Justia Zoning, Planning & Land Use Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Education Law
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The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the decision of the Land Court judge determining that the primary purpose of Plaintiff's proposed residential program for adolescent males could not be characterized as "educational" under the Dover Amendment, Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 40A, 3, second paragraph, and therefore was not exempt from certain zoning restrictions, holding that the proposed facility and its curriculum fell within the "broad and comprehensive" meaning of "educational purposes" under the Dover Amendment.Plaintiff, The McLean Hospital Corporation, sought to develop a residential life skills program for fifteen to twenty-one year old males who exhibit extreme emotional dysregulation to allow the adolescents to lead useful, productive lives. The building commissioner determined that the proposed use was educational and that Plaintiff could proceed under the Dover Amendment and its local analog, section 6.1(i) of the town of Lincoln's bylaw. The town's zoning board of appeals reversed, determining that the program was medical or therapeutic, as opposed to education. The Land Court judge upheld the determination. The Supreme Judicial Court remanded the matter for entry of a judgment in favor of Plaintiff, holding that the fact that the curriculum of the facility is not conventional does not negate the fact that the predominant purpose of the program is educational. View "McLean Hospital Corp. v. Town of Lincoln" on Justia Law

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The Mitigation Fee Act, Government Code 66000-66003, requires local agencies seeking to impose fees on private developers as a condition of approval of a development, to determine how there is a “reasonable relationship” between the type of development project, the fee’s use, and the need for the public facilities. The developer of a 100-unit agricultural employee housing complex in Monterey County’s Salinas Union High School District designed the project to accommodate 200-800 seasonal farmworker employees in dormitory-like apartments during the growing season. The project description stated that it was designed for “agricultural employees only, without dependents.” A report prepared for the county board of supervisors found that the project would “not have an adverse impact on schools.” The board approved the project, adopted a mitigated negative declaration under CEQA, and approved a combined permit, subject to conditions, which described the development for “agricultural employees only without dependents.” When the developer applied for project approval, the District adopted an impact fee on new residential construction of $3 per square foot. The court of appeal reversed the trial court, finding that the statutes do not require a school district to separately analyze the impact of a unique subtype of residential construction not contemplated in the statute. To hold otherwise would disrupt the school district’s quasi-legislative authority to impose prospective, district-wide fees based upon development type. View "Tanimura & Antle Fresh Foods v. Salinas Union High School District" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Dartmouth Corporation of Alpha Delta (Alpha Delta) appealed a Superior Court order affirming a Zoning Board of Adjustment (ZBA) decision in favor of defendant Town of Hanover (Town). The ZBA determined that the use of Alpha Delta’s property at 9 East Wheelock Street (the property) violated the Town’s zoning ordinance. Alpha Delta has been a fraternity for students at Dartmouth College (College) since the 1840s. In 1931, the Town enacted its first zoning ordinance. At that time, Alpha Delta’s property was located in the “Educational District” in which an “[e]ducational use, or dormitory . . . incidental to and controlled by an educational institution” was permitted as of right. Between 1931 and the mid- 1970s, the property was located in various zoning districts where its use by Alpha Delta as a fraternity was allowed as of right. In 1976, the Town enacted its current zoning ordinance, under which the property was located within the “Institution” district. A student residence in the Institution district was allowed only by special exception. In 2015, the College notified Alpha Delta by letter that, due to the fraternity’s violation of the school’s standards of conduct, it had revoked recognition of the fraternity as a student organization. “Derecognition” revoked certain privileges, pertinent here was recognition as a ‘college approved’ residential facility; and use of College facilities or resources. The College notified Alpha Delta that it would be removed from the College’s rooming system under which student room rents are paid through the College, and would no longer be under the jurisdiction or protection of the College’s department of safety and security. Furthermore, the College notified the Town that Alpha Delta no longer had a relationship with Dartmouth College, and notified Alpha Delta that it was the College’s “understanding that under the Town zoning ordinance no more than three unrelated people will be allowed to reside on the property.” The Town’s zoning administrator subsequently notified Alpha Delta by letter that use of the property violated the zoning ordinance. Alpha Delta appealed, but finding none of its arguments availing, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "Dartmouth Corp. of Alpha Delta v. Town of Hanover" on Justia Law

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Government Code section 53094(b) authorizes “the governing board of a school district” to “render a city or county zoning ordinance inapplicable to a proposed use of property by the school district,” under certain circumstances. The Santa Clara County Board of Education approved a resolution exempting from local zoning ordinances property to be used by Rocketship Education for a charter school. The San Jose Unified School District argued that county boards of education have no authority to issue section 53094 zoning exemptions and successfully sought a writ of mandate to set aside the resolution. The court of appeal affirmed, finding that section 53094 does not authorize county boards of education to issue zoning exemptions for charter schools. Empowering county boards to issue zoning exemptions for charter schools would not advance the purpose of section 53094—preventing local interference with the state’s sovereign activities. While county boards are authorized to issue charters and oversee charter schools, local school districts are obligated to provide facilities to charter schools. (Educ. Code, 47614(b).) The state has not tasked county boards with acquiring sites for charter schools; to the extent they do so, they are not carrying out a sovereign activity on behalf of the state. View "San Jose Unified School District v. Santa Clara County Office of Education" on Justia Law

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The issue on appeal in this case centered on the potential effects on the territory of school systems and the ownership of school property stemming from the annexation of parts of Fulton County by the City of Atlanta. In 1950, the Georgia General Assembly passed a local constitutional amendment addressing these issues (1950 LCA). In 1950, the independent school system of Atlanta (APS) was part of the City’s municipal government, not a separate political entity. In 1973, however, the General Assembly separated APS from the City’s municipal government by enacting separate charters for the two entities and removing most educational powers and responsibilities from the City government. In 2015, the City initiated this case by filing a declaratory judgment action in which it sought guidance on whether: (1) the City could annex Fulton County property without also expanding the boundaries of APS to cover the newly annexed area; and (2) the City could exercise its own delegated authority to determine if it wanted to expand the boundaries of APS after the City annexed new property. The City argued that HB 1620 (the pertinent legislation) did not properly continue the 1950 LCA, and, as a result, it stood repealed. The Fulton County School District (“FCS”) intervened, then the City moved for summary judgment, APS moved for judgment in its favor on the pleadings, and FCS moved to dismiss the City’s action. The trial court entered a final order denying the City’s motion, granting APS’s motion, and granting FCS’s motion, treating all of them as summary judgment motions. Ultimately, the trial court determined that: (1) the City’s declaratory action, in part, was not barred by the doctrine of sovereign immunity; and (2) the 1950 LCA was properly continued by HB 1620. The City appealed the trial court’s ruling that the 1950 LCA was properly continued, and APS has cross-appealed to contend that the trial court erred by not finding that the City’s declaratory judgment action was barred in its entirety by sovereign immunity. Because this matter was not ripe for consideration at the time that the trial court considered the City’s action, the Supreme Court vacated the trial court’s opinion. View "City of Atlanta v. Atlanta Indep. Sch. Sys." on Justia Law

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A school district is entitled to levy fees on new residential construction. Government Code section 66020 applies to partial refunds of fees paid, such as the refund sought by appellant. At issue in this appeal is whether Civil Code section 3287, which provides for interest when damages are awarded, applies specifically to interest on a refund for a development fee paid to the District. The court concluded that section 3287 does not apply because section 66020, subdivision (e) more specifically sets forth the interest available on the development fee refund. Therefore, the trial court correctly concluded that section 3287 did not apply in this case and properly sustained the school district's demurrer and dismissed the lawsuit. The court affirmed the judgment. View "Merkoh Assoc., LLC v. L.A. Unified Sch. Dist." on Justia Law

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Crystal Lake South High School is surrounded by land zoned “R-2 residential single family,” and constitutes a legal, nonconforming use. The campus is owned by District 155. In 2013, the District’s Board decided to replace the bleachers at the Crystal Lake South football stadium after a failed structural inspection. The plan involved relocating new, larger, home bleachers to be adjacent to residential property and closer to the property line than existing bleachers. The McHenry County Regional Superintendent of Schools approved the plans and issued a building permit under the School Code, 105 ILCS 5/3-14.20. The District began work without notifying the city of Crystal Lake or seeking a building permit, zoning approval, or storm water management approval. The city ordered the Board to stop construction until it obtained a special-use permit, a stormwater permit, and zoning variances. The Board disregarded the order and proceeded with construction. Owners of adjoining residential properties sought to privately enforce the zoning restrictions under the Illinois Municipal Code, 65 ILCS 5/11-13-15. The Board sought declaratory judgment. The circuit court awarded the city summary judgment. The appellate court and Illinois Supreme Court affirmed, holding that a school district is subject to, and its school board must comply with, local governmental zoning and storm water restrictions. View "Gurba v. Cmty. High Sch. Dist. No. 155" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, a private college, brought suit against a town and a local zoning authority (defendants), seeking, among other things, a declaration that its proposed development of residential and education facilities for older adults (Regis East) qualified for protection under the Dover Amendment, G.L.c. 40A, section 3, second par. The Dover Amendment exempted from certain local zoning laws or structures that were to be used by nonprofit educational institutions for "educational purposes." Because the court could not conclude that plaintiff "has no reasonable expectation" of demonstrating that Regis East would primarily operate in furtherance of educational purposes, the court vacated and remanded. View "Regis College v. Town of Weston & others." on Justia Law

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These three closely related appeals arose out of two district court cases, each involving a different tract of land owned by the Avoyelles Parish School Board (School Board), where neither tract was accessible by public road and both shared borders with the Lake Ophelia Wildlife Refuge (Refuge), which was owned by the United States Department of Interior (Department). The School Board filed these suits against all adjoining landowners, including the Department, to fix the School Board's legal rights of passage to the respective enclosed lands. The district court fixed rights of passage that burdened Refuge lands and concluded that the Department could not impose certain desired restrictions on the School Board's actions on Refuge lands. On appeal, the court reversed both judgments in full and remanded for further proceedings.

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The regional board of school trustees dissolved a school district, partially located in Montgomery County, and annexed it to a district previously located entirely in Sangamon County. About 99.7 percent of the reconstituted district is in Sangamon County and the voters of that county had approved a referendum under the Property Tax Extension Limitation Law (PTELL)(35 ILCS 200/18â185); the voters in Montgomery County had not. A taxing district subject to PTELL may not ordinarily extend taxes at a rate that exceeds the previous yearâs extension by more than 5%, or the percentage increase in the Consumer Price Index, whichever is less, without referendum approval. The district, wanting to issue bonds to finance improvements, sought a declaration that PTELL did not apply. Reversing the trial and appellate courts, the supreme court held that the entire district remains subject to the PTELL.