Justia Zoning, Planning & Land Use Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Real Estate & Property Law
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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the district court affirming the judgment of the Board of County Commissioners of Park County approving Trial County Telephone Association, Inc.'s (TCT) application for a special use permit to construct a 150-foot broadband communications tower in Park County, holding that the Board did not arbitrarily or capriciously in approving the application.Specifically, the Supreme Court held (1) the Board had a rational basis to conclude that the proposed was not oversized, and therefore, the Board's approval of TCT's application did not violate Park County development regulations; and (2) the Park County regulations did not require the Board to consider alternative sites for a project before approving a special use permit, and it therefore did not act arbitrarily or capriciously in approving the application without considering alternative locations for the proposed tower. View "Jolovich v. Board of County Commissioners of Park County" on Justia Law

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The Seventh Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court denying the motion filed by the Word Seed Church after the district court dismissed this suit for lack of standing, holding that Word Seed failed to show exceptional circumstances warranting relief from the denial of that motion.Word Seed and an organization to which it belonged (collectively, Word Seed) brought this action against the Village of Homewood, Illinois alleging violations of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The district court dismissed the suit for lack of standing after concluding that Word Seed did not suffer an injury and denied Word Seed's ensuing motions to reconsider. In the second motion, which the district court considered under Fed. R. Civ. P. 60(b), Word Seed raised for the first an argument that could have been raised before the district court entered judgment dismissing the case. The district court denied the motion. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, holding that the court did not abuse its discretion in denying Word Seed's Rule 60(b) motion. View "Word Seed Church v. Village of Homewood" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) approving the application of Crowned Ridge Wind, LLC for a permit to construct a wind energy farm in northeast South Dakota, holding that the PUC acted within its discretion in this case.After a contested hearing, the PUC issued a written decision approving the permit. Two individuals who lived in rural areas near the project and had intervened to oppose Crowned Ridge's application sought review. The circuit court affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) neither of the Intervenors' evidentiary claims were sustainable; and (2) even if the Intervenors' claims were preserved for appeal, the PUC acted within its discretion when it denied the Intervenors' challenges to certain testimony. View "Christenson v. Crowned Ridge Wind, LLC" on Justia Law

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Northwest Landowners Association filed suit to challenge the constitutionality of North Dakota Senate Bill 2344, which related to subsurface pore space. The district court granted the Association’s cross-motion for summary judgment, concluding S.B. 2344 was unconstitutional under the state and federal takings clauses. The State and Continental Resources appealed the district court’s summary judgment order and amended judgment. On appeal, the State argued S.B. 2344 did not violate the takings clauses and did not constitute an unconstitutional gift, and that the district court misapplied N.D.R. Civ.P. 56 by failing to consider evidence submitted by the State. Continental Resources argued the court erred in analyzing the Association’s facial challenge, in determining pore space had value as a matter of law, and in denying Rule 56(f) discovery. The North Dakota Supreme Court concluded the district court erred in invalidating the entirety of S.B. 2344. The trial court’s judgment was affirmed to the extent that it declared certain portions unconstitutional, but reversed to the extent it declared the remainder of the bill inseparable and invalid. View "Northwest Landowners Association v. State, et al." on Justia Law

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The City of Los Angeles, Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP), and Los Angeles Department of Water and Power Board of Commissioners (collectively, Los Angeles) appealed a trial court judgment granting the petition of Mono County and the Sierra Club (collectively, Mono County) for a writ of mandate directing Los Angeles to comply with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) before curtailing or reducing deliveries of irrigation water to certain lands Los Angeles leased to agricultural operators in Mono County. The trial court ruled that Los Angeles implemented a project in 2018 without complying with CEQA when: (1) it proposed new leases to the lessees that would not provide or allow water to be used for irrigation; and (2) while claiming it would study the environmental effects of the new leases, it nonetheless implemented that policy of reducing water for irrigation by allocating less water than usual under the prior leases that were still in effect. Los Angeles did not dispute that it was required to engage in CEQA analysis before implementing the new proposed leases, and it noted it issued a notice that it was undertaking environmental review of those new leases. But it argued that its 2018 water allocation was not part of that project and instead part of an earlier project, and the limitations period for challenging the earlier project has run. The Court of Appeal agreed with Los Angeles, the trial court's judgment was reversed. View "County of Mono v. City of Los Angeles" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the decision of the superior court affirming the order of the Saco River Corridor Commission denying Appellant's application to build a privacy fence along a portion of his property, holding that the Commission's decision was supported by substantial evidence in the record.The Commission denied Appellant's application on the grounds that a privacy fence along a portion of his property would unreasonably despoil the scenic, rural, and open space character of the Saco River Corridor. On appeal, Appellant argued (1) the Commission's "scenic view" rule, 94-412 C.M.R. ch. 103, 2(G)(3), is unconstitutionally void for vagueness and conflicts with the Saco River Corridor Act, Me. Rev. Stat. 38, 951-959; and (2) the Commission's decision to deny the permit was not supported by substantial evidence. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding (1) the "scenic view" rule does not conflict with the Act, nor is it unconstitutionally void for vagueness; and (2) the Commission's decision was supported by substantial evidence. View "Ouellette v. Saco River Corridor Commission" on Justia Law

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Appellant Saugatuck Dunes Coastal Alliance, argued that lower courts erred when they found that the Michigan Zoning Enabling Act (MZEA) denied it standing to appeal the decisions of the Saugatuck Township Planning Commission (Commission). Prior Court of Appeals decisions relied on by the Saugatuck Township Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) and lower courts repeatedly and erroneously read the term “party aggrieved” too narrowly. The Michigan Supreme Court held that the MZEA did not require an appealing party to own real property and to demonstrate special damages only by comparison to other real-property owners similarly situated. The Supreme Court overruled several Court of Appeals decisions to the limited extent that they required: (1) real-property ownership as a prerequisite to being “aggrieved” by a zoning decision under the MZEA; and (2) special damages to be shown only by comparison to other real-property owners similarly situated. The Supreme Court explained, to be a “party aggrieved” under MCL 125.3605 and MCL 125.3606, the appellant must meet three criteria: (1) the appellant must have participated in the challenged proceedings by taking a position on the contested proposal or decision; (2) the appellant must claim some protected interest or protected personal, pecuniary, or property right that will be or is likely to be affected by the challenged decision; and (3) the appellant must provide some evidence of special damages arising from the challenged decision in the form of an actual or likely injury to or burden on their asserted interest or right that is different in kind or more significant in degree than the effects on others in the local community. A portion of the Court of Appeals' judgment was vacated, and the case was remanded back to the circuit court for reconsideration in light of the Supreme Court's holding here. View "Saugatuck Dunes Coastal Alliance v. Saugatuck Twp." on Justia Law

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Elton Lovro appealed a judgment dismissing his complaint with prejudice after the district court granted summary judgment in favor of the City of Finley (“City”). Lovro owned a house and property in Finley, Steele County, North Dakota. In March 2020, the City’s water line connected to the curb stop leading to Lovro’s home broke. Water flowed onto the property, damaging Lovro’s driveway and basement. Lovro sued the City for negligence and gross negligence, alleging the damages were caused by the City’s failure to properly operate, maintain, repair, and inspect their water system. Lovro also sued the City for breach of contract based on the City’s failure to properly and safely deliver water to his home. The City responded by denying the allegations that it was negligent, grossly negligent or that its acts or omissions caused the damages. The City denied the existence of any contractual relationship between Lovro and the City. The City affirmatively alleged that it was immune from suit under chapter 32-12.1 of the North Dakota Century Code. Lovro argues the district court erred in granting summary judgment dismissing his claims because the ruling was premature and discovery was still ongoing. Finding no reversible error, the North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed the district court. View "Lovro v. City of Finley" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the appellate court's judgment reversing in part the decision of the Town Plan and Zoning Commission of the Town of Fairfield extending its approvals of a special permit and a coastal site plan review granted to Fairfield Commons, LLC, holding that a local zoning authority may not, by regulation, condition the continuing validity of a special permit on completing development in connection with the permitted use within a period of time that is shorter than the statutory period.The appellate court in this case affirmed the trial court's judgment concluding that the Commission improperly granted Fairfield Commons' request for an extension of its special permit deadline to complete development but reversed the court's conclusion that the special permit could not be subject to a temporal limitation as a matter of law. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) a special permit regulation may not prescribe a shorter time limitation for completing development than the statutory period set forth for completion of development in connection with an accompanying site plan under Conn. Gen. Stat. 8-3(i) and (m); and (2) the appellate court incorrectly concluded that the special permit at issue expired in April 2011. View "International Investors v. Town Plan & Zoning Commission" on Justia Law

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Westfield amended its ordinance governing signs within city limits. Out of a stated concern for public safety and aesthetics, the ordinance requires those wishing to install a sign or billboard to apply for a permit. The ordinance exempts directional signs, scoreboards, particular flags, and notices on gas pumps and vending machines. It prohibits signs on poles and those advertising ideas, products, or services not offered on the same premises (off-premises signs). Those seeking to install a non-compliant sign may appeal the denial of a permit or, if necessary, request a variance. GEFT applied for a permit to build a large digital billboard on private property along U.S. Highway 31 in Westfield. Because of the proposed sign’s off-premises location and use of a pole, Westfield denied GEFT’s application and subsequent variance request.GEFT sued, 42 U.S.C. 1983. The Seventh Circuit previously upheld a restraining order compelling GEFT to cease all actions to install its proposed billboard pending the outcome of the litigation. The district court later granted GEFT summary judgment and permanently enjoined Westfield from enforcing many aspects of its ordinance. The Seventh Circuit remanded for consideration in light of the Supreme Court’s recent decision in “City of Austin v. Reagan National;” the fact that the city must read a sign to evaluate its conformity with regulations is not alone determinative of whether the regulation is content-based. View "GEFT Outdoors, LLC v. City of Westfield" on Justia Law