Justia Zoning, Planning & Land Use Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Alabama
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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

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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

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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

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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

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The State of Alabama appealed a circuit court judgment entered in favor of the City of Birmingham and its mayor, Randall Woodfin. The State sued the City claiming the mayor violated the Alabama Memorial Preservation Act by allowing a plywood screen to be erected around a 40-year-old confederate monument. The pertinent part of the Act the State alleged Birmingham violated was that "no monument which [was] located on public property and has been so situated for 40 or more years may be relocated, removed, altered, renamed, or otherwise disturbed." The circuit court entered a summary judgment in favor of the City defendants, holding that the Act was unconstitutional because it violated the City's purported rights under the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution and it was thus void in its entirety. The Alabama Supreme Court reversed and remanded with instructions to the circuit court to enter an order declaring that the City defendants' actions constituted a violation of section 41-9-232(a) of the Act and imposing a fine on the City defendants in the amount of $25,000. View "Alabama v. City of Birmingham" on Justia Law

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Courtyard Manor Homeowners' Association, Inc. ("Courtyard Manor") appealed dismissal of its complaint against the City of Pelham. In August 2018, Courtyard Manor filed a complaint against the City after the City failed to conduct a hearing or otherwise to respond to Courtyard Manor's petition, filed with the City in September 2017, seeking to be deannexed from the City's municipal limits. Courtyard Manor averred in its complaint the City had agreed to apply its deannexation criteria to the matter, that the City had a duty to set the matter for a hearing, and the City had de facto denied the petition by failing to take any action on it. Courtyard Manor requested that the circuit court conduct a hearing on the petition and enter an order deannexing Courtyard Manor from the City. Alternatively, Courtyard Manor requested that the circuit court order the Pelham City Council to hold a hearing on the petition and to report its decision to the circuit court. The City moved the circuit court to dismiss the complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. The City argued that, in deciding whether to deannex property, a municipal governing body acted in a legislative capacity, a municipal governing body has discretion to determine if and when to deannex property, the governing body's discretion in determining if and when to deannex property was not subject to interference by the courts, the City's governing body had not determined the corporate limits of the City should have been reduced in the manner requested by Courtyard Manor, and that the City had no duty to hold a hearing on Courtyard Manor's petition. The circuit court granted the City's motion to dismiss. Finding no reversible error, the Alabama Supreme Court affirmed dismissal. View "Courtyard Manor Homeowners' Association, Inc. v. City of Pelham" on Justia Law

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This case involved a dispute over the planned construction of a high-rise condominium along the Gulf of Mexico in Orange Beach, Alabama. The Perdido Dunes property shared common boundaries with property containing other beachfront condominium buildings. Phoenix East, a Condominium, was a 14-story condominium with 158 residential units located adjacent to and directly east of the Perdido Dunes property. In 2004, Hurricane Ivan effectively destroyed an 8-unit portion of Perdido Dunes. The City's zoning regulations prohibited Perdido Dunes from separating into two parcels, but the City would allow Perdido Dunes to split the PDAI (the condominium association) into two neighborhood associations governed by a master association. The ownership interest in the Master Association would comprise the unit owners of two newly created neighborhood associations, namely the Perdido Dunes Tower Condominium Owners Association, Inc. and the Perdido Dunes 2006 Condominium Owners Association, Inc. The PD Tower Association would serve as the association for Perdido Dunes Tower, a prospective 10-story, 20-unit condominium building measuring 56 feet in length that was to be developed by Perdido Dunes Tower, LLC ("Tower LLC"), on the land where the 8-unit building had been located. The City issued a building permit to Tower LLC in 2008, authorizing it to begin construction of Perdido Dunes Tower. The planned construction was interrupted in 2015, when the City notified Tower LLC of concerns relating to the width of the proposed Perdido Dunes Tower in relation to the neighboring properties, namely Phoenix East and Phoenix VIII. The City directed that Tower LLC could not begin substantial construction on the building, and the City informed Tower LLC that its building permit would be revoked. If the building permit were revoked, Tower LLC would be required to apply for a new permit under updated City building standards, which, according to the trial court's judgment being challenged on appeal, "would have required significant additional undertakings by the Tower LLC to attempt to complete the building of a compliant tower structure." To challenge the proposed Perdido Tower project, the Phoenix entities sued, arguing the consent decree that resulted between the City and the Master Association was void. The Alabama Supreme Court determined the Phoenix VIII Association lacked standing to challenge the consent decree; the Court ruled Phoenix East Association had standing, but "its challenge to the consent decree is unavailing, and the consent decree is affirmed." View "Phoenix East Association, Inc. v. Perdido Dunes Tower, LLC, et al." on Justia Law

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W.R. Meriwether, Factors & Drayage, LLC ("Meriwether"), and Gregory Thompson appealed adverse judgments entered in Meriwether and Thompson's action against the Pike Road Volunteer Fire Protection Authority ("the Fire Authority") and other defendants. Meriwether and Thompson each owned parcels of real property that adjoined a 10-acre piece of property owned by the Fire Authority. All three parcels were located in the Town of Pike Road ("Pike Road"). Pursuant to a Pike Road zoning ordinance, the parcels were located in an area zoned for "low density, single-family residential development." Materials submitted to the trial court indicated the Fire Authority planned to build a fire station on its 10-acre parcel. Meriwether and Thompson sued the Fire Authority and Pike Road, along with the members of the Fire Authority's board of directors, the Pike Road Planning Commission, the chairman of the Planning Commission, and the Pike Road planning director. In their complaint, Meriwether and Thompson sought a judgment declaring that the Fire Authority is subject to the referenced zoning ordinance and that constructing a fire station on its property would be a violation of that ordinance. The Alabama Supreme Court concluded the Fire Authority did not qualify as a body entitled to an exemption from zoning regulation. Accordingly, the Court reversed the trial court's judgments and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "W.R. Meriwether, Factors and Drayage, LLC v. Pike Road Volunteer Fire Protection Authority" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs A.A. Nettles, Sr. Properties Limited, and Eula Lambert Boyles sought to quiet title a right-of-way that had been conveyed by the Alabama Railroad Company to the Monroe County Commission for use as a recreational trail in accordance with the National Trails System Act ("the Trails Act"), 16 U.S.C. 1247. The trial court quieted title in favor of plaintiffs. The Commission appealed, contending the evidence submitted was insufficient for the trial court to determine the railroad intended to abandon its interest in the right-of-way. The Alabama Supreme Court concluded the trial court did not err in concluding the easement reserved to the railroad by a right-of-way was provided in a quitclaim deed lapsed by nonuse, and was thus extinguished by operation of law, leaving nothing for the railroad to convey to the Commission. View "Monroe County Commission v. Nettles, et al." on Justia Law

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The underlying case concerned a dispute between Allen and Nina Kennemer and the Shelby County Board of Equalization as to the assessed value of real property owned by the Kennemers. The Board informed the Kennemers, by notice dated May 31, 2016, that it had ruled that the fixed value of the property was $122,700 for purposes of assessment. According to the Kennemers, however, the "true and fair value" of the property was $89,405.50. The Kennemers petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for a writ of certiorari to review whether the Court of Civil Appeals' affirmance, without an opinion, the Circuit Court's dismissal of their appeal of the Board's decision. The Kennemers contended the appellate court's decision conflicted with Shoals Mill Development, Ltd. v. Shelby County Board of Equalization, 238 So. 3d 1253 (Ala. Civ. App. 2017). The Supreme Court agreed: the mailbox rule applied to the filing of a notice of appeal with the Board under section 40-3-25. Accordingly, the Kennemers' notice of appeal was timely filed with the Board, and the circuit court erred in dismissing their appeal of the Board's May 2016 ruling. View "Ex parte Allen Kennemer and Nina Kennemer." on Justia Law