Justia Zoning, Planning & Land Use Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit
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North Mill Street, LLC (“NMS”) owned commercial property in Aspen, Colorado. It sued the City of Aspen and the Aspen City Council (collectively, the “City”) in federal court, alleging the City’s changes to Aspen’s zoning laws and denial of a rezoning application caused a regulatory taking of NMS’s property without just compensation in violation of the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment. The district court concluded NMS’s action was not ripe under Article III of the Constitution because NMS did not obtain a final decision from the City on how the property could be developed. The court thus dismissed the case for lack of jurisdiction under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1). Finding no reversible error in that judgment, the Tenth Circuit affirmed. View "North Mill Street v. City of Aspen, et al." on Justia Law

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At issue in this case was whether the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) was required to conduct an environmental analysis under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) when it re-opened an area that it had temporarily closed to off-highway vehicles (OHVs) pursuant to its authority under 43 C.F.R. section 8341.2(a). In 2006, the BLM closed a portion of the Factory Butte area in Utah to OHVs due to their adverse effects on the endangered Wright fishhook cactus. The BLM lifted that closure order in 2019 and re-opened the area to OHV use, but did not perform any kind of environmental analysis under NEPA before doing so. Plaintiffs filed suit pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 1331, alleging violations of NEPA and the Administrative Procedure Act (APA). The district court disagreed with Plaintiffs' contention and dismissed their complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. Finding no reversible error, the Tenth Circuit affirmed the district court. View "Natural Resources Defense v. McCarthy" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs-Appellants Santa Fe Alliance for Public Health & Safety, Arthur Firstenberg, and Monika Steinhoff (collectively the “Alliance”) brought a number of claims under Section 704 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 (“TCA”), New Mexico’s Wireless Consumer Advanced Infrastructure Investment Act (“WCAIIA”), the Amendments to Chapter 27 of the Santa Fe City City Code, and Santa Fe mayor proclamations. The Alliance alleged the statutes and proclamations violated due process, the Takings Clause, and the First Amendment. Through its amended complaint, the Alliance contended the installation of telecommunications facilities, primarily cellular towers and antennas, on public rights-of-way exposed its members to dangerous levels of radiation. The Alliance further contended these legislative and executive acts prevented it from effectively speaking out against the installation of new telecommunications facilities. The United States moved to dismiss under Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1), and (b)(6), and the City of Santa Fe moved to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6). The district court concluded that while the Alliance pled sufficient facts to establish standing to assert its constitutional claims, the Alliance failed to allege facts stating any constitutional claim upon which relief could be granted, thus dismissing claims against all defendants, including New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas. The Tenth Circuit affirmed dismissal of the Alliance's constitutional claims, finding apart from the district court, that the Alliance lacked standing to raise its takings and due process claims not premised on an alleged denial of notice. Furthermore, the Court held that while the Alliance satisfied the threshold for standing as to its First Amendment and procedural due process claims (premised on the WCAIIA and Chapter 27 Amendments), the district court properly dismissed these claims under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). View "Santa Fe Alliance v. City of Santa Fe" on Justia Law

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The City of Truth or Consequences converted a community center for senior citizens into a visitor center operated by Spaceport America. A local resident, Ron Fenn, unhappy with this change, publicly protested his opposition over a period of several years. Some of his protests were inside the building and included offensive behavior and unauthorized uses of the facility. Several tenants in the building, including Spaceport Director Daniel Hicks, complained to local law enforcement about Fenn’s behavior and presence at the Center. He was issued three no trespass notices pursuant to New Mexico law over that time. Finally, in June 2017, Fenn was arrested and charged with trespass. The charges were later dismissed. Fenn sued, asserting: (1) a 42 U.S.C. 1983 civil rights claim for First Amendment retaliation against Hicks, arresting officer Michael Apodaca, and Police Chief Lee Alirez; (2) a section 1983 claim for malicious prosecution against Apodaca and Alirez; (3) claims against the City for supervisory liability and under Monell v. Dep’t of Soc. Servs., 436 U.S. 658 (1978); (4) a section 1983 claim for supervisory liability against Alirez; and (5) a state law claim for malicious abuse of process against Apodaca and Alirez. The district court rejected Fenn’s claims on qualified immunity grounds, and the Tenth Circuit affirmed: the individual defendants were entitled to qualified immunity because no constitutional violation occurred. "And, in the absence of a constitutional violation by Apodaca or Alirez, there is no basis for the Monell and supervisory claims. Finally, the district court correctly dismissed Fenn’s state law claim for malicious abuse of process." View "Fenn v. City of Truth or Consequences" on Justia Law

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Defendant-appellant Robert Allen appealed his conviction for depredation of government property. arguing his conviction violated both the Fifth Amendment’s Due Process Clause and separation of powers principles. Allen also appealed the district court’s restitution order of $20,300, claiming the order included restitution for uncharged conduct, and that the district court erred in applying the procedural framework of the Mandatory Victim Restitution Act (MVRA) by placing the burden on him to disprove the amount of loss contained in the presentence report and by ordering a restitution amount unsupported by evidence. After the parties completed briefing on this case, the government filed a notice of concession, acknowledging that the restitution order was erroneous and suggesting remand for resentencing on restitution. The Tenth Circuit affirmed Allen’s conviction, vacated the district court’s restitution order, and remanded the case to the district court to recalculate restitution. View "United States v. Allen" on Justia Law

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The Pueblos of Jemez, Santa Ana, and Zia resided along the Jemez River at a time when their lands passed from Spanish to Mexican sovereignty, and finally to the United States. In 1983, the United States initiated a water-rights adjudication for the Jemez River Basin, claiming water rights on behalf of the Pueblos. The issue this case presented for the Tenth Circuit's review centered on whether the Pueblos' aboriginal water rights were extinguished by the imposition of Spanish authority "without any affirmative adverse act." No matter the method used, the sovereign’s intent to extinguish must be clear and unambiguous; “an extinguishment cannot be lightly implied in view of the avowed solicitude of the Federal Government for the welfare of its Indian wards.” Moreover, “if there is doubt whether aboriginal title has been validly extinguished by the United States, any ‘doubtful expressions, instead of being resolved in favor of the United States, are to be resolved in favor of’ the Indians.” The Tenth Circuit reversed the district court, finding that while "All conquering sovereigns possess authority over their land and resources ... not until the sovereign exercises this authority through clear and adverse affirmative action may it extinguish aboriginal rights." View "United States v. Abouselman" on Justia Law

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Oklahoma City Ordinance 25,777 prohibited standing, sitting, or remaining for most purposes on certain medians. Plaintiffs were Oklahoma City residents, a minority political party in Oklahoma, and an independent news organization. They used medians to panhandle, engage in protests or other expressive activity, mount political campaigns, cover the news, or have personal conversations. After they were no longer able to engage in such activity due to the ordinance, plaintiffs sued Oklahoma City and its chief of police, William Citty, (together, “the City”) alleging violations of their First and Fourteenth Amendment rights. The district court dismissed plaintiff Trista Wilson’s First Amendment claim; granted summary judgment favoring the City on plaintiffs’ due process vagueness claims; and, following a bench trial, entered judgment against plaintiffs on all other claims. After review, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the court’s entry of judgment in favor of the City on plaintiffs’ First Amendment claims; it reversed the dismissal of Wilson’s First Amendment claim; and affirmed on all other claims. View "McCraw v. City of Oklahoma City" on Justia Law

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The residential community of Cordillera in Eagle County, Colorado, featured a private lodge and spa (the “Lodge”) and a village center (the “Village”). For many years, the Lodge offered its dues-paying members certain amenities, including a golf course and spa. The Village offered “open space: tennis courts and hiking paths, which all residents and their guests could use. In 2013, after years of monetary losses, the owner of both parcels listed them for sale. In 2016, CSMN Investments, LLC (CSMN) emerged to purchase both properties. CSMN's plan for the properties would have closed the properties to other uses. Before closing on the sale, CSMN sought confirmation from Eagle County’s Planning Director that its planned use, operating an inpatient addiction-treatment center, was an allowed use under the “Cordillera Subdivision Eleventh Amended and Restated Planned Unit Development Control Document” (PUD). The Director issued a written interpretation of the PUD, concluding CSMN could operate a clinic including inpatient, non-critical care, for treatment of a variety of conditions. In response to the Director’s interpretation, community members unhappy with the change to the Lodge and Village, formed the Cordillera Property Owners Association (CPOA) and Cordillera Metropolitan District (CMD), to jointly appeal the Director's PUD interpretation to the Board of county Commissioners. The Board affirmed the Director on all but one point, concluding the PUD permitted outpatient-only clinical uses. Still aggrieved, the CMD and CPOA took their case to Colorado state court; the district court affirmed the Board's decision. CPOA appealed to the Colorado Court of Appeals, which likewise affirmed the Board's decision. With the state-court appeals pending, CSMN filed a civil-rights action in Colorado federal district court against CPOA, CMD, and various associated people (the CMD board members, the CMD district manager, and the Legal Committee members). In response, Appellees moved under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) to dismiss all claims, arguing that the right to petition immunized their conduct. CSMN countered that Appellees’ claim of immunity was unfounded because the petitioning had sought an unlawful outcome, and that even if the immunity somehow did apply, the petitioning fell within an exception to that immunity, that is, the petitioning was a “sham.” The district court sided with Appellees, dismissing all but one of the claims on the ground that their conduct was protected by Noerr-Pennington immunity. CSMN appealed. But the Tenth Circuit concurred with the finding that Appellees engaged in objectively reasonable litigation, thus immunity applied to their conduct. View "CSMN Investments v. Cordillera Metropolitan" on Justia Law

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The jaguar is a large felid found in the southwestern United States, Mexico, Central America, and South America. Pertinent here, the jaguar was listed as a foreign endangered species in 1972. In 2014, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service published a final rule designating 764,207 acres in New Mexico and Arizona as critical jaguar habitat. Plaintiffs filed suit, contending the Service’s designation was arbitrary and capricious. The district court ruled in favor of the Service. After review of the district court record, the Tenth Circuit concluded the agency did not comply with the regulation, and the Tenth Circuit's "resolution of this issue is beyond doubt. Further, the agency had a chance to rectify this error, but failed to do so. When an agency does not comply with its own regulations, it acts arbitrarily and capriciously. " The Court therefore reversed the district court and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "NM Farm & Livestock Bureau v. United States Dept of Interior" on Justia Law

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Thomas Alpern claimed the United States Forest Service improperly charges him a fee when he entered Maroon Valley to park and hike. He cited an provision of the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act (REA) he claimed prohibited charging a fee "solely for parking." He argued that this prohibition overrode another REA provision that allowed agencies to charge a fee when certain listed amenities were present, like picnic tables, security patrols, trash bins, and interpretive signs. The Tenth Circuit disagreed, finding section 6802(d)(1)(A) prohibited charging fees “[s]olely for parking . . . along roads or trailsides[,]” something Alpern did not do. The Court found Alpern parked in a developed parking lot featuring all the amenities listed in section 6802(f)(4), not along a road or trailside. So it affirmed the district court’s decision to reject Alpern’s as-applied challenge to the Maroon Valley fee program. View "Alpern v. Ferebee" on Justia Law