Justia Zoning, Planning & Land Use Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Real Estate & Property Law
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The case involves Norton Outdoor Advertising, a company that operates billboards within the Village of St. Bernard, Ohio. The Village revoked one of Norton's permits after it constructed two variable-message signs. The Village's ordinance regulates signs based on whether what is being advertised is located on or off the premises of the sign. The ordinance also has an exemption that functions beyond this on- and off-premises dichotomy, which is content based.The United States District Court for the Southern District of Ohio ruled in favor of the Village, finding that Norton lacked standing to challenge any provisions of the ordinances other than the ban on variable-message displays. The court found these provisions to be content-neutral regulations under the Supreme Court precedent and that the regulations satisfied intermediate scrutiny.The United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit reversed the district court's judgment. The appellate court found that the Village's ordinance, which included a content-based exemption, must satisfy strict scrutiny. The court concluded that the Village's ordinance was not narrowly tailored to fulfill a compelling interest and therefore could not stand as written. The court remanded the case back to the district court for further proceedings, including consideration of whether the unconstitutional provision is severable. View "Norton Outdoor Advertising, Inc. v. Village of St. Bernard" on Justia Law

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The case involves a dispute between the City of Las Vegas and 180 Land Co., LLC over a 35-acre parcel of land. 180 Land Co. purchased the land, which was part of a larger 250-acre golf course, with the intention of developing it for residential use. The land was zoned for residential development, but was also designated as "Parks/Schools/Recreation/Open Space" in the city's General Plan. The City of Las Vegas denied 180 Land Co.'s applications to develop the property, citing public opposition and concerns about piecemeal development.In response, 180 Land Co. sued the City for inverse condemnation, arguing that the City's actions had deprived it of all economically beneficial use of the property. The district court agreed, finding that the City's handling of 180 Land Co.'s development efforts rendered any future attempts to develop the property futile. The court also ruled that the residential zoning of the property took precedence over the open space designation in the General Plan. The court awarded 180 Land Co. $48 million in compensation, including the value of the property, property taxes, prejudgment interest, and attorney fees.The City appealed the decision, arguing that the lower court erred in determining that a regulatory taking had occurred and in its calculation of the compensation award. 180 Land Co. also appealed, challenging the amount of prejudgment interest awarded by the district court.The Supreme Court of the State of Nevada affirmed the district court's decision in its entirety. The court agreed that the City's actions constituted a per se regulatory taking and that 180 Land Co. was entitled to just compensation. The court also upheld the district court's calculation of the compensation award, including the amount of prejudgment interest. View "City of Las Vegas v. 180 Land Co., LLC" on Justia Law

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The case involves Mojalaki Holdings, LLC and GSSG New Hampshire, LLC (the plaintiffs) who appealed a decision by the City of Franklin Planning Board (the Board) that denied their site plan application to install a solar panel array on a piece of land owned by Mojalaki. The proposed solar panel array required the installation of new utility poles and the removal of mature trees to ensure sufficient sunlight. The land, which was mostly open space and was once a golf course, did not have any specific ordinance language addressing solar panel arrays. The Board, after multiple hearings and a site visit, denied the application based on concerns raised by neighbors about the project's potential impact on the scenery, property values, and previous negative experiences with other solar projects in the city.The Board's decision was upheld by the Superior Court, which agreed with the Board's first and third reasons for denial, namely that the installation of new utility poles would create an industrial look out of place in the neighborhood, and that cutting down mature trees contradicted the purpose provisions. However, the Superior Court did not uphold the Board's second basis, that the solar panel array endangered or adversely impacted the residents, due to lack of supporting facts.The Supreme Court of New Hampshire reversed the lower court's decision, ruling that the Board could not rely solely on the purpose provisions to deny the application. The court found that the purpose provisions lacked sufficient specificity for site plan review and left the proposed project to be judged by the subjective views of the Board through ad hoc decision making. The court granted the plaintiffs a builder's remedy, allowing them to proceed with their development provided they comply with all other applicable regulations. View "Mojalaki Holdings v. City of Franklin" on Justia Law

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The case revolves around a dispute between the Town of Ferrisburgh and 2078 Jersey Street, LLC, the latter of which had purchased a parcel of land in the town and began constructing an access road to an existing rock quarry on the property. The town's Zoning Board of Adjustment (ZBA) issued a notice of violation to the company, stating that the construction required a permit. After the ZBA rejected the company's appeal of the notice of violation, the company filed for a conditional-use permit. The ZBA denied the permit, concluding that the construction of the road would substantially expand a nonconforming use of the property, in violation of local land use regulations.After the ZBA denied the permit, the company mailed a request for reconsideration to the ZBA. However, the company did not file an appeal to the environmental court within the thirty-day appeal period under Rule 5(b)(1) of the Vermont Rules of Environmental Court Proceedings. The ZBA did not take any action on the reconsideration request prior to the expiration of the time to appeal to the environmental court. After the expiration of the appeal period, the ZBA denied the request for reconsideration.The company then filed a notice of appeal with the environmental court. The town moved to dismiss the case for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, arguing that the company had failed to timely appeal. The court denied the motion, finding that, under Appellate Rule 4(b)(5), a request for reconsideration tolls the appeal deadline. The town then requested an interlocutory appeal, which was granted.The Vermont Supreme Court reversed the environmental court's decision. The Supreme Court concluded that Appellate Rule 4(b)(5) is inapplicable in this context and that tolling does not otherwise apply under these circumstances. Therefore, the company's appeal to the environmental court was untimely and the court lacked jurisdiction to consider it. The case was remanded with orders that the company's appeal be dismissed. View "In re 2078 Jersey Street" on Justia Law

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George Sheetz sought to build a small, prefabricated home on his residential parcel of land in El Dorado County, California. However, to obtain a permit, he was required to pay a substantial fee to mitigate local traffic congestion. Sheetz challenged this fee as an unlawful “exaction” of money under the Takings Clause, arguing that the fee amount should be necessary to offset traffic congestion attributable to his specific development. The County’s predetermined fee schedule, Sheetz argued, failed to meet that requirement.The trial court rejected Sheetz’s claim and the California Court of Appeal affirmed. The Court of Appeal asserted that the Nollan/Dolan test, which requires permit conditions to have an “essential nexus” to the government’s land-use interest and “rough proportionality” to the development’s impact on the land-use interest, applies only to permit conditions imposed “on an individual and discretionary basis.” Fees imposed on “a broad class of property owners through legislative action,” it said, need not satisfy that test. The California Supreme Court denied review.The Supreme Court of the United States vacated the judgment of the California Court of Appeal. The Supreme Court held that the Takings Clause does not distinguish between legislative and administrative permit conditions. The Court found no basis in constitutional text, history, or precedent for affording property rights less protection in the hands of legislators than administrators. The Court did not address the parties’ other disputes over the validity of the traffic impact fee, including whether a permit condition imposed on a class of properties must be tailored with the same degree of specificity as a permit condition that targets a particular development. The case was remanded for further proceedings not inconsistent with this opinion. View "Sheetz v. El Dorado County" on Justia Law

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A group of residents from the Rafter J Ranch Subdivision in Teton County, Wyoming, appealed the Teton County Board of County Commissioners' approval of a petition by Stage Stop, Inc. to amend the Rafter J Planned Unit Development (PUD) to allow the use of Lot 333 for workforce apartments. The residents, referred to as Objectors, argued that the Board's decision was subject to judicial review, that the Board erred by allowing the PUD Amendment without requiring a vacation of the Rafter J Subdivision Plat, and that the Board's approval of the PUD Amendment was arbitrary, capricious, and not in accordance with the law.The District Court of Teton County affirmed the Board's decision. The Objectors then appealed to the Supreme Court of Wyoming. The Objectors argued that the Board's decision was a legislative act and therefore not subject to judicial review. They also claimed that the Board did not follow the proper procedure for amending the PUD and that the Board did not properly consider the requirement that the PUD Amendment comply with the underlying base zoning to the maximum extent practicable.The Supreme Court of Wyoming affirmed the lower court's decision. The court found that the Board's approval of the PUD Amendment was subject to judicial review to determine whether the Board followed its rules and regulations. The court also found that the Board properly considered Stage Stop's request to amend the PUD and that the Board's decision had no effect on any private contractual rights which the Objectors may have from the Plat restrictions. The court concluded that the Board followed the Land Development Regulations (LDRs) and made reasonable choices in approving the PUD Amendment. View "Brazinski v. Board of County Commissioners" on Justia Law

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The case revolves around Pegasus Wind, LLC's request for variances to construct eight additional wind turbines near the Tuscola Area Airport. The Tuscola Area Airport Zoning Board of Appeals (AZBA) denied the variances, citing that the turbines would pose a danger to pilots during in-flight emergencies, create potential choke points for pilots flying under visual flight rules (VFR) restrictions, increase the minimum descent altitude, and interfere with the airport's primary radar. Pegasus appealed the decision to the circuit court, which affirmed the AZBA's denial.The circuit court's decision was then appealed to the Court of Appeals. The Court of Appeals reversed the circuit court's decision, concluding that the evidence supporting Pegasus's position was more persuasive than the evidence relied on by the AZBA. The Court of Appeals conducted its own factual review and concluded that the addition of eight new turbines would not create additional risk to the airport.The case was then brought before the Michigan Supreme Court. The Supreme Court disagreed with the Court of Appeals' conclusion, stating that the Court of Appeals had essentially conducted a de novo review of the facts, which was inappropriate. The Supreme Court found that there was substantial evidence supporting the AZBA's decision and that the circuit court did not err in affirming the AZBA's findings. Therefore, the Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeals' decision and reinstated the AZBA's denial of the variances. View "Pegasus Wind LLC V Tuscola County" on Justia Law

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A group called Protect Our Parks, Inc. (POP) has been challenging the location of the planned Obama Presidential Center in Chicago's historic Jackson Park. The Center, which is currently under construction, is being built on a site selected by the Barack Obama Foundation. POP argues that the park should have been off-limits and that the Center could have been placed elsewhere. They have raised multiple arguments based on federal and state law to prevent the construction of the Center in the park.Previously, POP had asked the court to halt construction until its federal-law theories were resolved. However, the court declined to grant the preliminary injunction as POP failed to show that it was likely to succeed with those contentions. The district court also refused POP’s request to amend its pleadings and dismissed the state-law causes of action. The district court then awarded summary judgment against POP on the federal-law theories.In the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, POP asked the court to overturn the district court’s final judgment in its entirety. However, the court found that POP’s arguments remained unpersuasive and identified no legal error in the earlier analysis of POP’s case. The court also concluded that POP’s state-law theories were rightly dismissed and that the district court did not abuse its discretion when it denied POP’s motion to amend the complaint. Therefore, the court affirmed the judgment of the district court. View "Protect Our Parks, Inc. v. Buttigieg" on Justia Law

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A group of citizens and a civic organization, Citizens United To Protect Our Neighborhoods (CUPON), filed a lawsuit against the Village of Chestnut Ridge, New York, alleging that the village violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment by enacting a new zoning law related to places of worship in 2019. The plaintiffs claimed that the new law favored religious uses over secular uses, thus violating the constitutional separation of church and state.The case was initially heard in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, where it was dismissed. The district court found that none of the plaintiffs had constitutional standing to pursue the claim. The court determined that the individual plaintiffs lacked municipal-taxpayer, direct-harm, or denial-of-benefits standing, and that CUPON lacked associational or organizational standing.The case was then appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. The appellate court agreed with the lower court's decision, affirming that neither the individual plaintiffs nor CUPON had any form of standing. The court found that the plaintiffs failed to demonstrate a measurable appropriation or loss of revenue attributable to the challenged activities, a personal constraint or control under the challenged law, or a denial of benefits. The court also found that CUPON failed to show that it had suffered an injury in fact that was distinct and palpable. Therefore, the court affirmed the district court's judgment, dismissing the plaintiffs' complaint for lack of standing. View "Citizens United To Protect Our Neighborhoods v. Village of Chestnut Ridge" on Justia Law

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The plaintiff, Newfound Serenity, LLC, sought to develop a seasonal recreational vehicle park and applied for site plan approval from the Town of Hebron's Planning Board. The Planning Board denied the application, citing seven reasons. Newfound Serenity appealed this decision to both the Housing Appeals Board (HAB) and the Town’s Zoning Board of Adjustment (ZBA). The HAB dismissed the appeal as untimely, while the ZBA overturned four of the Planning Board's reasons for denial, upheld one, and stated it lacked authority to address the remaining two. Newfound Serenity then filed a complaint in superior court, seeking review of both the Planning Board and ZBA decisions. The Superior Court dismissed the complaint in its entirety, based on the HAB's initial dismissal.The Superior Court agreed with the Town's argument that Newfound Serenity had effectively bifurcated its initial appeal, with the ZBA reviewing zoning ordinance-related reasons for denial and the HAB reviewing reasons outside the ZBA's jurisdiction. The Town argued that since the HAB dismissed the plaintiff’s appeal as untimely, and the plaintiff did not appeal the dismissal, the Planning Board’s decision on those issues became final. Therefore, even if the superior court were to reverse the ZBA’s decision, such a reversal would be moot because the Planning Board’s denial based on the two other reasons would remain effective. The Town also argued that because the plaintiff appealed the Planning Board decision in part to the HAB, the plaintiff waived its right to bring an action in superior court.The Supreme Court of New Hampshire reversed the Superior Court's decision, concluding that the dismissal of the complaint was inconsistent with the statutes governing appeals from planning board decisions. The court found that the plaintiff's initial appeal to the HAB was not late, but premature, as the ZBA had not yet resolved the issues. The court held that the dismissal of a premature appeal by the HAB while the ZBA appeal was pending did not foreclose the plaintiff from pursuing its complaint in superior court. View "Newfound Serenity, LLC v. Town of Hebron" on Justia Law