Justia Zoning, Planning & Land Use Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Election Law
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The San Diego County (County) Board of Supervisors approved an amendment to the County's general land use plan, which would have allowed for the development of over 2,100 homes in a previously designated rural area of the County. Residents opposed to the change in land use circulated a referendum petition and gathered enough signatures to have the matter placed on an election ballot. To prevent an election, the land developer filed a petition for writ of mandate, contending the referendum petition was illegal and void as a matter of law. The court denied the writ petition. The issues this case presented for the Court of Appeal's review were: (1) whether the referendum petition complied with the full text requirement under Elections Code section 91471; and (2) the referendum petition's legality in challenging a single legislative act even though the Board of Supervisors executed several concurrent, associated legislative acts. Finding no reversible error in the trial court's judgment, the Court of Appeal affirmed. View "Molloy v. Vu" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court granted a writ of mandamus to compel the Sandusky County Board of Elections to place a referendum petition concerning a city zoning ordinance on the November 2019 general election ballot, holding that the board's decision was contrary to law.The board excluded the petition from the ballot upon finding that the city zoning ordinance was properly passed as an emergency measure and was therefore not subject to referendum. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the ordinance failed to state an emergency under Ohio Rev. Code 731.30 and was not properly enacted as an emergency measure. Therefore, the ordinance was subject to referendum. View "State ex rel. Hasselbach v. Sandusky County Board of Elections" on Justia Law

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A recall petition was filed against the Mayor and three Cathlamet council members; charges stemmed from Cathlamet’s purchase of a parcel of property at 20 Butler street. The petition alleged a violation of the Washington Constitution as a gift of public funds to the seller of the Butler Street property, Bernadette Goodroe. One additional charge against one town counselor alleged violation of RCW 42.23.070(2), prohibiting municipal officials from giving or receiving gifts related to their official capacities. The Washington Supreme Court determined the charges in the recall petition was legally insufficient, because acquisition of real property is a fundamental government purpose and discretionary act that was not manifestly unreasonable under the circumstances of this case. Accordingly, the Supreme Court affirmed the superior court. View "In re Recall of Burnham" on Justia Law

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Parcel 27 (22 acres) was proposed for development with 44 single-family homes, 7.9 acres of public parkland, a bike path, and dog park. The planning commission recommended and the city council adopted an amendment to Parcel 27's general plan designation from Administrative Professional Office (APO) to Low-Density Single Family Residential, R-20. After the amendment could no longer be challenged, the council changed Parcel 27's zoning designation from APO to R-20. Opponents filed a referendum challenging the rezoning. The city clerk notified them that the referendum met the requirements of the Elections Code. The city attorney prepared a staff report, indicating that once a referendum petition is certified, the ordinance is suspended and the city council must reconsider the ordinance, but advised that “a referendum seeking to repeal a zoning amendment which would result in a zoning ordinance that is inconsistent with a general plan is a legally invalid referendum.” The council voted to refuse to repeal the ordinance or to place the issue on the ballot because repeal would result in reversion to APO zoning and create an inconsistency between the zoning and the general plan. The court of appeal held that the referendum was not invalid and the issue must be placed on the ballot. View "Save Lafayette v. City of Lafayette" on Justia Law

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The vacant Morgan Hill parcel was designated, in the general plan, as “Industrial” until the city amended the plan to change its designation to “Commercial.” Its zoning was “ML-Light Industrial” before the amendment. Later, the city council changed the parcel’s zoning to “CG-General Commercial,” which would permit a hotel. The Coalition submitted a referendum petition challenging the rezoning to prevent the development of a hotel. The city adopted a certificate of sufficiency as to the referendum, but later “discontinue[d] processing,” believing that the referendum would enact zoning inconsistent with its general plan. The city recognized that it could, alternatively, change the parcel’s zoning to “Highway Commercial” and be consistent with the plan’s designation. Months later, the city called for a special election to submit the referendum to the voters but also authorized the filing of an action to have it removed from the ballot. The court ordered the referendum removed from the ballot and the rezoning certified as effective. The court of appeals reversed, holding that a referendum petition challenging an ordinance that attempts to make the zoning for a parcel consistent with the parcel’s general plan designation is not invalid if the legislative body remains free to select another consistent zoning should the referendum result in the rejection of the legislative body’s first choice of consistent zoning. View "City of Morgan Hill v. Bushey" on Justia Law

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The County filed suit against defendants seeking to enjoin the operation of a medical marijuana dispensary in an unincorporated area of Kern County. Defendants appealed the trial court's grant of a preliminary injunction. The court interpreted the phrase “entirely repeal the ordinance,” pursuant to Elections Code section 9144, to mean that a board of supervisors must (1) revoke the protested ordinance in all its parts and (2) not take additional action that has the practical effect of implementing the essential feature of the protested ordinance. Applying this interpretation, the court concluded that the board of supervisors did more than entirely repeal the protested ordinance banning dispensaries when it revoked that ordinance and took the additional action of repealing the 2009 ordinance, which authorized dispensaries. The practical effect of repealing the 2009 ordinance was to prohibit dispensaries, which was essentially the same as the ban of dispensaries protested by voters. Therefore, the court concluded that the County violated section 9145 by repealing the 2009 ordinance and, as a result, the court regarded the 2009 ordinance as remaining in full force and effect. Accordingly, defendants' dispensary, which is located in a commercial zone, remains an authorized use and the County cannot establish a likelihood of succeeding on the merits of its claim that defendants were operating an unauthorized dispensary. Therefore, the court reversed the judgment. View "County of Kern v. T.C.E.F., Inc." on Justia Law

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The Anchorage Assembly passed an ordinance modifying the labor relations chapter of the Anchorage Municipal Code. Two citizen-sponsors filed an application for a referendum that would repeal the ordinance. The Municipality rejected the application, reasoning that the proposed referendum addressed administrative matters that were not proper subjects for direct citizen legislation. The sponsors filed suit in superior court and prevailed on summary judgment. The Municipality appealed, arguing that the referendum was barred because: (1) state and municipal law grants exclusive authority over labor relations to the Assembly; (2) the referendum made an appropriation; and (3) its subject was administrative, not legislative. Following oral argument, the Supreme Court issued an order on January 10, 2014, affirming the superior court's grant of summary judgment to the sponsors. This opinion explained the Court's reasoning. View "Municipality of Anchorage v. Holleman" on Justia Law

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Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. sought to expand its store in the City of Sonora. The City Council postponed its vote on the project while a voter-sponsored initiative was circulated, which proposed to adopt a plan for the contemplated expansion. The Council subsequently adopted the ordinance. The Tuoloumne Jobs & Small Business Alliance sought a writ of mandate based on four causes of action, the first of which asserted that the Council violated the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) by adopting the ordinance without first conducting a complete environmental review. The Court of Appeals granted the writ as to the first cause of action, concluding that when a land use ordinance is proposed in a voter initiative petition, full CEQA review is required if the city adopts the ordinance rather than submitting it to an election. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that CEQA review is not required before direct adoption of an initiative, just as it is not required before voters adopt an initiative at an election. View "Tuolumne Jobs & Small Bus. Alliance v. Superior Court" on Justia Law

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In 2010, the City of Whitefish passed Resolution 10-46, which authorized the City to enter into an interlocal agreement with Flathead County concerning planning and zoning authority over a two-mile area surrounding the City. In 2011, voters in Whitehead passed a referendum repealing the Resolution. Plaintiffs, residents of the City and the County, filed the present lawsuit claiming that the citizens’ power of referendum and initiative did not extend to the Resolution. The district court agreed with Plaintiffs and granted summary judgment to Plaintiffs and the County. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court (1) did not err by not dismissing the suit as untimely based upon the doctrine of laches; and (2) did not err by determining that the Resolution was not subject to the right of voter initiative and referendum because the Resolution was an administrative act by the City. View "Phillips v. City of Whitefish" on Justia Law

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This was the latest in a series of opinions by the Court of Appeals involving the constitutional provision and the implementing legislation authorizing a limited number of slot machines at specified Maryland facilities, including facilities in the area of Anne Arundel County (County). A County zoning ordinance authorized slot machines in certain areas of the County. The circuit court determined that the ordinance was not subject to referendum under the County charter. On appeal, the Court of Appeals (1) held the circuit court's judgment was appealable, as (i) the Legislature no no intention of applying the non-appealability principle of Md. Code Ann. Cts. & Jud. Proc. 12-302(a) to cases under the Election Article, and (ii) where the Election Article authorizes judicial review but is silent regarding an appeal, Md. Code Ann. Cts. & Jud. Proc.12-301 authorizes an appeal; and (2) reversed the circuit court's judgment and remanded with instructions to order that the ordinance be placed on the ballot at the general election in accordance with the referendum provisions of the County charter, holding that the ordinance was simply a local ordinance re-zoning an area, and as such, it was not exempt from a referendum. View "Citizens Against Slots At The Mall v. PPE Casino Resorts Md., LLC" on Justia Law