Justia Zoning, Planning & Land Use Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Civil Procedure
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This appeal was about whether an aggrieved applicant could bring a direct action against a city, its administrators, and its mayor for alleged misconduct pertaining to the granting of a conditional use permit without first exhausting administrative remedies and seeking judicial review. The answer is almost always “no,” but based on the unique facts in this case the Idaho Supreme Court held that the applicant was excused from exhausting administrative remedies. View "Bracken v. City of Ketchum" on Justia Law

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In 1999, the plaintiffs sought to develop condominiums but needed rezoning approval from the Charter Township of Clinton. After a protracted dispute, the plaintiffs sued the Township in Michigan state court. That court entered a consent judgment that dictated the conditions for rezoning the property and completing the project. Years later, after experiencing several setbacks, the plaintiffs sought to amend the consent judgment, but the Township refused.The plaintiffs then filed suit in federal court, alleging several constitutional violations and a breach-of-contract claim. The Sixth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the suit. The consent judgment contains a “retaining-jurisdiction” provision providing Macomb County Circuit Court jurisdiction over its interpretation and enforcement. A separate lawsuit filed in federal district court would constitute a collateral attack on the consent judgment, requiring the district court in some way to interpret or enforce it. All of plaintiffs’ alleged constitutional violations stem from the Township’s alleged refusal to “honor its obligations under the Consent Judgment to allow plaintiffs to develop the Subject Property.” View "Republic Building Co., Inc. v. Charter Township of Clinton, Michigan" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs Bradley Weiss and Cathleen Shea appealed a superior court order granting defendant Town of Sunapee's (Town) motion to dismiss. The trial court determined that, because plaintiffs failed to request a second rehearing from the Town’s Zoning Board of Adjustment (ZBA), the court did not have subject matter jurisdiction over their appeal. The New Hampshire Supreme Court reversed and remanded: pursuant to RSA 677:3, plaintiffs perfected their appeal to the superior court from the ZBA’s April 1 denial by timely moving for rehearing. View "Weiss, et al. v. Town of Sunapee" on Justia Law

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In 2015, the Department of Transportation (“PennDOT”) began constructing a diamond interchange and installing a drainage system on property abutting Interstate 70 (“I-70”) in Washington County, Pennsylvania. The property’s owner, Appellant Donald Bindas, petitioned for the appointment of a board of viewers, seeking compensation for this encumbrance upon his land. PennDOT asserted that its predecessor, the Department of Highways (“DOH”), had secured a highway easement for the land in question in 1958. Both the trial court and the Commonwealth Court agreed, dismissing Bindas’ suit. Upon its review of the statutory authority that PennDOT invoked, as well as the record, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court found that DOH’s failure to comply with the requirements of 36 P.S. § 670-210 rendered that easement invalid. Accordingly, the Court vacated the Commonwealth Court’s order, and remanded with the instruction that PennDOT’s preliminary objections be overruled. View "Bindas. v. PennDOT" on Justia Law

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Appellant Tanner Altizer suffered serious injuries when he ran into a suspended cable fence while riding his off-road motorcycle on an unpaved area in an unoccupied area of the desert. The owner of the property, respondent Coachella Valley Conservation Commission (the Commission), placed the cable fence around its property to stop illegal dumping and off-road vehicles in order to protect the sensitive habitat. Altizer sued the Commission, alleging that the cable fence created a dangerous condition on public property. The trial court granted summary judgment for the Commission, and Altizer appealed. After review, the Court of Appeal concluded the Commission was entitled to hazardous recreational activity immunity under Government Code section 831.71 and affirmed. View "Altizer v. Coachella Valley Conservation Com." on Justia Law

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The plaintiffs brought this action after the defendant modified a storm water drainage system, allegedly causing flooding onto their property. The plaintiffs raised two distinct claims that remained at issue on appeal: a claim under the sewage-disposal-system- event (SDSE) exception to governmental immunity under the governmental tort liability act (GTLA), and a common-law trespass-nuisance claim seeking injunctive relief. The trial court dismissed both claims as untimely under the applicable three-year statute of limitations. Like the Court of Appeals, the Michigan Supreme Court disagreed, holding the SDSE claim, which sought relief only in connection with flooding that occurred within the three-year window, was timely. However, unlike the Court of Appeals, the Supreme Court concluded that because the defendant was immune with respect to the plaintiffs’ common-law trespass-nuisance claim, that claim was properly dismissed. In light of this holding, the Court vacated as unnecessary the Court of Appeals’ holding that the trespass-nuisance claim was timely. Finally, because the plaintiffs only sought injunctive relief in connection with that claim, their request for an injunction was invalid. Therefore, the Supreme Court reversed the trial court’s grant of summary judgment to the defendant with respect to the plaintiff’s SDSE claim, affirmed with respect to the common-law trespass-nuisance claim, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Sunrise Resort Association, Inc. v. Cheboygan County Road Commission" on Justia Law

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In 1992, the Crow Tribe brought a declaratory action against Wyoming Game and Fish officials to determine whether the 1868 Treaty with the Crows afforded it an unrestricted right to hunt in the Bighorn National Forest. Relying on a line of prior Supreme Court cases interpreting Indian treaties, the federal district court in Wyoming held in Crow Tribe of Indians v. Repsis (Repsis I), 866 F. Supp. 520 (D. Wyo. 1994), that Wyoming’s admission as a state extinguished the Tribe’s treaty hunting rights (the “Statehood Holding”). In Crow Tribe of Indians v. Repsis (Repsis II), 73 F.3d 982 (10th Cir. 1995), the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the district court’s Statehood Holding. Alternatively, the Tenth Circuit held that the Bighorn National Forest was “occupied,” so the Tribe’s treaty hunting rights would not have applied to the area in question (the “Occupation Rationale”), and also reasoned that Wyoming could have justified its restrictions on hunting due to its interest in conservation (the “Conservation Necessity Rationale”). In 2019, the Supreme Court decided Herrera v. Wyoming, 139 S. Ct. 1686 (2019), in response to Wyoming’s attempts to prosecute a Tribe member for hunting in Bighorn National Forest. Critically, the Court held that the Tribe’s treaty rights had not been extinguished by Wyoming’s admittance as a state and that Bighorn National Forest was not categorically “occupied.” On remand, Wyoming continued its efforts to prosecute the Tribe’s member, arguing in part that the defendant could not assert a treaty right to hunt in Bighorn National Forest because Repsis II continued to bind the Tribe and its members through the doctrine of issue preclusion. The Tribe moved for relief from Repsis II under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b). But the district court denied the Tribe’s motion, holding that it lacked the power to grant relief because the Tenth Circuit relied on alternative grounds for affirmance (the Occupation and Conservation Necessity Rationales) that the district court had not considered in Repsis I. The Tribe appealed, arguing that the district court legally erred when it held that it lacked the power to review the Tribe’s Rule 60(b) motion. The Tenth Circuit concluded the district court abused its discretion when it held that it lacked the authority to review the Tribe’s motion for post-judgment relief. The matter was remanded again for further proceedings. View "Crow Tribe of Indians, et al. v. Repsis, et al." on Justia Law

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Lance Hagen filed a public records request related to a condemnation case he was a party to involving the City of Lincoln and North Dakota Insurance Reserve Fund (“NDIRF”). Hagen sought to determine how the City of Lincoln and NDIRF spent approximately $1.1 million dollars on litigation costs defending the action. NDIRF did not produce all requested records, and the parties sought relief from the district court. Hagen appealed the district court’s judgment that concluded certain documents belonging to NDIRF were exempt from release under the potential liability exception outlined in N.D.C.C. § 44-04-19.1(8). Hagen argued the court abused its discretion by finding NDIRF itself faced potential liability because its members could face potential liability, and because the court discussed the fiscal effect of a disclosure on NDIRF, which Hagen argued exceeded the scope of the North Dakota Supreme Court’s remand order in Hagen v. North Dakota Insurance Reserve Fund, 971 N.W.2d 833. Because the Supreme Court concluded the potential liability exception under N.D.C.C. § 44-04-19.1(8) did not apply to any of the documents determined by the district court to be exempt, the Court reversed. View "Hagen v. N.D. Insurance Reserve Fund" on Justia Law

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Courage to Change Recovery Ranch, recently known as Soaring Hope Recovery Center, provided treatment and housing for people recovering from drug and alcohol addictions in a single-family neighborhood in El Paso County, Colorado. But Soaring Hope claimed the County’s strict occupancy limits, standards for group homes for disabled persons, and policies restricting what treatment options Soaring Hope could provide in a single-family zone led Soaring Hope to close its home in a single-family neighborhood (the Spruce Road home). The Tenth Circuit determined the County violated the Fair Housing Act Amendments (FHAA) by imposing facially discriminatory occupancy limits on group homes for disabled persons without a legally permissible justification. Though Soaring Hope showed standing to challenge the occupancy limits which directly injured it, Soaring Hope did not show standing to challenge the standards for group homes for disabled persons—no evidence shows that the County enforced the standards against Soaring Hope. The Tenth Circuit also held that the district court erred by granting summary judgment against Soaring Hope on its zoning-out claim for intentional discrimination: Soaring Hope raised a genuine issue of material fact about whether the County had prohibited certain therapeutic activities in its Spruce Road home while allowing those same activities in other structured group-living arrangements and residential homes. The case was remanded for the district court to further address the zoning-out claim. The judgment was affirmed in all other respects. View "Courage to Change, et al. v. El Paso County" on Justia Law

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This appeal was the second relating to a suit brought by the City of Hesperia (the City) against respondents Lake Arrowhead Community Services District and the Board of Directors of Lake Arrowhead Community Services District (jointly, the District) regarding a proposed 0.96-megawatt solar photovoltaic project (the Solar Project) that the District had been planning to develop on six acres of a 350-acre property it owned, known as the Hesperia Farms Property. The Hesperia Farms Property was located within the City’s municipal boundary and was generally subject to the City’s zoning regulations. The District first approved its Solar Project in December 2015, after determining that the project was either absolutely exempt from the City’s zoning regulations under Government Code section 53091, or qualifiedly exempt under Government Code section 53096. The City sought a writ of mandate prohibiting the District from further pursuing the Solar Project. In Hesperia I, the Court of Appeal determined the District’s Solar Project was not exempt from the City’s zoning regulations under Government Code section 53091’s absolute exemption, or under Government Code section 53096’s qualified exemption. The Court concluded, however, that Government Code section 52096’s qualified exemption did not apply to the District’s approval of the Solar Project only because the District had failed to provide substantial evidence to support its conclusion that there was no other feasible alternative to its proposed location for the Solar Project. This result left open the possibility that the District could undertake further analyses and show that there was no feasible alternative to the Solar Project’s proposed location in order to avoid application of the City’s zoning ordinances. A few months after the District made its second no-feasible-alternative determination with respect to the Solar Project, the City filed a second petition for writ of mandate and complaint challenging the Solar Project. The trial court ultimately denied the City’s second petition. When the City appealed, the Court of Appeal concluded the trial court did not err in rejecting the City’s petition for writ of mandate. View "City of Hesperia v. Lake Arrowhead Community Services Dist." on Justia Law