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Subsection 4(a) of Rhode Island’s Right to Farm Act, Rhode Island General Laws chapter 23 of title 2, does not permit Landowner to host commercial events, such as weddings for a fee, on his farmland in the Town of Exeter, Rhode Island. Landowner attempted to obtain a zoning certificate from the Town that would allow him to host a commercial fundraising event on his farmland. When the Town denied the request, Landowner filed suit, seeking a number of declarations. At issue was whether a 2014 amendment to R.I. Gen. Laws 2-23-4(a) rendered a previous permanent injunction enjoining Landowner from using his property for commercial events a nullity. The trial justice denied Landowner’s request for declaratory relief, concluding that the 2014 amendment did not supersede the 2011 injunction. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that, based on the unambiguous language of section 2-23-4(a), Landowner remained bound by the injunction. View "Gerald P. Zarrella Trust v. Town of Exeter" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff-appellant Golden Eagle Land Investment, L.P. (Golden Eagle) and its coplaintiff-appellant Mabee Trust owned real property in the vicinity of Rancho Santa Fe. Appellants sought approvals for a joint development project (the project) from San Diego County land use authorities. At the same time, they began the process of seeking land use approvals for the project from defendant, respondent and cross-appellant, the Rancho Santa Fe Association (the Association or RSFA), whose activities in this respect were governed by a protective covenant and bylaws, as well as County general planning. Appellants sued the Association on numerous statutory and tort theories, only some of which were pled by the Trust, for injuries caused by allegedly unauthorized discussions and actions by the Association in processing the requested approvals, in communicating with County authorities and others. Appellants contended that these Association activities and communications took place without adequate compliance with the Common Interest Development Open Meeting Act. Appellants challenged the trial court's order granting in large part (eight out of nine causes of action) the Association's special motion to strike their complaint, based on each of the two prongs of the anti-SLAPP test. Appellants contended that none of these related tort and bylaws claims arose out of or involved protected Association activity, but rather they were mixed causes of action that were "centered around" alleged earlier false promises by Association representatives to abide by the provisions of the Open Meeting Act. The trial court denied the Association's motion as to one remaining cause of action, in which Golden Eagle alone alleged violations of the Open Meeting Act. The court ruled that the Association's challenged conduct in that respect was not on its face entitled to the benefits of Code of Civil Procedure section 425.16, because it did not fall within the statutory language that defined protected communications during "official" proceedings. On that cause of action only, the trial court did not find it necessary to reach the second portion of the statutory test under the anti-SLAPP statute, on whether Appellants are able to establish a probability that they will prevail on their claims. The Association cross-appealed that portion of the order, arguing the trial court erred as a matter of law in finding the anti-SLAPP statute was inapplicable by its terms. The Court of Appeal concluded the trial court correctly applied the anti-SLAPP statutory scheme in granting the Association's motion to strike the second through ninth causes of action, as variously alleged by one or both Appellants. In addition, the Court reversed the order in part, concluding that the trial court should have granted the motion to strike the first cause of action regarding alleged violations of the Open Meeting Act. View "Golden Eagle Land Inv. v. Rancho Santa Fe Assn." on Justia Law

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The Town of Bow (town) appealed a superior court order granting plaintiff Public Service Company of New Hampshire (PSNH) an abatement of taxes on its property in the town for tax years 2012 and 2013. PSNH owns certain special-purpose utility property in the town, including Merrimack Station, two combustion turbines, and a high-voltage regional electric transmission and distribution network. Merrimack Station consists of two coal-fired units that produce steam to rotate turbines and generators to produce electricity. The combustion turbines cannot be remotely turned on and, instead, must be physically turned on in a control room at the Merrimack Station site. At trial, the sole issue was the determination of the proper value of this special-purpose utility property for the tax years in question. Following a six-day bench trial, the trial court found PSNH's expert “testimony [to be] more credible than” the town's and, therefore, ruled that PSNH had met its burden of demonstrating that it was entitled to an abatement for tax years 2012 and 2013 with respect to the disputed property. The town moved for reconsideration, which the court denied, and this appeal followed. Finding no reversible error, the New Hampshire Supreme Court affirmed the superior court's judgment. View "Public Service Company of New Hampshire v. Town of Bow" on Justia Law

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Cities and towns may exercise their zoning authority to determine whether land in their communities may be used as a noncommercial private restricted landing area (in this case, a private heliport). Here, the Land Court judge concluded that he was constrained to apply the Appeals Court’s holding in Hanlon v. Sheffield, 89 Mass. App. Ct. 392 (2016), which interpreted Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 90, 39B to provide that a town may not enforce a zoning bylaw that would prohibit a private landowner from creating a noncommercial private restricted landing area on his property unless the bylaw had been approved by the Department of Transportation (division). The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the judgment of the Land Court, holding that there is no clear legislative intent to preempt local zoning enactments with respect to noncommercial private restricted landing areas, and cities and towns do not need the prior approval of the division to enforce a zoning bylaw that requires some form of approval, variance, or special permit for land to be used as a private heliport. View "Roma, III, Ltd. v. Board of Appeals of Rockport" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs Clews Land and Livestock, LLC; Barbara Clews; and Christian Clews (collectively, CLL) appealed a judgment in favor of defendant City of San Diego (City) on CLL's petition for writ of mandate and complaint for declaratory and injunctive relief, violation of procedural due process, and equitable estoppel. CLL challenged the City's approval of a project to build a private secondary school on land neighboring CLL's commercial horse ranch and equestrian facility and the City's adoption of a mitigated negative declaration (MND) regarding the project. CLL contended the City should not have adopted the MND because the Cal Coast Academy project would cause significant environmental impacts in the areas of fire hazards, traffic and transportation, noise, recreation, and historical resources, and because the MND identified new impacts and mitigation measures that were not included in the draft MND. CLL further argued the City should not have approved the project because it is situated in designated open space under the applicable community land use plan and because the City did not follow the provisions of the San Diego Municipal Code (SDMC) applicable to historical resources. After review, the Court of Appeal concluded CLL's challenge to the MND was barred because it did not exhaust its administrative remedies in proceedings before the City. In doing so, the Court rejected CLL's argument that the City's process for administrative appeals (at least as implicated by this project) violated the California Environmental Quality Act by improperly splitting the adoption of an environmental document (e.g., the MND) from the project approvals. In addition, the City complied with all applicable requirements of the SDMC regarding historical resources and the City's approval of the project did not conflict with the open space designation because the project would be located on already-developed land. View "Clews Land & Livestock, LLC v. City of San Diego" on Justia Law

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In 1998, Modesto, its Sewer District, and its Redevelopment Agency (RDA) sued retail dry cleaning businesses operating in Modesto, the manufacturers of dry cleaning equipment used at those establishments, and the manufacturers and distributors of dry cleaning solvent, alleging that the city’s groundwater, sewer system and easements, and the soil of property within the RDA project area were contaminated with perchloroethylene, a “toxic chlorinated solvent” and seeking recovery for past, present and future costs of investigation and remediation. The Polanco Redevelopment Act (Health & Saf. Code, 33459), which authorized redevelopment agencies to remediate contamination found in property, including private property, located in a redevelopment project area, and to recover costs from the “responsible parties” was central to the suit. After 14 years of litigation, with three appeals, a final judgment awarded damages with respect to three dry cleaning sites, including an award of punitive damages against three defendants; as to all other claims, judgment was entered in favor of defendants. The court of appeal vacated, holding that no special causation standard applies to Polanco Act claims. The court also: remanded with directions to deny motions for summary adjudication on the nuisance claims; reversed a punitive damages award; and vacated a directed verdict regarding property damage. View "City of Modesto v. Dow Chemical Co." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court’s issuance of an injunction requiring modification or reconstruction of a new home but reversed the circuit court’s conclusion that the City of Sioux Falls owed adjacent property owners a duty to properly enforce building codes. Property owners adjacent to a newly constructed home located within a historic district sought the injunction and also alleged that the City was negligent in issuing a building permit and failing to enforce state regulations on new construction in historic districts as well as a local ordinance governing chimneys. The Supreme Court held (1) the circuit court did not err in granting an injunction with respect to the historic-district regulations; but (2) the circuit court erred in concluding that the new home violated the chimney ordinance and that the City owed a duty to the adjacent owners. View "McDowell v. Sapienza" on Justia Law

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The 74-acre Washington County parcel, near the Ohio River, is subject to a 1980 oil and gas lease between the then-owners and Collins-McGregor, to permit “mining and operating for oil and gas and laying pipe lines, and building tanks, powers, stations, and structures thereon, to produce, save and take care of said products.” Collins-McGregor committed to make royalty payments based on the gas produced and to deliver a portion of the oil produced from the land to the lessors. The lease “shall remain in force for a term of One (1) years from [the effective] date, and as long thereafter as oil or gas, or either of them, is produced from said land by the lessee.” A well was drilled in 1981 and has produced oil and gas in paying quantities since then from the “Gordon Sand” formation. The Landowners contend that production of oil and gas has occurred near their property from below that formation but Collins-McGregor has not explored deep formations for lack of equipment or financial resources. They sought a judgment that the portion of the lease covering depths below the Gordon Sand has terminated because it has expired or been abandoned and that Collins-McGregor has breached implied covenants, including implied covenants of reasonable development and to explore further. The Supreme Court of Ohio affirmed dismissal. Ohio law does not recognize an implied covenant to explore further separate from the implied covenant of reasonable development. View "Alford v. Collins-McGregor Operating Co." on Justia Law

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Notestine, a nonprofit corporation with 26 U.S.C. 501(c)(3) status as a charitable institution, owns the 11-unit residential rental property developed as low-income housing under 12 U.S.C. 1701q. Construction costs were $1.5 million. The federal capital advance was $1.3 million. The “project rental assistance” contract requires tenants to be at least 62 years old and have income under 50 percent of the area median. Rent is tied to tenant income at $407 per month, including utilities, with any overage payable to HUD. Tenants pay up to 30 percent of their adjusted gross income on rent, with HUD subsidizing any difference. Capital Advance Program Use and Regulatory Agreements were recorded on title, in effect at least 40 years from 2013, unless released by HUD. An auditor valued the property at $811,120 for 2013, a Logan County reappraisal year. Notestine sought a reduction, arguing that the building's value was $165,000, based on actual rent and expenses. The Board of Tax Appeals adopted the opinion of Notestine’s appraiser, who valued the property at $75,000. The Supreme Court of Ohio affirmed. Although market rents and expenses constitute a “rule” when valuing low-income government housing generally, that rule is presumptive, not conclusive. In this case, the rents are minimal, and federal subsidization is strictly controlled by HUD-imposed restrictions on the accumulation of surpluses. There is no evidence that any adjustment from contract rent to market rent would eliminate the “affirmative value” of government subsidies. View "Notestine Manor, Inc. v. Logan County Board of Revision" on Justia Law

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Royal filed a quiet title action against his predecessors in interest and against Omaha Public Power District (OPPD) alleging fee title ownership of land along the railroad right-of-way passing through his Otoe County property by adverse possession. OPPD counterclaimed, alleging that it had acquired fee simple title to that same land, also by adverse possession. The district court granted Royal default judgment as to his predecessors, but following a trial, denied both Royal’s and OPPD’s claims of title. The Nebraska Supreme Court vacated the entry of default as “leading to an illogical result” in extinguishing the rights of the former owners. The court affirmed as to OPPD, which owns an easement over the right-of-way and not a fee simple. That easement was obtained in 1869; its uses are permissive and a direct or incidental use associated with the operation of a rail line. Under Nebraska law, a permissive use is not adverse and cannot ripen into ownership by adverse possession. The court also affirmed as to Royal. While expert testimony indicated that some of the land had been used for farming, it did not support the conclusion that it was done for a continuous period sufficient to prove adverse possession. Royal acknowledged that he had not continuously lived on the property and had not continuously assisted with its farming. View "Royal v. McKee" on Justia Law