portion of Truman and Burton Avenues. The City Council voted to vacate both streets in response to a petition by a car dealership. The district court granted summary judgment for the City. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that, under the revised and clarified standard set forth in this opinion, Appellants failed to identify any prejudice resulting from any alleged deficiency in the petition. In addition, the petition to vacate was valid under Utah Code 10-2a-609.5, and notice of the City Council meetings was sufficient under Utah Code 10-9a-208. View "Potter v. South Salt Lake City" on Justia Law

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In this case arising out of the approval of a redevelopment project in the City of Eau Claire, which relied in part on funds derived from two tax incremental districts (TIDs), the Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed and remanded in part the decision of the court of appeals. Plaintiffs, Voters with Facts, et al., challenged the legality of the City’s actions with regard to the TIDs. Plaintiffs sought declaratory relief on their claims and argued, in the alternative, that under certiorari review the City had acted outside the scope of its lawful authority. The circuit court dismissed the case, concluding that Plaintiffs lacked standing. The court of appeals affirmed the circuit court’s dismissal of Plaintiffs’ complaint as to declaratory judgment, agreeing that Plaintiffs lacked standing. But the court reversed and remanded for certiorari review because the circuit court had not directly addressed that claim. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that certiorari review was appropriate because it is the proper mechanism for a court to test the validity of a legislative determination. Because the record was insufficient to enable this Court’s review, a remand to the circuit court for certiorari review of Plaintiffs’ first and second claims was required. View "Voters with Facts v. City of Eau Claire" on Justia Law

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At issue was whether the Building Permit Rule (Rule) extended to land identified in a building permit application as part of a project upon which no actual construction was planned. Golden Sands Diary, LLC obtained a building permit for seven farm structures. Its building permit application identified the building site as 100 acres and its total acreage as 6,388 acres, on which it sought to operate a farm. After Golden Sands filed its building permit application, the Town of Saratoga enacted a zoning ordinance seeking to prohibit agricultural uses such as those proposed by Golden Sands. Golden Sands argued that the Rule extended to all the land identified in its building permit application, and therefore, it had a vested right to use all of the property for agricultural purposes. The circuit court concluded that the Rule extends to all land identified in a building permit application. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that the Rule applies only to building structures and not to use of land. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the Rule extends to all land specifically identified in a building permit application; and (2) therefore, Golden Sands had a vested right to use all of the property for agricultural purposes. View "Golden Sands Dairy LLC v. Town of Saratoga" on Justia Law

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In August 2015, Doug and Lynda Tatum applied to the Pickens County Board of Commissioners for a conditional use permit for a 75-acre parcel near Jasper. The application was referred to the Pickens County Planning Commission for a hearing. Following the publication of notice, the Planning Commission held a hearing in October 2015, at which several neighbors appeared and objected to the application. The Planning Commission nevertheless recommended that the application be approved, and in January 2016, the Board approved it. Some of the neighbors filed a petition for judicial review, asserting that they were denied a meaningful opportunity to be heard on the application. The neighbors moved for summary judgment, but the superior court denied it, agreeing with the Board that the notice of the October 2015 hearing was enough to satisfy the ZPL. The neighbors appealed, and the Court of Appeals affirmed. The Georgia Supreme Court reversed, finding the problem with the Board decision was that it rested upon the premise that the October 2015 hearing before the Planning Commission (and the notice of that hearing) was enough to satisfy the notice-and-hearing requirements of the ZPL. "[T]he whole point of the statutory notice-and-hearing requirements is to afford interested citizens a meaningful opportunity to be heard on a proposed zoning decision. [. . .] when a hearing is too attenuated in time or circumstance from the final zoning decision, another hearing may be required." The Planning Commission in this case had no authority to make a final zoning decision, and it could only make recommendations to the Board. If an adequate record of the hearing before the Planning Commission had been made and transmitted to the Board — such that the final zoning decision of the Board could be said to have been meaningfully informed by what happened at the hearing — the hearing before the Planning Commission might satisfy the requirements of the ZPL. "But it appears that the only record of that hearing is a one-page memorandum to the Board" failed to disclose even the general nature of “considerable objections.” Accordingly, it could not be said that the hearing before the Planning Commission afforded interested citizens a meaningful opportunity to be heard by the Board on the application for a conditional use permit, and the October 2015 hearing does not satisfy the notice-and-hearing requirements of the ZPL. View "Hoechstetter v. Pickens County" on Justia Law