Justia Zoning, Planning & Land Use Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Trusts & Estates
Hayes v. Mountain View Estates Homeowners Association
In the late 1970s and early 1980s, Richard Hayes developed a subdivision called Mountain View Estates on land jointly owned by him and his wife, Nadine Hayes, in the Town of Manchester. The subdivision grew to include forty residential homes, a school building, and a chiropractic clinic on forty-four lots. From the sale of the first lot in about 1981 until his death in 2004, Richard Hayes paid for maintenance and plowing of the roads that ran through the subdivision and maintained the subdivision’s sewer system and the portion of the water system that he and his wife still owned, without charge to the homeowners. Following the Hayes’ deaths in 2004, a probate proceeding was opened and the Hayes’ adult children, Jeffrey Hayes and Deborah Hayes McGraw, were appointed coadministrators of their estates. The co-administrators sent a letter to the homeowners in the subdivision stating that effective immediately, the homeowners would be responsible for maintaining and plowing the subdivision’s roads. The homeowners refused to assume responsibility for the road maintenance. The homeowners intervened in the probate proceedings of the Hayes’ estates to protect their rights regarding the subdivision. The estates appealed the trial court’s decision that the estates were obligated, based on an agreement between the developers and the homeowners, to continue to maintain and repair the roads and water and sewer systems until the town accepted the dedication of the infrastructure. The Vermont Supreme Court affirmed the court’s findings and conclusions, and remanded the matter to the trial court for remand to the probate division for further proceedings. View "Hayes v. Mountain View Estates Homeowners Association" on Justia Law
Marsh Inter Vivos Trust v. McGillvray, et al.
The issue before the Supreme Court in this case involved the interplay between rulings and requirements relating to zoning in connection with a planned development and enforcement of restrictive covenants and deed restrictions applicable to property within the development. Plaintiff obtained municipal zoning approval to reconfigure the lot lines in her two-lot farmstead parcel within the Quechee Lakes subdivision, as well as to construct a dwelling on the second, yet-to-be-developed lot. The Environmental Division affirmed the zoning board's award of the latter permit. Notwithstanding that order, in a declaratory judgment action also initiated by plaintiff, the civil division concluded that plaintiff's proposed construction violated the applicable restrictive covenants and deed restrictions. On appeal, plaintiff argued that the Environmental Division's decision resolved the dispute, that the civil division improperly considered extrinsic evidence when the disputed deed restrictions were clear on their face, that defendants' challenge to plaintiff's right to build the proposed dwelling was time-barred, and that the character of the development had changed so much that the disputed deed restrictions are no longer valid. Upon review, the Supreme Court found that Plaintiff's theory of the case was that the deed language was ambiguous; plaintiff was instrumental in framing the trial court's task as one of construing ambiguous deed language; and plaintiff led the way in introducing extrinsic evidence in support of plaintiff's own interpretation. "Given this record, plaintiff cannot now challenge the trial court's consideration of extrinsic evidence to interpret the documents." The Court concluded that plaintiff suffered no prejudice from the trial court's decision to consider the testimony about the context surrounding the disputed deed language - both that offered by plaintiff and by defendants. Finding no error in the trial court's decision to deny the motion for declaratory judgment, the Court reached no other issues plaintiff raised in her appeal and affirmed the trial court's judgment. View "Marsh Inter Vivos Trust v. McGillvray, et al." on Justia Law
City of Glendale, et al v. United States, et al
The City of Glendale and various other parties sought to set aside the Department of the Interior's decision to accept in trust, for the benefit of the Tohono O'odham Nation, a 54-acre parcel of land known as Parcel 2. The Nation hoped to build a destination resort and casino on Parcel 2, which was unincorporated county land, entirely surrounded by the city. This appeal related the the status of the land as trust. The court affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment for the government after that court concluded that the Secretary of the Interior reasonably applied the Gila Bend Indian Reservation Lands Replacement Act, Pub. L. No. 99-503, 100 Stat. 1798, and that the Act did not violate the Indian Commerce Clause or the Tenth Amendment. View "City of Glendale, et al v. United States, et al" on Justia Law
Gold Country Estates Preservation Group, Inc. v. Fairbanks North Star Borough
Margery Kniffen, as Trustee for the Margery T. Kniffen Family Trust and Darrell Kniffen II, purchased an undeveloped tract in Fairbanks North Star Borough, planning to develop a subdivision. They also purchased a lot in Gold Country Estates, an existing subdivision adjacent to the undeveloped tract. The Kniffens sought a variance allowing them to construct a road across their Gold Country Estates lot to provide access to the planned subdivision. After hearing public testimony, the local Platting Board unanimously voted to deny the variance based on safety concerns. But after a subsequent site visit, the Board reconsidered the variance request and approved it. Gold Country Estates homeowners appealed to the Planning Commission, which upheld the Platting Board’s decision. The homeowners filed suit in superior court, arguing that the Platting Board denied them due process and violated the Open Meetings Act and that the proposed road violated Gold Country Estates’ covenants. The superior court ruled that Gold Country Estates’ covenants did not allow a Gold Country lot to be used as access for the new subdivision. Though the Kniffens’ access proposal was defeated, Gold Country continued to pursue its due process and Open Meetings Act claims against the Borough. The superior court ultimately ruled in favor of the Borough on those claims. The homeowners appealed to the Supreme Court, arguing that the superior court erred by not finding that the Platting Board denied them due process and violated the Open Meetings Act. Upon review, the Supreme Court affirmed the superior court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of the Borough on the homeowners' Open Meetings Act and due process claims, as well as the superior court's order declining to award attorney’s fees. View "Gold Country Estates Preservation Group, Inc. v. Fairbanks North Star Borough" on Justia Law
Hammer v. Aviation Cadet Museum, Inc.
Petitioners, trustees and co-trustees of two trusts as well as several individuals, appealed from an order entered by the circuit court that modified a previous injunction to allow Respondent, Aviation Cadet Museum, to land and depart small aircraft exclusively from the north end of its airfield. Before the Supreme Court was Petitioners' request for writ of certiorari seeking additional time to complete the record. The Court denied the writ, holding that the record in this case was not filed in a timely manner, and because the timely filing of the record on appeal is a jurisdictional requirement for perfecting an appeal, the appeal was dismissed.
Indust. Develop. Bd. of the City of Montgomery v. Russell
The Industrial Development Board of the City of Montgomery (IDB) appealed a circuit court's interlocutory order that denied its motion for summary judgment as to a breach-of-contract claim asserted against it by George and Thomas Russell as co-executors and co-trustees of the wills and testamentary trusts of Earnest and Myrtis Russell, Price and Mary McLemore and several others. In 2001, various officials of the State of Alabama, the City of Montgomery, the Montgomery County Commission, Montgomery Chamber of Commerce and the local water works board began making preparations to secure options to purchase property in the Montgomery area in an attempt to persuade Hyundai Motor Company to build an automobile plant in the area. All the trusts owned acres of land in the targeted area. The IDB signed separate options with the Russells, the McLemores and other trusts to purchase the respective properties. Hyundai's plans for its manufacturing plant changed, and subsequently, not all of the options were exercised. The Russells and the McLemores each filed breach-of-contract actions against the IDB and Hyundai alleging that neither adhered to the terms of their respective options. Upon review, the Supreme Court found that the trial court did not err in denying the IDB's motion for summary judgment. The Court affirmed the lower court's decision.