Justia Zoning, Planning & Land Use Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Civil Procedure
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The Jenkinses bought a one-bedroom home, built in 1909, with a small accessory cottage in San Anselmo. Following conversations with an architect, contractors, and the Town Planning Director, they sought permits to demolish the existing structures and build a new home with a detached studio. The Planning Commission approved the project. The Jenkinses nevertheless worked with neighbors to accommodate their concerns and submitted revised plans, which were also approved. Four individuals unsuccessfully appealed to the Town Council. Attorney Brandt-Hawley filed a mandamus petition on behalf of an unincorporated association and an individual, alleging violations of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), although the appeal did not include any CEQA claim and CEQA has a categorical exemption for single-family homes, and “violation of the Town Municipal Code,” without citation.The trial judge denied the petition, criticizing aspects of Brandt-Hawley’s briefing and advocacy. Petitioners appealed, then offered to dismiss the appeal for a waiver of fees and costs. The Jenkinses rejected the offer. On the day the opening brief was due, Brandt-Hawley dismissed the appeal. The Jenkinses sued Brandt-Hawley for malicious prosecution. The court denied Brandt-Hawley’s special anti-SLAPP (strategic lawsuit against public participation) motion to strike. The court of appeal affirmed. The Jenkinses met their burden under step two of the anti-SLAPP procedure demonstrating a probability of success on their complaint. View "Jenkins v. Brandt-Hawley" on Justia Law

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Walker Commercial, Inc. (“Walker”) filed a Colorado Rule of Civil Procedure 106(a)(4) complaint seeking review of the decision of Marshall Brown, the Director of Water of the City of Aurora (“Director”), to levy a storm drain development fee against Walker’s real property. Walker filed its Rule 106(a)(4) complaint in district court thirty days after the Director’s final decision—two days past Rule 106(b)’s twenty-eight-day filing deadline. Walker contended that C.R.C.P. 6(b) allowed the district court to extend Rule 106(b)’s filing deadline upon a showing of excusable neglect. The Director disagreed, arguing that Rule 6(b) did not apply to Rule 106(b) because Rule 106(b)’s deadline established a limitation period that was jurisdictional and that must be strictly enforced. The Colorado Supreme Court agreed with the Director and concluded that Rule 6(b) does not apply to extend Rule 106(b)’s twenty-eight-day filing deadline. The Court concluded the district court properly dismissed Walker’s Rule 106(a)(4) amended complaint as untimely. Because the original complaint was untimely, the trial court also properly dismissed Walker’s additional Claim 3 raised in its amended complaint. View " Brown v. Walker Commercial" on Justia Law

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Appellant AIDS HealthCare Foundation (AHF) challenges land use decisions by the Los Angeles City Council planning and land use management (PLUM) committee, made while two of its members allegedly were the beneficiaries of an extensive, ongoing bribery scheme directed at PLUM committee projects. AHF contends the three-year catch-all statute of limitations in Code of Civil Procedure section 338, subdivision (a), applies to those PRA claims. Respondents City of Los Angeles and the Los Angeles City Council (collectively the City) asserted that the more specific 90-day statutes of limitation in Government Code sections 65009 and 66499.37 apply. The trial court, following precedent involving a predecessor statute to section 65009, agreed with the City, sustained the City’s demurrer without leave to amend, and dismissed the case.   The Second Appellate District affirmed. The court held that the application of the pre-existing shorter statute of limitations does not “practically amend” section 91011 subdivision (b), or any other part of the PRA. Section 65009 does not conflict with, or otherwise take away from, the original PRA, practically or otherwise. Further, the court held that the trial court properly dismissed AHF’s complaint as time-barred by section 65009, the applicable 90-day statute of limitations in this action. View "AIDS HealthCare Foundation v. City of Los Angeles" on Justia Law

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In 2019, an Idaho district court granted Respondents Matthew and Bonnie Latvalas’ claim for a prescriptive easement over a road known as “South Camp Bay Road” to reach their property located on the shores of Lake Pend Oreille. Because the prescriptive easement was created by the operations of an active mine, the district court determined that the scope of the easement included the ability to transport labor and materials to build a home on the Latvalas’ property. In Latvala v. Green Enterprises, Inc., 485 P.3d 1129 (2021) (Latvala I), the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed the district court’s determination that the Latvalas had a prescriptive easement over South Camp Bay Road. However, the Court vacated the district court’s judgment after concluding it had impermissibly expanded the scope of that easement. On remand, the parties disputed whether the Supreme Court’s decision prohibited the Latvalas’ proposed residential use of South Camp Bay Road, or only the construction of a residence on the Latvalas’ property. The district court entered a second amended judgment that prohibited the Latvalas from using South Camp Bay Road to construct a residence on their property, but did not restrict the Latvalas from using the road for residential purposes. Appellants Green Enterprises, Inc., James and and Julie Frank, and Larimore and Kathryn Cummins (neighboring landowners) timely appealed. Finding no reversible error in the latter district court judgment, the Supreme Court affirmed: “Because possibly driving across South Camp Bay Road will do nothing to increase the burden on the servient landowners, we affirm the district court’s second and third amended judgments because they are consistent with our holding in Latvala I. The Latvalas may not use South Camp Bay Road to build a residence; they may drive along Camp Bay Road to access a residence. Whether and to what extent that burden may or could change in the future is a question for another day. On the record before us we will not hypothesize on what the outcome would be under those theoretical scenarios.” View "Latvala v. Green Enterprises, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff TransFarmations, Inc. appealed a superior court decision to uphold the Town of Amherst Planning Board's (Town) decisions to deny TransFarmations' two successive applications for a conditional use permit (CUP). In May 2019, TransFarmations requested a “Conceptual Meeting” with the Town’s planning board (Board) concerning its proposed development of an approximately 130-acre property known as the Jacobson Farm. It stated that the “development will be designed to meet many of the desired attributes the Town . . . has articulated in [its] Master Plan and [Integrated] Innovative . . . Housing Ordinance (IIHO),” including workforce housing and over-55 housing. TransFarmations subsequently submitted a CUP application under the IIHO for a planned residential development containing 64 residential units. In its challenge to the decisions, TransFarmations argued both that the decisions failed to adequately state the ground for denial and that the Board acted unreasonably because the second CUP application was materially different from the first. The trial court concluded that the Board adequately provided the reason for its first decision on the record because “the Board members discussed, in detail, their reasons for concluding that no material differences [between the first and second applications] existed.” The court also concluded that “the Board acted reasonably and lawfully in reaching [that] decision.” Accordingly, the court affirmed both of the Board’s decisions. TransFarmations contended the trial court erred in affirming the Board’s decision not to accept the second application because TransFarmations submitted that application “at the Board’s invitation and with the information the Board requested.” The New Hampshire Supreme Court concluded TransFarmations’ second application supplying the requested information was “materially different from its predecessor, thus satisfying Fisher.” Because the trial court’s decision concluding otherwise misapplied Fisher v. Dover, it was legally erroneous. Accordingly, the Court reversed the trial court’s order as to the second CUP decision and remanded. View "TransFarmations, Inc. v. Town of Amherst" on Justia Law

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The Adorers, an order of nuns whose religious beliefs require them “to protect and preserve Earth,” own property in Pennsylvania. When Transco notified them that it was designing a 42-inch diameter interstate gas pipeline to cross their property, the Adorers explained that they would not sell a right-of-way through their property. Transco sought a certificate of public convenience and necessity. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) published notices and hosted open meetings to discuss the pipeline. The Adorers neither provided comments nor attended meetings. When FERC contacted the Adorers directly, they remained silent. Transco altered the pipeline’s route 132 times in response to public comment. FERC issued the requested certificate, which authorized Transco to use eminent domain to take rights-of-way 15 U.S.C. 717f(c)(1)(A). Transco sought an order of condemnation to take rights-of-way in the Adorers’ property. The Adorers failed to respond to the complaint.Days after the district court granted Transco default judgment, the Adorers sought an injunction under the Religious Freedom and Restoration Act (RFRA) 42 U.S.C. 2000bb-1(c). The Third Circuit rejected the Adorers’ contention that RFRA permitted them to assert their claim in federal court rather than before FERC. After the pipeline was put into service, the Adorers sought damages under RFRA. The Third Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the suit. To permit a party to reserve a claim, the success of which would imperil a FERC decision to certify an interstate pipeline, by remaining silent during the FERC proceedings and raising the claim in separate litigation would contravene the Natural Gas Act’s exclusive review framework. View "Adorers of the Blood of Christ United States Province v. Transcontinental Gas Pipe Line Co., LLC" on Justia Law

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The City of Helena ("Helena") appealed the issuance of a preliminary injunction by the Shelby Circuit Court in favor of the Pelham Board of Education ("the Board") and its officers and/or members, in their official capacities (collectively, "the Board defendants"). In June 2021, the Board purchased approximately 52 acres of undeveloped land located within the corporate limits of Helena. The land has not been annexed by the City of Pelham or the Board. Helena collects property taxes on the land, and the land was zoned for single-family residential use under a Helena zoning ordinance. After purchasing the land, the Board began clearing the land for the purpose of constructing one or more athletic fields and a parking lot as part of the Pelham High School campus. Pelham High School was located adjacent to the land but lied within the corporate limits of the City of Pelham. The athletic-field project was originally scheduled to be completed on or before January 17, 2022, but it was delayed by Helena's attempts to enforce its zoning ordinance, which was an issue in this case. Helena asserted in its complaint, among other things, that the Board has no statutory authority to construct the athletic-field project within the corporate limits of Helena. The Board defendants counterclaimed, seeking sought declaratory and injunctive relief based on their position that the athletic-field project served a governmental purpose and, therefore, was not subject to Helena's zoning ordinance. Finding that the trial court did not follow the mandatory requirements of Rule 65(d)(2), the preliminary injunction was dissolved and the order issuing the injunction was, therefore, reversed and the case remanded. View "City of Helena v. Pelham Board of Education, et al." on Justia Law

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Two cases were consolidated for the purposes of appeal, both from the Circuit Court of Hancock County, Mississippi. In each case, the circuit court found that it lacked jurisdiction due to a defect in the notice of appeal pursuant to Mississippi Code Section 11- 51-75(a)(i) (Rev. 2019). The circuit court dismissed both cases. The Mississippi Supreme Court found the statute did require that a petitioner before a local governing authority be made a party to an appeal of the authority’s decision. "But naming petitioners as appellees in the notice of appeal is procedural. Therefore, a notice of appeal that is filed on time but erroneously omits a petitioner’s name does not defeat the circuit court’s jurisdiction, and the error may be corrected." Finding that a defect in the contents of the notice of appeal was a procedural rather than a jurisdictional error, the Supreme Court reversed and remanded. View "Longo, et al. v. City of Waveland, et al." on Justia Law

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This case arises from a regulatory dispute involving a hydroelectric project. The project aimed to boost a municipality’s water supply. To obtain more water, the municipality proposed to raise a local dam and expand a nearby reservoir. But implementation of the proposal would require amendment of the municipality’s license with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers granted a discharge permit to the municipality. A group of conservation organizations challenged the Corps’ decision by petitioning in federal district court. While the petition was pending, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission allowed amendment of the municipality’s license to raise the dam and expand the reservoir. The Commission’s amendment of the municipality’s license triggered a jurisdictional question: if federal courts of appeals had exclusive jurisdiction over petitions challenging decisions made by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, did this jurisdiction extend to challenges against the Corps’ issuance of a permit to allow discharges required for the modification of a hydroelectric project licensed by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission? The district court answered yes, but the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed. The conservation organizations were challenging the Corps’ issuance of a permit, not the Commission’s amendment of a license. So the statute didn’t limit jurisdiction to the court of appeals. View "Save The Colorado, et al. v. Spellmon, et al." on Justia Law

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Long Beach Harbor Resort, LLC (the Resort), leased a parcel of land located on the Public Trust Tidelands from the City of Long Beach. The Mississippi Supreme Court was asked to determine whether the Resort is required to enter into a separate lease with the Secretary of State for the use of the tidelands property or whether the Resort already had a valid lease allowing use of the tidelands in question. The Court found that the State of Mississippi had, through its Boundary Agreement and Tidelands Lease with the City of Long Beach, ratified the prior lease entered into between the City and the Resort. Accordingly, the Court affirmed the chancery court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of the Resort and found that the Resort had a valid tidelands lease as ratified by the Secretary of State. View "Mississippi v. Long Beach Harbor Resort, LLC" on Justia Law