Justia Zoning, Planning & Land Use Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Supreme Court of Alabama
T Investments, LLC v. City of Montgomery Planning Commission
The Supreme Court of Alabama reversed a lower court's judgment regarding the denial of a preliminary plat for a proposed development within the geographical limits of the City of Montgomery. The plaintiffs, T Investments, LLC, and FHM Company, LLLP, contested the Montgomery Circuit Court's judgment that refused their petition for a writ of mandamus directing the City of Montgomery Planning Commission to conditionally approve their preliminary plat. The Supreme Court found that the City of Montgomery Planning Commission's decision to deny approval on the basis of "safety reasons" was insufficiently specific and did not comply with the requirement that valid and sufficiently clear grounds for the denial of a subdivision plat be recorded. The court held that the failure to meet this requirement resulted in the automatic approval of the preliminary plat and ordered the lower court to grant the petition for the writ of mandamus. View "T Investments, LLC v. City of Montgomery Planning Commission" on Justia Law
City of Orange Beach v. Boles.
In consolidated appeals, the City of Orange Beach ("the City") appealed a judgment entered in favor of Ian Boles in regard to a dispute over the City's inspection of Boles' property. Between 2013 and 2015 Boles constructed two eight-bedroom duplexes on property he owned located within the City limits ("the beachfront property"). In September 2015, Boles filed a building-permit application seeking a permit to construct two additional multiple-level duplexes on the beachfront property. Additionally, in October 2015, Boles filed a separate building-permit application for the construction of a single-family dwelling on another parcel of property that Boles owned within the City limits ("the Burkhart Drive property"). At the time of each permit request, Boles completed a "Home Builders Affidavit" attesting that he was the owner of the property; that he would be acting as his own contractor on the proposed project, which would not be offered for sale; and that he was, thus, exempt from the requirement that he be licensed under Alabama's Home Builders Licensure Law. The building-permit packages provided to Boles explained that a certificate of occupancy for the proposed structure would not be issued until, among other things, "a subcontractor list has been submitted to the [City's] Finance Department." Boles also received with each package a blank subcontractor form for identifying all subcontractors for the proposed project, which specified that it was due within 10 days of the issuance of the building permits. Boles proceeded with construction on the two properties without completing or returning the subcontractor form for either property. Boles's electrical subcontractor apparently contacted the City to request an electrical meter-release inspection upon completion of the electrical portion of that project; the City refused. Boles contended the City either lacked the authority to and/or were exceeding their authority in refusing to inspect the beachfront property until the City received information to which, according to Boles, it was not entitled. The Alabama Supreme Court concluded the trial court erred both in submitting Boles's damages claims to a jury and in denying the City's motion seeking a judgment as a matter of law. The trial court's judgment was reversed, and these matters were remanded for further proceedings. View "City of Orange Beach v. Boles." on Justia Law
Ex parte City of Muscle Shoals.
Residents of the Nathan Estates subdivision in the City of Muscle Shoals ("the City") sued the City seeking, among other things, an injunction directing the City to enact a comprehensive stormwater-management plan or to enforce its existing stormwater-management ordinances to prevent its retention pond located in the subdivision from overflowing and damaging the residents' property. The City moved to dismiss the residents' claim for injunctive relief on the basis that it was entitled to substantive immunity, but the circuit court denied that motion. The City then petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus directing the circuit court to dismiss the residents' claim for injunctive relief based on its entitlement to substantive immunity. The City argued that claims for injunctive relief cannot be used as a means of directing a municipality to create new policies or ordinances or to control how it enforces its existing policies or ordinances. The Supreme Court granted the petition and issued the writ. However, in doing so, the Court did not reach the question of whether (or when) a municipality might be enjoined based on its own tortious conduct (as opposed to its conduct in enacting or enforcing its policies and ordinances). View "Ex parte City of Muscle Shoals." on Justia Law
City of Helena v. Pelham Board of Education, et al.
The City of Helena ("Helena") appealed the issuance of a preliminary injunction by the Shelby Circuit Court in favor of the Pelham Board of Education ("the Board") and its officers and/or members, in their official capacities (collectively, "the Board defendants"). In June 2021, the Board purchased approximately 52 acres of undeveloped land located within the corporate limits of Helena. The land has not been annexed by the City of Pelham or the Board. Helena collects property taxes on the land, and the land was zoned for single-family residential use under a Helena zoning ordinance. After purchasing the land, the Board began clearing the land for the purpose of constructing one or more athletic fields and a parking lot as part of the Pelham High School campus. Pelham High School was located adjacent to the land but lied within the corporate limits of the City of Pelham. The athletic-field project was originally scheduled to be completed on or before January 17, 2022, but it was delayed by Helena's attempts to enforce its zoning ordinance, which was an issue in this case. Helena asserted in its complaint, among other things, that the Board has no statutory authority to construct the athletic-field project within the corporate limits of Helena. The Board defendants counterclaimed, seeking sought declaratory and injunctive relief based on their position that the athletic-field project served a governmental purpose and, therefore, was not subject to Helena's zoning ordinance. Finding that the trial court did not follow the mandatory requirements of Rule 65(d)(2), the preliminary injunction was dissolved and the order issuing the injunction was, therefore, reversed and the case remanded. View "City of Helena v. Pelham Board of Education, et al." on Justia Law
Cahaba Riverkeeper, Inc., et al. v. Water Works Board of the City of Birmingham, et al.
Cahaba Riverkeeper, Inc., Cahaba River Society, David Butler, and Bradford McLane ("the conservation parties") appealed a circuit court's dismissal of their action for declaratory and injunctive relief against the Water Works Board of the City of Birmingham ("the Board") and the State of Alabama, on the relation of Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall. At the heart of this case was a settlement agreement executed by the Board and a former attorney general executed in 2001. In 1998, the City of Birmingham ("the City") and its then-mayor began exploring ways to increase funding for its school system, and ultimately sold the assets of the system, including land, reservoirs, and filtration systems, to a private investor to retire debts and to establish an education trust fund. In 2000, the City's newly elected mayor sought to establish a new arrangement in which the Board would operate as a City department. Members of the city council opposed that plan, wishing to keep the Board independent and have it buy back the system assets. In July 2000, the city council approved an ordinance to transfer the assets back to the Board. The mayor later filed suit against the Board and city council in an attempt to prevent the Board from repurchasing the assets. The State Attorney General intervened and counterclaimed against the mayor and city council, all of which ended in the settlement agreement. In their complaint here, the conservation parties alleged that, in 2016, a parcel of land "subject to the settlement agreement was sold for a gas station after unanimous approval by the Board." In 2021, the conservation parties contended the Conservation Easement Agreement ("the CEA") did not establish a valid conservation easement that fulfilled the requirements dictated in paragraph 7 of the settlement agreement. The Alabama Supreme Court found that based on paragraph 6 of the settlement agreement, the conservation parties had a third-party right to seek enforcement of the terms of paragraph 7 of the settlement agreement. The Court also concluded the conservation parties stated a viable justiciable controversy with respect to whether the Board fulfilled its obligation in paragraph 7 of the settlement agreement "to place a conservation easement on the System's real estate described in paragraph 7 of the Acquisition Agreement ...." Therefore, the circuit court's judgment dismissing the conservation parties' claims against the Board is reversed, and the cause is remanded for further proceedings. View "Cahaba Riverkeeper, Inc., et al. v. Water Works Board of the City of Birmingham, et al." on Justia Law
Capitol Farmers Market, Inc. v. Ingram
Capitol Farmers Market, Inc., appealed a circuit court order entered in favor of Angie and Russell Ingram, enforcing certain restrictive covenants on property owned by Capitol Farmers Market that abutted property owned by the Ingrams. After review, the Alabama Supreme Court determined the trial court did not err in upholding the restrictive covenants found in the respective property declarations. Accordingly, judgment was affirmed. View "Capitol Farmers Market, Inc. v. Ingram" on Justia Law
City of Birmingham v. Metropolitan Management of Alabama, LLC
The City of Birmingham ("the City") appealed a circuit court's denial of its motion to vacate a quiet-title judgment in favor of Metropolitan Management of Alabama, LLC ("Metropolitan"). In 1999, the State of Alabama purchased a parcel of property at a tax sale. The City's Director of Finance conducted a public sale, selling and conveying a delinquent demolition assessment against the property. The City purchased that assessment interest and, in February 2007, recorded a deed showing the conveyance. In 2017, the property was sold by the State, and Michael Froelich, who was the managing member of Metropolitan, obtained title to the property by a tax deed. Froelich conveyed the property to Metropolitan by quitclaim deed. In 2018, Metropolitan commenced a quiet title action, naming Constance Wambo as a defendant possessing an interest in the property, and identified as fictitiously named defendants "any individuals and/or entities who may claim an interest now or in the future in the property ..., whose true identity is currently unknown to [the] Plaintiff." Metropolitan filed an affidavit in which Froelich averred that he, after a diligent search with the assistance of an attorney, had been unable to identify any other interest holders. In November 2019, the court entered a judgment quieting title to the property in Metropolitan, conveying to Metropolitan fee-simple title to the exclusion of all others, voiding any claims of the defendants, and making Metropolitan's claim of interest superior to any other. In early 2020, Metropolitan's attorney contacted counsel for the City regarding the City's recorded assessment interest. In June 2020, the City filed a motion to intervene in the quiet-title action and a motion to vacate the judgment as void under Rule 60(b)(4). The court denied the City's motion to vacate without stating grounds. The Alabama Supreme Court reversed, finding the law imputes to purchasers knowledge of the contents of recorded documents, and that such constructive notice of a defendant's residence generally suffices for "know[ledge]" of that residence under Rule 4.3(b). Metropolitan did not provide any reason why a reasonable probate-records search would not have disclosed the City's deed. Because Metropolitan had knowledge of the City's residence, Metropolitan's service by publication without first attempting another means of service failed to comply with Rule 4.3(b). View "City of Birmingham v. Metropolitan Management of Alabama, LLC" on Justia Law
Breland v. City of Fairhope
Charles K. Breland, Jr., purchased land in Baldwin County, Alabama to build a housing subdivision. The subdivision he planned to construct required filling about 10.5 acres of wetlands, which the City of Fairhope and Baldwin County opposed. Breland and Breland Corporation (collectively, Breland) sued Fairhope, claiming that they had a vested right to fill the wetlands, that Fairhope's ordinances could not prevent them from filling the wetlands, that Fairhope had acted negligently regarding Breland's application for a land- disturbance permit, and that Breland's criminal citation for beginning work without a permit should have been expunged. The trial court rejected their claims following a nonjury trial. Breland appealed the trial court's judgment. The Alabama Supreme Court concluded Breland did not establish Fairhope's ordinances were invalid or that it had obtained a vested right to fill the wetlands on the property. Further, the Breland parties' argument that Breland's citation should have been expunged was premised on the notion that he was not obligated to comply with Fairhope's ordinances in existence at the time of his citation. Because the Supreme Court rejected that premise, the Breland parties' request for expungement was moot. And because this matter was not reversed or remanded for further proceedings and there was no other apparent remedy at this stage, the Breland parties' claim that the trial court erred by allowing The Battles Wharf/Point Clear Protective Association to intervene was moot. View "Breland v. City of Fairhope" on Justia Law
Kennamer v. City of Guntersville et al.
Joel Kennamer appealed a circuit court's dismissal of his complaint seeking a declaratory judgment, a preliminary injunction, and a permanent injunction against the City of Guntersville, the City's mayor Leigh Dollar, each member of the Guntersville City Council, and Lakeside Investments, LLC ("Lakeside"). Kennamer's complaint sought to prevent the City from leasing certain City property to Lakeside. Kennamer asserted that the City had erected a pavilion on "Parcel One" for public use and that residents used Parcel One for public fishing, fishing tournaments, truck and tractor shows, and public festivals and events. As for Parcel Two, Kennamer alleged that in 2000, the City petitioned to condemn property belonging to CSX Transportation, Inc. ("CSX"), "for the purpose of constructing [a] public boat dock and a public recreational park." In 2019, the City approved an ordinance declaring the development property "is no longer needed for public or municipal purposes." The development agreement, as updated, again affirmed that the development property would be used "for a mixed-use lakefront development containing restaurants, entertainment, retail, office space, high density multi-family residential, and other appropriate commercial uses, including parking." Thereafter, Kennamer sued the City defendants arguing the City lacked the authority to lease to a third-party developer City property that had been dedicated for use as, and/or was being used as, a public park. Finding that the City had the statutory authority to lease the property to the third-party developer, the Alabama Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court's dismissal. View "Kennamer v. City of Guntersville et al." on Justia Law
City of Daphne v. Fannon
The City of Daphne ("the City") appealed a circuit court judgment entered in favor of David and Sarah Fannon, in an action seeking damages pursuant to section 235, Ala. Const. 1901, for the taking of, injury to, or destruction of the Fannons' property for public use. In 1990, the Fannons purchased an unimproved lot on Lovett Lane in Daphne and constructed a house on that lot. To the north of, and parallel to, their lot was a 30-foot right- of-way that was owned by the City. A streambed that was approximately three feet wide meandered along the right-of-way, partially onto the Fannons' lot, and back into the right-of-way and then into Mobile Bay. Also, the right-of-way was wooded and heavily covered with vegetation. The Fannons placed an 18-inch-diameter PVC pipe under the foundation of their house and along the path of the streambed where it meandered onto their lot so that the water would continue to flow into the Bay. Over time, the City made changes to the right-of-way, taking out vegetation and covered it with sand and riprap. Years later, City workers removed the riprap and installed a pipe that dumped into the streamed near the Fannons' property. This changed the water flow around the Fannon property, causing washout and flooding due to increased velocity of water flowing through the City's pipe. A jury ultimately returned a verdict in favor of the Fannons, awarding them compensatory damages on their inverse-condemnation claim. The City appealed. After review, the Alabama Supreme Court concurred with the trial court on the trial court's judgment with respect to trespass and negligence; it reversed, however, with respect to inverse-condemnation and remanded for further proceedings. View "City of Daphne v. Fannon" on Justia Law