Justia Zoning, Planning & Land Use Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Idaho Supreme Court - Civil
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Plaintiffs Kiki Leslie Tidwell (“Tidwell”) and the Madison Jean Tidwell Trust opposed an affordable housing project on land dedicated to Blaine County, Idaho for public use. Plaintiffs contended the Final Plat contemplated the land be held for open space and recreational use, but Blaine County contracted with ARCH Community Housing Trust (“ARCH”) and Blaine County Housing Authority (“BCHA”) to donate a parcel ("Parcel C") to BCHA to construct community housing. Plaintiffs filed a complaint against the County, ARCH, and BCHA (collectively “the County”) seeking declaratory relief, injunctive relief, and damages to Tidwell under 42 U.S.C. 1983. The district court ultimately dismissed Tidwell’s section 1983 claim, but the district court allowed Plaintiffs to pursue the remaining claims, despite the County’s contention that Plaintiffs lacked standing to bring the complaint. Following a series of unsuccessful dispositive motions seeking summary and partial summary judgment on both sides, the case proceeded to court trial, where Plaintiffs prevailed on both claims for declaratory and injunctive relief. The district court denied Tidwell’s request for attorney fees. The County appealed, and Tidwell cross-appealed the dismissal of her section 1983 claim and both Plaintiffs appealed the district court’s denial of attorney fees. On appeal, the County again raised its standing argument, contending Plaintiffs had no particularized interest in the parcel and suffered no particularized injury. If Plaintiffs had standing, the County claimed the district court erred by concluding the Final Plat was ambiguous and by permitting extrinsic evidence, including testimony of what the parties intended to construct on the parcel when the land was transferred. The Plaintiffs cross-appealed, with Tidwell alleging the district court erred in dismissing her procedural and substantive due process claims brought under 42 U.S.C. 1983. Both Plaintiffs also contended the district court abused its discretion in denying their claim for attorney fees. The Idaho Supreme Court vacated the district court's judgment because Plaintiffs lacked standing to assert their claims. Costs, but not attorney fees, were awarded on appeal to the County. View "Tidwell, et al. v. Blaine County, et al." on Justia Law

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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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Appellant North West Neighborhood Association challenged a district court’s decision upholding Boise City Council’s approval of three interrelated land use applications. The Idaho Supreme Court agreed with Appellant that Boise City Council failed to provide a reasoned statement explaining its approval of the applications as required by section 67-6535(2) of the Local Land Use Planning Act. The Court remanded this matter to the district court with instructions to set aside Boise City Council’s actions and remand to the Council for the adoption of a reasoned statement. View "NW Neighborhood Assoc v. City of Boise" on Justia Law

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The Day family and Trust B of the Donald M. Day and Marjorie D. Day Family Trust appealed a district court’s decision to grant the Idaho Transportation Department’s (“ITD”) motion for involuntary dismissal. ITD cross-appealed, arguing that the district court erred in denying its request for attorney fees under Idaho Code section 12-120(3). In 1961, the Days learned that access to their property via public highways would be affected when the state highway converted to a controlled-access federal interstate highway, then known as Interstate 80. The Days entered into a preliminary agreement with the Idaho Department of Highways (“IDH,” predecessor to ITD) that allowed IDH to take possession of approximately nine acres of the Day Property for construction of the interstate. In 1967, the Days entered into a right-of-way contract with IDH in furtherance of the 1961 Agreement. The 1967 Contract included an agreement for IDH to provide access to a future frontage road from I-80 to the Day Property. In the 1990s, the State began construction on the Isaacs Canyon Interchange near the Day Property. The Interchange Project eliminated a portion of the original 50-foot right of way that provided access to the Day Property under the 1967 Contract. Because of this, ITD provided replacement access easements to the Day Property. These replacement access easements were located southwest of the Interstate. The Days informed ITD the family was dissatisfied with the replacement easements and did not think they afforded the Days equivalent access to what they had prior to the construction of the Interchange. The Days sold the property to Edmonds Groves Land Holdings Inc. (“Groves”) in 2005, with the purchase price secured by a mortgage held by the Day Family. Groves later defaulted in its mortgage agreement with the Days during the recession in December of 2008. As a result, ownership of the Day Property reverted to the Day Family by way of deed in lieu of foreclosure. After the Days reacquired the property, they had difficulty obtaining title insurance because of concerns that “the access easement was owned by ITD and [the Days] did not have any statement that the easement was for the benefit of the Days.” They sued alleging inverse condemnation, and breach of contract. Finding no reversible error in the district court's dismissal, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed. View "Day v. Idaho Transportation Department" on Justia Law

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Petitioners-appellants the Reeses and their neighbors challenged the Blackfoot City Council’s decision to approve a Planned Unit Development (“PUD”) in a “Residential Ranchette” zoning district. The district court dismissed their petition for judicial review after holding the Reeses did not demonstrate prejudice to a substantial right. After review, the Idaho Supreme Court found no reversible error and affirmed the district court's decision. View "Reese v. City of Blackfoot" on Justia Law

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A group of pro se aggrieved property owners dubbed “Riverton Citizens Group,” timely filed a petition for judicial review challenging the Bingham County Commissioners’ (“the County”) decision to grant a zone change request. The caption of the petition named “Riverton Citizens Group” as the pro se petitioner, but the body of the petition then named the aggrieved property owners individually as the parties petitioning the County’s decision, while also providing that they were proceeding pro se under the title of “Riverton Citizens Group.” The petition was not signed by any of the aggrieved property owners. Instead, it was signed by a non-petitioner who purported to be the “agent” for “Riverton Citizens Group.” The purported “agent” was not licensed to practice law in Idaho. After the district court entered a notice of intent to dismiss the petition because Riverton Citizens Group was not represented by counsel, the aggrieved property owners attempted to correct the petition through five subsequent filings, each signed by only one of the aggrieved property owners. The district court subsequently issued a written decision, concluding the petition was “improperly filed” and therefore was not a “petition” that invoked the district court’s subject matter jurisdiction under Idaho Rule of Civil Procedure 84(n). Because the time for filing a new “petition” under I.R.C.P. 84(n) had passed, the district court dismissed the case with prejudice—reasoning it no longer had jurisdiction. A licensed attorney did not appear on behalf of the aggrieved property owners until after the district court’s decision to dismiss. The Idaho Supreme Court vacated the district court’s order: “the errors in the caption and the omitted signatures were not fatal or so defective as to render the petition a nullity or ‘improperly filed’ such that the district court had no subject matter jurisdiction. Instead, these errors may be corrected through a filing or amended petition on remand that relates back to the date of the timely petition.” View "Riverton Citizens Group v. Bingham County Commissioners" 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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The Jefferson County, Idaho Board of Commissioners (“the County”) granted Appellant Tina Gilgen a conditional use permit that allowed her to place a mobile home on real property she owned with her husband, Kelly Gilgen. The Gilgen property fell within the City of Ririe’s area of impact (“AOI”). The City of Ririe (“the City”) petitioned for judicial review, claiming the County erroneously approved Gilgen’s application by applying Jefferson County zoning ordinances within the AOI instead of City ordinances, which would have resulted in a denial of Gilgen’s application. The City relied on an area of impact agreement between Jefferson County and the City of Ririe, in which the County specifically agreed to apply the City’s ordinances to property located within the AOI (“AOI Agreement”). After the County filed a notice of non-objection, the district court entered an order granting the City’s petition, reversing the County’s original decision, and remanding the matter to the County. On remand, the County issued an amended decision that denied Gilgen’s application for a conditional use permit. Several months later, Gilgen filed three motions for reconsideration of the district court’s order remanding the case, alleging the district court did not have jurisdiction to consider the City’s petition. Each of the motions was denied. The Idaho Supreme Court determined the City did not have standing to petition the district court for review of the County’s decision. The trial court’s judgment was vacated. View "City of Ririe v. Gilgen" on Justia Law

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This appeal centered around the Idaho Department of Water Resources' (“IDWR”) denial of Application 83160, brought by Jeffrey and Chana Duffin (“Duffin”), to transfer the licensed ground water right 35-7667 to a different parcel of land. During the appeal of this case, 3G AG LLC (“the LLC”) “purchased from Duffin the property where water right 35-7667 - the water right subject to Transfer No. 8316 which is the subject of this appeal - is located.” As a result of the transfer of ownership, the LLC sought to substitute itself for Duffin. Because there was no objection to the substitution, it was allowed. IDWR denied the transfer because, among other reasons, approving it would cause an “enlargement” in the use of water as proscribed by Idaho Code section 42-222(1). On judicial review, the district court agreed with the denial and affirmed. Finding no error in the district court's judgment, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the district court. View "3G AG LLC v. IDWR" on Justia Law

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S Bar Ranch owned approximately 3000 acres of land in rural Elmore County, Idaho. S Bar purchased the land in 2015. There were very few structures on S Bar’s property, save for an airplane hangar that included a five-hundred square-foot apartment. S Bar’s address was listed in Sun Valley, Idaho, and its principal, Chris Stephens, used the property for recreational purposes. Cat Creek Energy, LLC, an Idaho company managed by John Faulkner, owned and managed more than 23,000 acres of land in Elmore County near Anderson Ranch reservoir. Faulkner, on behalf of his other companies, leased land to Cat Creek to develop the project at issue in this dispute. In late 2014 and early 2015, Cat Creek began the process of obtaining conditional use permits (“CUPs”) for a proposed alternative energy development (“the project”) in Elmore County. As initially proposed, the project had five components: a 50,000 acre-foot reservoir with hydroelectric turbines, up to 39 wind turbines, approximately 174,000 photovoltaic solar panels, electrical transmission lines, and an onsite power substation. Cat Creek sought to build the project on approximately 23,000 acres of land that it had leased near Anderson Ranch Reservoir. In 2019, the district court issued a Memorandum Decision and Order, affirming the Board’s decisions with respect to the CUPs. The district court found that S Bar only had standing to challenge the CUPs relating to wind turbines, electric transmission lines, and the on-site substation. The district court also reiterated its prior oral ruling that a 2017 CUP Order was a final agency action and that S Bar’s petition for judicial review of that order was untimely. With regard to the development agreement and a 2018 CUP Amendment, the district court concluded that the Board did not err in a manner specified by Idaho Code section 67-5279 and that S Bar had not shown that its substantial rights had been prejudiced. S Bar appealed, but finding no reversible error in the district court's judgment, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed judgment in favor of Cat Creek. View "S Bar Ranch v. Elmore County" on Justia Law