Justia Zoning, Planning & Land Use Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Government & Administrative Law
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The case involves a dispute over the incorporation of the proposed City of St. George in Louisiana. The petition for incorporation was filed in 2018 and was approved by the governor, leading to a special election in which 54% of voters approved the incorporation. However, a legal challenge was filed by Baton Rouge’s Mayor-President and a Metropolitan Councilman, arguing that the petition for incorporation was deficient and that the proposed city would be unable to provide public services within a reasonable period of time. They also contended that the incorporation would have an adverse impact on Baton Rouge.The trial court denied the incorporation, finding that the petition minimally satisfied the statutory requirements and that the incorporation was unreasonable. The court found that St. George would operate at a deficit, affecting the timely provision of public services, and that lost tax revenue would significantly impact Baton Rouge. The court of appeal affirmed the denial of incorporation, finding the petition deficient as it failed to include a plan for the provision of services.The Supreme Court of Louisiana reversed the lower courts' decisions. The court found that the lower courts erred in their calculations of St. George's operating costs and potential revenues. The court also found that the lower courts failed to consider the cost savings that would result from Baton Rouge no longer having to provide services to St. George. The court concluded that St. George could provide public services within a reasonable period of time and that the incorporation was reasonable. The court therefore rendered judgment in favor of the proponents of incorporation. View "BROOME VS. RIALS" on Justia Law

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The case involves a dispute over the approval of a site certificate for the construction of a wind energy facility in Umatilla County, Oregon. The Energy Facility Siting Council granted the certificate to Nolin Hills Wind, LLC, despite the proposed facility not complying with a local siting criterion requiring a two-mile setback between any turbine and a rural residence. Umatilla County sought judicial review of the council's decision, arguing that the council should have required Nolin Hills to comply with the two-mile setback rule.The case was reviewed by the Supreme Court of the State of Oregon. The court noted that the council had the authority to approve the proposed energy facility despite its failure to comply with the two-mile setback rule. The court also noted that the council had the authority to approve the proposed facility even if it did not pass through more than three land use zones and even if it did not comply with all of the county’s recommended substantive criteria.The Supreme Court of the State of Oregon affirmed the council's decision, concluding that the council was authorized to issue a site certificate for the proposed wind facility notwithstanding the failure of the proposed facility to comply with the two-mile setback rule. The court found that the council was not required to reject a proposed facility simply because it did not comply with a local criterion. The court also rejected the county's argument that the council erred in concluding that the proposed facility "does otherwise comply with the applicable statewide planning goals." View "Umatilla County v. Dept. of Energy" on Justia Law

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The case involves Mojalaki Holdings, LLC and GSSG New Hampshire, LLC (the plaintiffs) who appealed a decision by the City of Franklin Planning Board (the Board) that denied their site plan application to install a solar panel array on a piece of land owned by Mojalaki. The proposed solar panel array required the installation of new utility poles and the removal of mature trees to ensure sufficient sunlight. The land, which was mostly open space and was once a golf course, did not have any specific ordinance language addressing solar panel arrays. The Board, after multiple hearings and a site visit, denied the application based on concerns raised by neighbors about the project's potential impact on the scenery, property values, and previous negative experiences with other solar projects in the city.The Board's decision was upheld by the Superior Court, which agreed with the Board's first and third reasons for denial, namely that the installation of new utility poles would create an industrial look out of place in the neighborhood, and that cutting down mature trees contradicted the purpose provisions. However, the Superior Court did not uphold the Board's second basis, that the solar panel array endangered or adversely impacted the residents, due to lack of supporting facts.The Supreme Court of New Hampshire reversed the lower court's decision, ruling that the Board could not rely solely on the purpose provisions to deny the application. The court found that the purpose provisions lacked sufficient specificity for site plan review and left the proposed project to be judged by the subjective views of the Board through ad hoc decision making. The court granted the plaintiffs a builder's remedy, allowing them to proceed with their development provided they comply with all other applicable regulations. View "Mojalaki Holdings v. City of Franklin" on Justia Law

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The case centers around the dispute over the requirement for a supermajority vote in the Town of Bar Harbor's amendment to its Land Use Ordinance (LUO) concerning vacation rentals. Erica Brooks and Victoria Smith, both property owners in the town, argued that due to a 2-2 tie vote by the Planning Board on the proposed amendment, a two-thirds majority vote was necessary for the amendment to pass. The amendment, however, was enacted with a 60% majority vote. The Superior Court sided with the Town, asserting that the LUO language did not necessitate a supermajority vote.On appeal, the Maine Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the lower court's decision but did so on different grounds. The court agreed with the argument put forth by the Maine Municipal Association in an amicus brief, which asserted that irrespective of the LUO's language, under Maine statutes 21-A M.R.S. § 723(4) (2023) and 30-A M.R.S. § 2501 (2023), only a simple majority vote was required for the amendment to take effect, unless the Town's charter provided otherwise, which it did not. Therefore, the court concluded that the amendment was lawfully enacted with a simple majority vote, rendering the Town's supermajority requirement unenforceable. View "Brooks v. Town of Bar Harbor" on Justia Law

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This case involves the Temple of 1001 Buddhas and others, who own a property in Fremont, California. They appealed against the City of Fremont's decision to uphold nuisance orders relating to their property based on alleged violations of the local building code. The plaintiffs argued that the appeals process used by the City of Fremont was preempted by section 1.8.8 of the California Building Code, which requires appeals to be heard by an independent agency or board, or the city's governing body. They also raised issues about the fairness of their administrative appeal hearing.The Court of Appeal of the State of California, First Appellate District, Division Four concluded that the City of Fremont's appeals process did conflict with the state law in relation to enforcement determinations based on violations of Fremont’s Building Standards Code. However, it rejected the plaintiffs' claims about procedural unfairness and zoning violations.The court reversed part of the judgment and directed the trial court to issue appropriate mandamus relief. This included compelling Fremont to establish an appeals board or authorized agency to hear appeals, or provide for an appeal to its governing body as required by section 1.8.8 of the Building Code. Furthermore, Fremont was compelled to set aside the administrative hearing decision sustaining the nuisance determinations in NOA 3 that are premised on violations of the Fremont Building Standards Code and to provide for an appeal for those nuisance determinations. View "Temple of 1001 Buddhas v. City of Fremont" on Justia Law

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In a dispute between plaintiffs Jason Riddick, Elizabeth Riddick, and Renee Sperling, and the City of Malibu in the Court of Appeal of the State of California Second Appellate District, the court affirmed the lower court's decision. The plaintiffs sought to construct an accessory dwelling unit (ADU) attached to their existing single-family residence and applied for a permit. However, the City of Malibu denied the application, asserting that a coastal development permit (CDP) was required. The plaintiffs argued that their project was exempt from the CDP requirement under a local ordinance. The Superior Court agreed with the plaintiffs and ordered the City to process the proposed ADU as exempt from the CDP requirements. The City appealed this decision.The appellate court affirmed the lower court's decision, finding that the local ordinance did indeed exempt improvements directly attached to existing single-family residences, including ADUs, from the CDP requirement. Moreover, the court decided that the City's interpretation of the ordinance was not entitled to deference and rejected the City's contention that the ordinance language was internally inconsistent or at odds with other provisions of the statutory scheme. In a cross-appeal, the plaintiffs contended that they were entitled to a permit within 60 days of their completed application, but the court held that this issue was not properly before it on the cross-appeal because it arose from matters occurring after the final ruling. Their cross-appeal was therefore limited to the judgment, which the court affirmed in its entirety. View "Riddick v. City of Malibu" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeal of California, Fourth Appellate District, Division One, addressed an appeal from Hilltop Group, Inc., and ADJ Holdings, LLC (Hilltop Group), regarding a dispute with the County of San Diego (County), over the proposed North County Environmental Resources Project (NCER Project), a recycling facility. The Hilltop Group applied to develop the NCER Project on a parcel of land that was designated for industrial use by the County as part of its General Plan Update (GPU) in 2011. However, the project faced significant opposition from community members, homeowners associations, and the nearby City of Escondido due to concerns over potential environmental impacts.The County staff initially required Hilltop Group to conduct environmental studies. Based on these studies, the County concluded that the NCER Project qualified for a California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) exemption under section 21083.3, meaning that no further environmental review would be needed. However, this decision was appealed to the Board of Supervisors, who voted to grant the appeals and require further environmental review. The Hilltop Group challenged this decision in court, arguing that the NCER Project did not have any significant and peculiar environmental effects that were not already evaluated by the program Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the GPU.The Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Hilltop Group, finding that the Board of Supervisors did not proceed in a manner required by law when they denied the exemption and failed to limit further environmental review to those effects enumerated in Guidelines section 15183, subdivision (b)(1) through (4). The court concluded that the Board of Supervisors' findings of peculiar environmental effects in the areas of aesthetics, noise, traffic, air quality, and GHG emissions were not supported by substantial evidence in the record. Therefore, the court held that the Board of Supervisors' decision denying the CEQA exemption and requiring the preparation of an EIR constituted a prejudicial abuse of discretion. The court reversed the trial court's judgment and directed it to enter a new judgment granting the petition and issuing a peremptory writ of mandate directing the County to set aside its decision granting the administrative appeals and requiring the preparation of an EIR. View "Hilltop Group, Inc. v. County of San Diego" on Justia Law

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This case involves a dispute between a group of plaintiffs (Jason and Elizabeth Riddick, and Renee Sperling) and the City of Malibu, the Malibu City Council, and the Malibu Planning Department (collectively referred to as the City). The plaintiffs sought to add an accessory dwelling unit (ADU) to their residence but their permit application was denied by the City. The plaintiffs petitioned the trial court for relief and obtained an order directing the City to process the proposed ADU as exempt from coastal development permit (CDP) requirements. The City appealed this decision, arguing that the trial court misinterpreted the City ordinance governing exemptions from the state’s CDP requirement. The plaintiffs cross-appealed, arguing that they established a right to a permit under state ADU standards as a matter of law, and therefore the court should have ordered the permit to be issued immediately.The Court of Appeal of the State of California Second Appellate District Division Five held that the City's interpretation of the ordinance was not entitled to deference. The court interpreted the ordinance's language to include ADUs directly attached to existing residences in the class of improvements exempt from the CDP requirement. As such, the court affirmed the trial court's decision requiring the City to process the plaintiffs' permit application under state ADU standards. The court also affirmed the trial court's rejection of the plaintiffs' argument that they were automatically entitled to a permit. View "Riddick v City of Malibu" on Justia Law

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The case revolves around two developers, SAS Associates 1, LLC and Military 1121, LLC, who filed a complaint against the City Council of Chesapeake, Virginia, alleging that their equal protection rights were violated when their rezoning applications were denied by the council. The developers owned several parcels of land in Chesapeake and sought to combine them to create a 90-acre development involving housing units, commercial space, and a conservation district. Their plans required rezoning, which was denied by the Council citing community opposition and the ability to develop under existing zoning classifications. The developers filed a complaint alleging that their application was denied even though similar applications from other developers were approved, and the council's reasons for denial were irrational and arbitrary.The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit upheld the district court’s decision to dismiss the developers' claim. The Court of Appeals found that the developers failed to demonstrate that they were treated differently from others who were similarly situated and that the unequal treatment was the result of discriminatory animus. Furthermore, the court highlighted that zoning decisions are primarily the responsibility of local governments and that the Developers did not provide any valid comparators to support their claim of discriminatory treatment. The court noted the lack of any evidence to infer discriminatory intent on the part of the City Council members and ruled that the Developers' disagreement with the Council's decision does not render the Council's judgment call pretextual. The court affirmed the judgment of the district court dismissing the complaint. View "SAS Associates v. City Council of Chesapeake" on Justia Law

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In the case of Planning and Conservation League et al., v. Department of Water Resources heard in the California Court of Appeal, Third Appellate District, the court considered whether the Department of Water Resources’ (department) approval of amendments to long-term contracts with local government agencies that receive water through the State Water Project violated various laws. The amendments extended the contracts to 2085 and expanded the facilities listed as eligible for revenue bond financing. Several conservation groups and public agencies challenged the amendments, arguing they violated the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Reform Act (Delta Reform Act), and the public trust doctrine. However, the court held that the department did not violate CEQA, the Delta Reform Act, or the public trust doctrine, and therefore affirmed the trial court's judgment in favor of the department. The court found that the department used the correct baseline for its environmental impact report (EIR), properly segmented the amendments from related projects, and adequately considered the direct, indirect, and cumulative impacts of the amendments. The court also held that the department adequately described the project and considered a reasonable range of alternatives, and that recirculation of the EIR was not required. The court rejected arguments that the amendments violated the Delta Reform Act or the public trust doctrine, finding that they did not impact "water that is imbued with the public trust." The court concluded that the department acted within its authority in approving and executing the amendments. View "Planning and Conservation League v. Dept. of Water Resources" on Justia Law