Justia Zoning, Planning & Land Use Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Idaho Supreme Court - Civil
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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

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This case arose out of a dispute over provisions in a written contract for sewer drainage and treatment services between Groveland Water and Sewer District (“GWSD”) and the City of Blackfoot (“the City”). Individuals living outside city limits, or entities located outside city limits, but within GWSD, were required to sign a “consent to annex” form in order for the City to agree to connect them to sewer services. The dispute ultimately made its way to district court, where GWSD alleged that the City’s requirement violated GWSD’s jurisdictional sovereignty under Idaho Code section 42-3212. GWSD’s complaint against the City sought: (1) a declaratory judgment; (2) a finding of anticipatory breach of contract; and (3) injunctive relief. On motions from the parties, the district court granted GWSD’s request for preliminary injunction and for partial summary judgment on the anticipatory breach claim. After further motions, the district court granted summary judgment to GWSD on the remaining claims. The City appeals. Finding no reversible error, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed the district court’s decisions. View "Groveland Water and Sewer Dist v. City of Blackfoot" on Justia Law

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Stephan Byrd and Erika Mullins jointly filed an application for an encroachment permit with the Idaho Department of Lands to add boat lifts to their existing two-family dock on Priest Lake. Neighbors Cal Larson and Steven Coffey objected the application, arguing that Coffey owned a strip of land between the ordinary high water mark of Priest Lake and the waterward boundary lines of the Appellants’ properties. Following an administrative hearing, the Department of Lands denied the encroachment permit upon concluding that the record failed to show by a preponderance of the evidence that Byrd and Mullins were littoral property owners with corresponding littoral rights (a key requirement to build or enlarge encroachments on the lake under Idaho’s Lake Protection Act). Finding no reversible error in that finding, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed the district court's judgment upholding the Department's order. View "Byrd v. Idaho State Brd. of Land Commissioners" on Justia Law

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Dennis and Sherrilyn Munden (the Mundens) and their limited liability company, Coyote Creek Ranch, LLC, purchased property in Bannock County, Idaho in 2012 (the Upper Property), and acquired adjoining property (the Lower Property) in 2014. The Mundens’ ranch was accessible by a gravel road (the Road) which left a paved public road before crossing the Lower Property. It then traversed a neighbor’s parcel to the Upper Property, before exiting to the north. The Mundens began ranching on the Lower Property in 2013 and started construction of a barn and living quarters on the Upper Property in 2015 after obtaining a three-year building permit. In 2017, the Mundens were informed by the Bannock County Commissioners that, pursuant to a 2006 county ordinance, the Road had been designated by the Commissioners for “snowmobile use only” between December 15 and April 15. All other vehicular use was prohibited during this timeframe. In January 2019, Bannock County passed an ordinance which gave discretion to the Bannock County Public Works Director (the Director) to determine when snowmobile trails would be closed to all but snowmobile use. Subsequently, the Director decided to close the Road for the 2018–19 winter season. The Mundens filed a complaint in district court against Bannock County, bringing several claims involving the Road, and obtained an ex parte temporary restraining order (TRO) to prohibit enforcement of the 2019 ordinance. The County moved to dissolve the TRO, which the district court granted. The district court then awarded attorney fees to the County. The Mundens amended their complaint to add their ranching operation, Coyote Creek Ranch, LLC, as a plaintiff, to which the County responded with an answer and counterclaim, alleging that the Road was a public right-of-way with no winter maintenance that had been designated as a snowmobile trail by the 2006 ordinance. The County then moved to dismiss the amended complaint for failure to state a claim. The district court granted this motion, concluding that because the claims turned on a legal determination of the Road’s status, the Mundens were required by Idaho Code section 40-208(7) to first petition for validation or abandonment proceedings with the Board of County Commissioners before they could bring a lawsuit. The district court accordingly entered a judgment dismissing the plaintiffs’ amended complaint in its entirety. Ultimately, the district court entered a judgment certified under IRCP 54(b)(1) authorizing an immediate appeal, and the Mundens timely appealed. The only error the Idaho Supreme Court found in review of this case was that the district court erred in issuing a writ of execution before there was a final appealable judgment. Judgement was affirmed in all other respects. View "Munden v. Bannock County" on Justia Law

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John and Deborah Rouwenhorst, on behalf of Desert Foothills Wet, LLC, and Desert Foothills Dry, LLC, submitted a rezoning application seeking to reclassify 696 acres in Gem County (the Property) from A-1, Prime Agriculture to A-2, Rural Transitional Agriculture. Although the Gem County Zoning Commission recommended approval of the rezone, the Board of County Commissioners denied the application. After unsuccessfully moving for reconsideration, the Rouwenhorsts petitioned for judicial review. The district court reversed the Board’s denial of the rezoning application and awarded attorney fees and costs to the Rouwenhorsts. Gem County appealed. The Idaho Supreme Court reversed, finding the Board's decision was not arbitrary or capricious because it applied the standards set forth in the Gem County Code for rezoning applications, and was supported by substantial evidence. The district court's decision was reversed, and the attorney fee award vacated. View "Rouwenhorst v. Gem County" on Justia Law

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Citizens Against Linscott/Interstate Asphalt Plant (“CAL”) challenged a conditional use permit (“CUP”) issued by the Bonner County, Idaho Board of Commissioners (“the County”). The CUP was based on a recent amendment to Bonner County zoning ordinances (“the Amendment”) and authorized Interstate Concrete and Asphalt Company (“Interstate”) to operate an asphalt batch plant within Frank and Carol Linscott’s gravel mine in Sagle, Idaho. In its petition for judicial review by the Bonner County district court, CAL challenged both the validity of the Amendment and the County’s decision to issue the CUP. The district court determined that CAL had standing to file its petition for judicial review of the CUP and that CAL had timely filed its petition. However, the district court concluded that it could not declare the Amendment invalid in a proceeding for judicial review under Idaho Local Land Use Planning Act (“LLUPA”) and the Idaho Administrative Procedure Act (“IDAPA”). Accordingly, the district court upheld the County’s decision to grant the CUP, giving the County deference in applying its own land-use ordinances. During the pendency of this appeal, CAL filed an action for declaratory relief before another district court judge to have the Amendment declared void. In that proceeding, the County admitted that the Amendment had been adopted without proper public notice and stipulated to a judgment and order declaring the Amendment void. On appeal of the administrative decision to the Idaho Supreme Court, CAL argued, among other things, that the subsequent voiding of the Amendment also invalidated the CUP or that the CUP was not issued in conformity with Bonner County zoning laws. After review, the Supreme Court affirmed in part, and reversed in part. The Court found the CUP authorizing the relocation of the Interstate asphalt batch plant to the Linscotts’ gravel mine was invalid because it was based on a void amendment to Bonner County Code. Further, the County acted in a manner that was arbitrary and capricious in refusing to address the gravel pit’s compliance with the nonconforming use provisions of BCRC. View "Citizens Against Linscott v. Bonner County Board of Commissioners" on Justia Law

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At the heart of this case was a highway right-of-way proposed and approved in 1908 by the Kootenai County Board of Commissioners (the Board), then purportedly abandoned in 1910. This appeal arose from a decision of the East Side Highway District, the Board’s successor-in-interest, in which it declined to validate this highway right-of-way. In 2017, Gloria Palmer, Trustee of the Palmer Family Trust (the Trust) requested that the District validate the right-of-way. This was opposed by Rande and Debra Warner, and Steffen and Allison Teichmann, over whose land the purported right-of-way traversed. The Warners sought to have the right-of-way abandoned. The Highway District initiated road validation proceedings, after which it declined to validate "Leonard Road No. 2." After this decision, the Highway District granted a motion for reconsideration and reopened the public hearing. After hearing additional evidence and public comments, the Highway District again declined to validate the purported right-of-way. The Trust petitioned the district court for judicial review. The district court affirmed the Highway District’s decision. The Trust again appealed. Finding no reversible error or abuse of discretion, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed the district court. View "Palmer v. ESHD" on Justia Law

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This appeal arose from a dispute over the construction of a ready-mix concrete manufacturing facility in Teton County, Idaho. In 2007, Burns Holdings entered into a development agreement with Teton County regarding property owned by Burns Concrete. The development agreement required the construction of a permanent concrete manufacturing facility on the property within 18 months of the execution of the agreement, but allowed operation of a temporary facility in the meantime. Burns Concrete, the concrete company that would operate the facility, and Burns Holdings, a holding company that was to eventually take title to the property, wanted to build a permanent facility that was 75-feet tall, but the applicable zoning ordinance limited building heights to 45-feet. The County denied Burns Holdings’ application for a conditional use permit and its subsequent application for a variance to exceed the height limit. The Burns Companies operated the temporary facility for several years but never constructed the permanent facility. In 2012, the County sent written notice revoking the authority to operate the temporary facility and demanding that the temporary facility be removed. The Burns Companies subsequently filed this action, stating claims for breach of contract, declaratory judgment, and unjust enrichment. The County counterclaimed, alleging breach of contract and seeking declaratory judgment for the removal of the temporary facility. This began a multi-year period of litigation that included two appeals to the Idaho Supreme Court, each followed by a remand to the district court. This case has returned to the Supreme Court again, this time as a result of the parties’ cross-appeals of the district court’s grant of partial summary judgment in favor of the Burns Companies on their breach of contract claim, its award of $1,049.250.90 in damages, and its award of attorney fees. The Supreme Court affirmed the district court’s grant of partial summary judgment on the issue of breach of contract, but vacated the district court’s judgment for a recalculation of damages. In its recalculation of damages, the district court was instructed to reverse its reduction of damages by the difference between the Temporary Facility’s sales and cost of sales. The Supreme Court vacated the district court’s award of attorney fees and remanded the matter for an explanation of the district court’s reduction of requested attorney fees. View "Burns Concrete v. Teton County" on Justia Law

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In 2015, the Kenworthys began construction on a two-story boat garage on Lake Coeur d’Alene. The Newtons’ property overlooked the location of the Kenworthys’ boat garage. The new structure was much larger than the original boat garage and had a second floor. After construction began, the Newtons took issue with the size of the new structure, and sued the Idaho Department of Lands (IDL) and the Kenworthys’ related family entities (the LLC Respondents), asserting claims of public and private nuisance and requesting injunctive relief to mandate the removal of the offending structure. The parties filed cross-motions for summary judgment. The district court held that the Newtons failed to establish that the boat garage was illegal and that their nuisance claims failed as a matter of law. The district court subsequently entered judgments in favor of IDL and the LLC Respondents. After the district court denied the Newtons’ motion for reconsideration, the Newtons appealed. Finding no reversible error, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed the district court. View "Newton v. MJK/BJK MBK Lake" on Justia Law