Justia Zoning, Planning & Land Use Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in North Dakota Supreme Court
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The dispute concerned lots, streets, and alleys within or near the City of Glen Ullin. The lots, streets, and alleys were all surveyed and platted, but undeveloped. The Park District owned or had authority over the lots. The City had authority over the streets and alleys, which ran adjacent to and between the lots. The Schirados owned land near both the Park District property and the City property. The Shirados appealed after the district court granted summary judgment in favor of the City and the Park District, concluding the case was res judicata due to a prior lawsuit between the Park District and the Schirados. The court entered judgment enjoining the Schirados from placing any obstruction or personal property on certain City lands and on certain Park District lands and awarded attorney’s fees. After its review, the North Dakota Supreme Court concluded the court properly applied the doctrine of res judicata to the Park District lands, which were the subject of the prior lawsuit, but it erred when it applied res judicata to the City lands, which were not included in the prior lawsuit. The Court therefore affirmed in part, reversed in part, vacated the award of attorney’s fees and costs, and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "City of Glen Ullin, et al. v. Schirado, et al." on Justia Law

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The Board of University and School Lands of the State of North Dakota, the State Engineer, and Statoil Oil & Gas LP appeal from a judgment determining William Wilkinson and the other plaintiffs owned mineral interests in certain North Dakota land. Although the judgment was not appealable because it did not dispose of all claims against all parties, the North Dakota Supreme Court exercised its supervisory jurisdiction to review the summary judgment. The Court concluded the district court did not err in concluding N.D.C.C. ch. 61-33.1 applied and the disputed mineral interests were above the ordinary high water mark of the historical Missouri riverbed channel, but the court erred in quieting title and failing to comply with the statutory process. Therefore, the Court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Wilkinson, et al. v. Board of University and School Lands of the State of N.D." on Justia Law

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Deborah Holter appealed a district court judgment dismissing her appeal of the Mandan Board of City Commissioners’ decision to specially assess her property for street improvements. In July 2017, the Mandan Special Assessment Commission published a notice of a meeting in August 2017 that contained the items of expense of the improvement, allocation of a portion of the cost to the City, and the net amount to be assessed. The notice provided a list of properties found to be especially benefited by the construction performed in the project and the amounts to be assessed. In August 2017, the Special Assessment Commission approved the proposed assessments against the especially benefited properties and moved the decision to the Board for its consideration. The Board approved the special assessments in October 2017. Holter owned three undeveloped residential lots in the improvement district. Each lot was assessed $15,928.40, for a total of $47,785.20. Holter objected to the assessments against her properties, claiming they exceeded the value of the benefits they received. She also argued the method for determining the assessments was unfair because corner lot owners and non-corner lot owners were not treated equally. When unsuccessful at the district court, Holter raised the same issue to the North Dakota Supreme Court, which found the City did not act arbitrarily, capriciously, or unreasonably in determining the benefits and assessments to Holter’s properties. View "Holter v. City of Mandan" on Justia Law

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In 2019, the district court entered a judgment awarding Karen Wieland $850,000 as just compensation for the taking of her property. The following day, the City of Fargo deposited $850,000 with the Cass County Clerk of Court. In March 2019, the district court amended the judgment to include an additional $89,044.32 for attorney fees and costs. That same day, the City deposited an additional $89,044.32 with the Cass County Clerk of Court. Wieland appealed the amended judgment. In her prior appeal, Wieland argued the eminent domain action should have been dismissed because the City failed to pay or deposit post-judgment interest subsequent to the City depositing the full amount of the judgment in court. The North Dakota Supreme Court concluded there was no authority that required dismissal of an eminent domain action upon a political subdivision’s failure to pay or deposit post-judgment interest subsequent to the deposit of the full amount of the judgment in court. The Supreme Court affirmed the district court’s amended judgment awarding Wieland $939,044.32 for just compensation and attorney’s fees in the eminent domain action; the decision was limited to Wieland's request dismiss the proceedings in their entirety. In that prior appeal, the Supreme Court noted a potential issue of whether a landowner who appeals a judgment in eminent domain proceedings, without accepting or withdrawing deposited funds, was entitled to post-judgment interest subsequent to the deposit of the full amount of the judgment in court. Wieland did not raise that issue in her appeal, so the Supreme Court declined to opine on it. Following the issuance of the Supreme Court's mandate, Wieland moved for payment of the original amended judgment that had been deposited by the City in court, plus any accrued post-judgment interest. The district court denied the request for post-judgment interest after determining the accrual of interest was suspended once the City deposited the original amended judgment amount with the court and that it did not have the authority to further amend the judgment after the Supreme Court’s affirmance of the original amended judgment without remand on the prior appeal. Wieland appealed the denial of her request, and raised the issue the Supreme Court left unaddressed in the prior appeal. The Supreme Court determined that absent a absent a statutory provision to the contrary, the accrual of interest was suspended by the City’s deposit of the judgment amount. Therefore, the district court's order denying Wieland's request for post-judgment interest was affirmed. View "City of Fargo v. Wieland" on Justia Law

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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