Justia Zoning, Planning & Land Use Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Oregon Supreme Court
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At issue before the Oregon Supreme Court in this case wa whether the hydroelectric water right for a hydroelectric power plant that has not operated for 26 years was subject to conversion to an in-stream water right, upon a finding that such conversion would not injure other existing water rights. The holder of a hydroelectric water right stopped operating the associated hydroelectric power plant in eastern Oregon (the “project”) in 1995 and the project was decommissioned; afterward, the holder leased the water right to the state for use as an in-stream water right. That lease was periodically renewed over the last 21 years, and the Oregon Water Resources Department (WRD) never commenced the process for converting the hydroelectric water right to an in-stream water right. Whether the water right here should have been subject to conversion depended on the meaning and interaction of two statutes: ORS 543A.305 (the “conversion statute”), and ORS 537.348 (the “lease statute”). Petitioner WaterWatch of Oregon argued that, under the conversion statute, the hydroelectric right was subject to conversion because no water was used under that right for hydroelectric purposes since 1995, and, therefore, use has ceased. WRD and the current holder of that hydroelectric water right, Warm Springs Hydro LLC contended the right was not subject to conversion because, even though the water has not been used for hydroelectric purposes, the water has been used for in-stream purposes during the periodic leases of the water right to the state under the lease statute. Therefore, respondents contended, use did not entirely cease in any given five-year period. The Supreme Court agreed with WaterWatch and held that the hydroelectric water right now held by Warm Springs Hydro was subject to conversion to an in-stream water right under the terms of ORS 543A.305. The Court therefore reversed the Court of Appeals’ decision and the judgment of the circuit court, and remanded to the circuit court for further proceedings. View "WaterWatch of Oregon v. Water Resources Dept." on Justia Law

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Following a bench trial, the trial court determined that the residents of a small neighborhood (or their predecessors) who since 1942, used a railroad crossing on a private roadway to access their homes, had established a prescriptive easement over the crossing. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that the residents could not take advantage of the “presumption of adversity” long recognized by the Oregon Supreme Court because their use of the crossing was not likely to put the landowner on notice of the adverse nature of the use. The Supreme Court concluded that the presumption of adversity applied to the residents’ claims and that no evidence rebutted that presumption. Accordingly, the Supreme Court reversed the decision of the Court of Appeals and affirmed the judgment of the trial court. View "Albany & Eastern Railroad Co. v. Martell" on Justia Law

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The dispute in this case arose from an Environmental Quality Commission order, which concluded that petitioners were persons “controlling” an inactive landfill site and imposed liability on them for failing to per- form the statutory closure requirements. At issue here was whether the legislature intended that the category of persons “controlling” the landfill site would extend to those having the legal authority to control the site, as the commission concluded, or would be limited to “those persons actively involved in the operation or management of a landfill site,” as the Court of Appeals concluded. The Oregon Supreme Court concluded the legislature intended the category of persons “controlling” the site to include persons having the authority to control the site, regardless of whether that authority has been exercised. The matter was remanded to the Court of Appeals to consider petitioners’ remaining challenges to the order in light of the correct legal standard. View "Kinzua Resources v. DEQ" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Benjamin McCormick brought this action against the State of Oregon for injuries he sustained while recreating in Lake Billy Chinook. The State moved for summary judgment, asserting that it was entitled to recreational immunity under ORS 105.682. In response, plaintiff contended that the state did not “directly or indirectly permit” the public to use the lake for recreational purposes. Specifically, he contended that, under both the public trust doctrine and the public use doctrine, the public already had a right to use the lake for recreational purposes and, therefore, the State did not “permit” that use. The trial court granted the State summary judgment, but the Court of Appeals reversed. On review, the Oregon Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeals decision. For the purposes of the recreational immunity statute, the Supreme Court held an owner could “permit” public recreational use of its land, even if it could not completely prohibit that use. More specifically, an owner could “permit” public recreational use of its land if, among other alternatives, it made that use possible by creating access to and developing the land for that use. View "McCormick v. Oregon Parks & Recreation Dept." on Justia Law

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The Oregon Department of State Lands (DSL) issued a permit, pursuant to ORS 196.825, for Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (“Walmart”) to fill and remove some wetlands on private property in order to build a new store in The Dalles. Citizens for Responsible Development in The Dalles (Citizens) opposed the project and appealed the fill permit, arguing that DSL lacked authority to issue the permit because DSL did not find that there was a “public need” for the project. The Court of Appeals agreed with Citizens that DSL erred in issuing the permit “[b]ecause DSL found that it was inconclusive whether the project would address a public need.” The Oregon Supreme Court granted certiorari to construe ORS 196.825, and thereafter affirmed the Court of Appeals: the matter was remanded to DSL. "[A]lthough we disagree with its premise that ORS 196.825 conditions the issuance of every permit on a finding that the proposed project will serve a 'public need,' . . . Because DSL found that all categories of public benefit from the project were 'inconclusive' but failed to find that the project would not 'interfere' with the state’s 'paramount policy,' the record does not support its determination that the project will not 'unreasonably interfere.'” View "Citizens for Resp. Devel. in The Dalles v. Walmart" on Justia Law

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In Friends of Columbia Gorge v. Energy Fac. Siting Coun., 365 Or 371, 446 P3d 53 (2019), the Oregon Supreme Court held that the Energy Facility Siting Council had failed to substantially comply with a procedural requirement when it amended rules governing how it processes requests for amendment (RFAs) to site certificates that the council issued. The Court therefore held that the rules were invalid. In response to that decision, the council adopted temporary rules governing the RFA process. Petitioners contended that those temporary rules were also invalid. According to petitioners, the rules were invalid because the council failed to prepare a statement of its findings justifying the use of temporary rules. Petitioners also maintained that the council’s rules exceed the 180-day limit on temporary rules or otherwise improperly operated retroactively. After review, the Supreme Court disagreed with petitioners’ arguments and concluded the temporary rules were valid. View "Friends of Columbia Gorge v. Energy Fac. Siting Coun." on Justia Law

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The Oregon State Land Board voted to sell a parcel of the Elliott State Forest, part of the common school lands granted to the state. The circuit court dismissed the petition for judicial review of the order of sale brought by Cascadia Wildlands and three other petitioners, based on their lack of standing. The Court of Appeals concluded that there was standing and decided the issue of whether ORS 530.450, which prohibited the State Land Board from selling a part of the school and university lands (including the parcel of the Elliott State Forest that was subject to sale) unconstitutionally restricted the power of the State Land Board to carry out its constitutional duty and, thus, has been void since enactment. The Oregon Supreme Court concurred with the Court of Appeals finding the constitutionality of ORS 530.450, and reversing and remanding the judgment of the circuit court. View "Cascadia Wildlands v. Dept. of State Lands" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs sought a declaration that the City of Lake Oswego had allow them recreational access to Oswego Lake, either from the shoreline of the city’s waterfront parks (from which the city prohibits all water access) or through the city’s residents-only swim park. According to plaintiffs, the common-law doctrines of public trust and public use protected the public’s right to enter the lake, and the city’s restrictions on access to the lake were contrary to those common-law doctrines. Plaintiffs also contended the city’s restrictions violated the Equal Privileges and Immunities guarantee of the Oregon Constitution. Defendants were the City of Lake Oswego the State of Oregon, and the Lake Oswego Corporation (which held title to riparian rights to the lake). The case reached the Oregon Supreme Court following a summary judgment in which the trial court assumed that the lake was among public waterways to which the doctrine of public trust or public use applied, but held that neither those doctrines nor Article I, section 20, entitled plaintiffs to the declarations they sought. The Court of Appeals affirmed, also without deciding whether the lake was a public waterway. The Supreme Court concluded the trial court correctly granted summary judgment on plaintiffs’ Article I, section 20, challenges. The Court also concluded that neither the public trust nor the public use doctrine granted plaintiffs a right to enter the swim park property and that the public use doctrine did not grant plaintiffs a right to access the water from the waterfront parks. But the Court concluded that, if Oswego Lake was among the navigable waterways that the state held in trust for the public, then neither the state nor the city could unreasonably interfere with the public’s right to enter the water from the abutting waterfront parks. Accordingly, the case was remanded for resolution of the preliminary question of whether the lake was subject to the public trust doctrine and, if the lake was subject to that trust, then for resolution of the factual dispute regarding whether the city’s restriction on entering the lake from the waterfront parks unreasonably interfered with the public’s right to enter the lake from the abutting waterfront parks. View "Kramer v. City of Lake Oswego" on Justia Law

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The Energy Facility Siting Council modified its rules that govern amending site certificates. Petitioners challenged the validity of the new rules, arguing that the council failed to comply with required rulemaking procedures and that the rules exceeded the council’s statutory authority. FAfter review of petitioners' challenges, the Oregon Supreme Court agreed with some, but not all, of those grounds and concluded that the rules were invalid. View "Friends of Columbia Gorge v. Energy Fac. Siting Coun." on Justia Law

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Kay King owned land zoned for exclusive farm use (EFU). She received county approval to replace three dwellings on the property that had been demolished in 1997. The issue this case presented for the Oregon Supreme Court's review was whether Oregon Laws 2013, chapter 462, section 2 authorized the construction of replacements for the three dwellings. After the county approved the construction permits, LandWatch Lane County (LandWatch) appealed to the Land Use Board of Appeals (LUBA), which reversed the county’s approval, holding that the statute did not permit construction of the replacement buildings. King petitioned for judicial review of the LUBA decision, and the Court of Appeals reversed. The Supreme Court reverse, reinstating LUBA's decision: because landowner’s replacement dwelling applications were filed more than five years after the dwellings on her property were demolished, LUBA correctly ruled that she could not obtain replacement permits under paragraph (2)(b) of Oregon Laws 2013, chapter 462, section 2. View "LandWatch Lane County v. Lane County" on Justia Law