Justia Zoning, Planning & Land Use Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in North Dakota Supreme Court
Johnson v. City of Burlington
Alton Johnson appealed a judgment denying his variance application. In the 1970s Johnson purchased land in Burlington, ND, and in 1973, opened an auto body shop. The auto body shop was zoned as a C-1 residential sometime after the shop was built. In 1989, a fire damaged the building. After building repairs in 1991, Johnson leased part of the property. Johnson began to use another location for his auto body business. In 2012, Johnson sold his business at the second location. Property owners neighboring the property raised concerns about the use of the property. In May 2013, the city attorney issued an opinion regarding the body shop, stating it “was a non-conforming use when the zoning ordinance was initially passed, so it was essentially ‘grandfathered in’” and when the auto body shop’s use was discontinued, and the current renters went into the building, the auto body shop was no longer “grandfathered in” and would need approval by the planning commission. Johnson operated the auto body shop at the location of the property at issue subsequent to the sale of the second location. In October 2013, Johnson moved for a temporary injunction and ex parte restraining order to allow him to continue to use his auto body shop, which was granted by the district court. In October 2016, Johnson requested a variance from the City. When it was denied, he appealed, arguing the City’s findings were arbitrary, capricious, unreasonable, and not supported by substantial evidence. The North Dakota Supreme Court concluded after review it was not arbitrary, capricious, or unreasonable for the City to deny Johnson’s variance application and there was substantial evidence to support the City’s decision. Accordingly, the Court affirmed judgment. View "Johnson v. City of Burlington" on Justia Law
Aftem Lake Developments Inc. v. Riverview Homeowners Assoc.
Gerald Aftem and Aftem Lake Developments Inc. (Aftem) appealed a district court judgment dismissing its lawsuit against the Riverview Homeowners Association. In 1998, Aftem purchased 10.69 acres of real property in Mountrail County. Aftem subdivided part of the property into three platted subdivisions; Arrowhead Point, Bridgeview, and Riverview Estates, collectively referred to as the Riverview Subdivisions. Each subdivision plat stated the roads and public rights of way were dedicated to the public. In 2015, the Riverview HOA developed and built a water utility system for the subdivisions. Portions of the water system were located underneath the platted subdivision roads. Aftem sued the Riverview HOA for trespass and negligence, alleging it did not have permission to run its water lines underneath the subdivision roads to which Aftem claimed ownership. Aftem claimed it owned the roads within the subdivision because, although the County Commission approved the plats, the County did not maintain the roads. Riverview HOA denied the allegations, claiming the County Commission’s approval of the subdivision plats divested Aftem of ownership in the subdivision roads. The district court granted Riverview HOA’s motion and concluded Aftem had no ownership interest in the subdivision roads. The North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed, finding Aftem’s subdivision plats satisfied N.D.C.C. section§ 40-50.1-01, 40-50.1-03, and 40-50.1-04. "The plats dedicated the use of the subdivision roads and public rights of way to the public forever. Thus, under N.D.C.C. 40-50.1-05, Aftem’s dedication of the subdivision roads and public rights of way divested Aftem of ownership in the roads." View "Aftem Lake Developments Inc. v. Riverview Homeowners Assoc." on Justia Law
City of Fargo v. Wieland
Karen Wieland appeals from a judgment allowing the city of Fargo to take her property for flood mitigation purposes and awarding her $939,044.32 in just compensation, attorney fees, costs, and statutory expenses. Because the district court did not misapply the law in concluding the taking of Wieland’s property was necessary for a public use, the North Dakota Supreme Court affirm the judgment. View "City of Fargo v. Wieland" on Justia Law
Wachter Development, Inc. v. Martin, et al.
Andrea and Kevin Martin appealed a district court judgment ordering the removal of a fence on their property after finding the fence violated restrictive covenants recorded against the property. The Martins argued the restrictive covenants did not apply to their property because they agreed to purchase the property before the covenants went into effect. They also claimed the restrictive covenants were unconscionable. Finding no reversible error, the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed. View "Wachter Development, Inc. v. Martin, et al." on Justia Law
Montana-Dakota Utilities Co. v. Behm
Montana-Dakota Utilities Co. (“MDU”) appealed, and Lavern Behm cross-appealed a judgment dismissing MDU’s eminent domain action. Because the North Dakota Supreme Court determined the district court misapplied North Dakota law in concluding a taking was not necessary for a public use, the Supreme Court reversed and remanded for trial on eminent domain damages to be awarded to Behm. View "Montana-Dakota Utilities Co. v. Behm" on Justia Law
Twin City Technical LLC, et al. v. Williams County, et al.
Williams County appealed a the district court’s determination that its oil and gas leases with Twin City Technical LLC, Three Horns Energy, LLC, Prairie of the South LLC, and Irish Oil & Gas Inc. (“Lessees”), were void because the County failed to comply with the public advertising requirements for the lease of public land as provided in N.D.C.C. ch. 38-09. The Lessees sued the County in September 2015, about three and a half years after executing the leases. The North Dakota Supreme Court found record showed the Lessees received a June 2013 letter informing them of potential issues with the County’s mineral ownership. The Lessees contacted the County about the ownership issues by letter in April 2015. The County submitted an affidavit from its auditor stating bonus payments had already been spent and repayment would cause great hardship. Viewing the evidence and reasonable inferences drawn from the evidence in a light favorable to the County, the Supreme Court concluded there were genuine issues of material fact as to whether laches applied to bar the Lessees’ claim for repayment of the bonuses. The Supreme Court reversed that part of the judgment and remand for proceedings related to whether the Lessees’ delay in bringing their lawsuit was unreasonable, and whether the County was prejudiced by the delay. The Court affirmed as to all other issues. View "Twin City Technical LLC, et al. v. Williams County, et al." on Justia Law
Lincoln Land Development, LLP v. City of Lincoln
The City of Lincoln appealed a district court’s amended judgment awarding damages and attorney fees for taking land owned by Lincoln Land Development, LLP. In the mid-1980s the City of Lincoln established a narrow, two-tire-track dirt road over private property to access its wastewater treatment site. In 2005 Lincoln Land Development purchased the property. In 2011 the City improved the dirt road by raising the road profile, widening the road top, constructing ditches, installing culverts and completing gravel resurfacing to standardize the width and height of the road. The City did not obtain permission from Lincoln Land Development before commencing the improvement project and did not initiate eminent domain proceedings. Lincoln Land Development sued the City in February 2015 for inverse condemnation, trespass and nuisance relating to the City’s 2011 improvement of the road. Lincoln Land Development moved to amend its complaint to assert claims relating to increased surface water drainage and damages caused by stormwater retention. The City denied a taking occurred and raised affirmative defenses, including claiming a public easement through prescriptive use, the existence of an express or implied easement, an easement by estoppel, or a government mandate required the project. The district court found Lincoln Land Development’s claims of nuisance and trespass were time-barred and dismissed them with prejudice in March 2015. In September 2017 a bench trial was held and claims based on increased surface water drainage, wetlands and stormwater retention ponds were dismissed. At the conclusion of the bench trial, the district court found that the City established a prescriptive easement in the pre-2011 road and that a taking occurred when additional property was used in the 2011 road improvement. A jury subsequently determined the value of the taking was $8,924.00 plus interest. The district court subsequently granted Lincoln Land Development’s motion for attorney fees of $122,705.50. The North Dakota Supreme Court found the district court did not err in determining that the pre-2011 two-tire-track road was under the protection of a prescriptive easement and that a taking occurred with the 2011 road improvement project. Lincoln Land Development was entitled to costs and fees. The Court therefore affirmed the amended judgment, the taking decision, and award of attorney fees. The matter was remanded for consideration of whether Lincoln Land Development should recover attorney fees on appeal. View "Lincoln Land Development, LLP v. City of Lincoln" on Justia Law
Becker, et al. v. Burleigh County, et al.
Attas Boutrous and other landowners appeal from a judgment dismissing their action against Burleigh County, its Water Resource District, and Lincoln Township to halt a flood protection project in the Fox Island subdivision in Bismarck, denying their request for a preliminary injunction, dismissing their inverse condemnation action, and ordering them to pay Burleigh County and Lincoln Township $18,756.75 in costs and disbursements. Because we conclude the district court correctly applied the law and there are no genuine issues of material fact, we affirm the judgment. View "Becker, et al. v. Burleigh County, et al." on Justia Law
Banderet,et al. vs. Sargent Count Water Resource District, et al.
Robert and Laurie Banderet and other plaintiffs (“Landowners”) appealed a judgment dismissing their complaint seeking declaratory and injunctive relief against the Sargent County Water Resource District and Ransom County Water Resource District relating to a drainage project. The Landowners had sought a judgment declaring: (1) the Drain 11 project could not be funded as maintenance within six years at $4 per acre being assessed to the Landowners; (2) the Landowners were entitled to a hearing and vote on the project; and (3) benefited properties in Ransom County had to be included in the Drain 11 assessment district. The Landowners requested a permanent injunction restraining the Sargent County Water Resource District from proceeding with the Drain 11 project. The North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed, concluding the Landowners were not entitled to equitable relief, and the district court properly dismissed the Landowners’ complaint. View "Banderet,et al. vs. Sargent Count Water Resource District, et al." on Justia Law
Lenertz v. City of Minot N.D.
Allen Lenertz appealed the dismissal of his claim for inverse condemnation against the City of Minot and awarding the City costs and disbursements. Between 2013 and 2014 the City installed a paved street and upgraded the storm water system adjacent to Lenertz's commercial property in southwest Minot. Lenertz's property subsequently suffered three flooding events. In 2016 Lenertz sued the City for inverse condemnation, alleging the City's actions in constructing the street and storm sewer system caused past and future flooding of his property and resulted in a total taking of his property. The City denied a taking occurred and raised affirmative defenses. The North Dakota Supreme Court concluded the district court: (1) did not err in ruling Lenertz established only a partial taking of his property; (2) did not abuse its discretion in denying his proposed expert witness's testimony; and (3) did not err in granting the City judgment under N.D.R.Civ.P. 50. The court did abuse its discretion, however, in awarding the City costs and disbursements. View "Lenertz v. City of Minot N.D." on Justia Law