Justia Zoning, Planning & Land Use Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Zoning, Planning & Land Use
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In California, a lawsuit was brought against the state by the AIDS Healthcare Foundation and the City of Redondo Beach. The plaintiffs argued that Senate Bill 10, which allowed local governments to bypass housing density restrictions, violated the initiative power of the California Constitution. The trial court ruled against the plaintiffs, leading them to appeal.Senate Bill 10 was enacted to address the severe shortage of housing in California. It provided local legislative bodies the authority to supersede local housing density caps, including those enacted by voter initiatives, in order to allow for more housing units per parcel of land. This power was not absolute; it could only be exercised in certain areas and required a supermajority vote to supersede caps adopted by local voter initiatives.The Court of Appeal upheld the lower court's decision, concluding that Senate Bill 10 did not violate the initiative power of the California Constitution. The appellate court reasoned that the housing shortage was a matter of statewide concern and that the bill conflicted with, and hence preempted, local initiatives that mandated housing density caps. Furthermore, the court determined that the bill's mechanism of granting local legislative bodies the discretion to supersede such caps was not constitutionally problematic.The court also rejected the plaintiffs' argument that existing voter initiatives constituted a preemptive exercise of the local legislative body’s discretion under Senate Bill 10, such that the body lacked the power to supersede such initiatives. The court found no textual support for this argument in the bill and concluded that such an interpretation would frustrate the purpose of Senate Bill 10. View "AIDS Healthcare Foundation v. Bonta" on Justia Law

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The case centers around the dispute over the requirement for a supermajority vote in the Town of Bar Harbor's amendment to its Land Use Ordinance (LUO) concerning vacation rentals. Erica Brooks and Victoria Smith, both property owners in the town, argued that due to a 2-2 tie vote by the Planning Board on the proposed amendment, a two-thirds majority vote was necessary for the amendment to pass. The amendment, however, was enacted with a 60% majority vote. The Superior Court sided with the Town, asserting that the LUO language did not necessitate a supermajority vote.On appeal, the Maine Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the lower court's decision but did so on different grounds. The court agreed with the argument put forth by the Maine Municipal Association in an amicus brief, which asserted that irrespective of the LUO's language, under Maine statutes 21-A M.R.S. § 723(4) (2023) and 30-A M.R.S. § 2501 (2023), only a simple majority vote was required for the amendment to take effect, unless the Town's charter provided otherwise, which it did not. Therefore, the court concluded that the amendment was lawfully enacted with a simple majority vote, rendering the Town's supermajority requirement unenforceable. View "Brooks v. Town of Bar Harbor" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court of Iowa affirmed the decision of the Court of Appeals and the District Court in favor of the City of Des Moines, in a case brought by Lime Lounge, LLC. Lime Lounge, a bar, challenged a city ordinance requiring it to obtain a conditional use permit (CUP) to operate. After receiving noise complaints, the City revoked Lime Lounge's CUP, which was upheld in a prior appeal. Lime Lounge then challenged the ordinance arguing it was preempted by Iowa Code, violated equal protection and spot zoning prohibitions. The trial court dismissed Lime Lounge's claims and this decision was affirmed by the Court of Appeals.The Supreme Court of Iowa found that the city's ordinance was not preempted by state law. Rather, it was a proper exercise of the city's zoning authority and did not create a separate local alcohol license. The Court also rejected Lime Lounge's equal protection claim, holding that the city had a legitimate purpose in imposing a CUP on specific businesses selling alcohol. Finally, the Court dismissed the claim of illegal spot zoning, as Lime Lounge failed to prove that the city had engaged in such activity. The Court thus affirmed the dismissal of Lime Lounge's challenge to the ordinance. View "Lime Lounge, Inc. v. City of Des Moines, Iowa" on Justia Law

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A private Catholic high school in Madison, Wisconsin, sued the city and other defendants, claiming that the city's decision to deny the school permission to install lights for nighttime athletic events violated the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) and the Free Exercise Clause of the U.S. Constitution. The school also claimed a vested property right under Wisconsin law.In the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, the school argued that the city's actions amounted to unequal treatment and a substantial burden on its religious exercise. However, the court found that the school, as a master plan institution under the city's Campus-Institutional District ordinance, was not comparably situated to other institutions that had been granted lighting permits. The court also ruled that the city's denial of the permit did not amount to a substantial burden on the school's religious exercise under RLUIPA.Furthermore, the court found that the school's Free Exercise claim provided no additional protections beyond those under RLUIPA and thus could be dismissed. Lastly, the court rejected the school's vested rights claim, as the lighting permit application did not conform to the municipal zoning requirements in effect at the time. Consequently, the court affirmed the lower court's summary judgment in favor of the city. View "Edgewood High School of the Sacred Heart, Incorpor v. City of Madison, Wisconsin" on Justia Law

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This case involves the Temple of 1001 Buddhas and others, who own a property in Fremont, California. They appealed against the City of Fremont's decision to uphold nuisance orders relating to their property based on alleged violations of the local building code. The plaintiffs argued that the appeals process used by the City of Fremont was preempted by section 1.8.8 of the California Building Code, which requires appeals to be heard by an independent agency or board, or the city's governing body. They also raised issues about the fairness of their administrative appeal hearing.The Court of Appeal of the State of California, First Appellate District, Division Four concluded that the City of Fremont's appeals process did conflict with the state law in relation to enforcement determinations based on violations of Fremont’s Building Standards Code. However, it rejected the plaintiffs' claims about procedural unfairness and zoning violations.The court reversed part of the judgment and directed the trial court to issue appropriate mandamus relief. This included compelling Fremont to establish an appeals board or authorized agency to hear appeals, or provide for an appeal to its governing body as required by section 1.8.8 of the Building Code. Furthermore, Fremont was compelled to set aside the administrative hearing decision sustaining the nuisance determinations in NOA 3 that are premised on violations of the Fremont Building Standards Code and to provide for an appeal for those nuisance determinations. View "Temple of 1001 Buddhas v. City of Fremont" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court of the State of Idaho affirmed a lower court's decision upholding the denial of a preliminary plat application by Renaissance Project Development, LLC for phases two through five of the Shoshone Heights Subdivision. The Twin Falls County Board of Commissioners denied the application due to safety concerns surrounding the ability of residents to evacuate the subdivision in an emergency through a single, gated point of egress.In 2007, Renaissance purchased Shoshone Heights from Casper Southgate, LLC, and obtained approval for a planned unit development (PUD) from the City of Twin Falls. However, the county took over management of the area after the first phase of the subdivision was built. In 2021, Renaissance filed an application seeking approval to construct a thirty-six residential lot subdivision on the property. The county denied the application due to concerns about the lack of a second egress point and the associated safety risks.Renaissance appealed the denial, arguing that the county's decision was arbitrary, capricious, and influenced by bias. It also contended that the denial was fundamentally unfair due to the fact that other subdivisions in the area only had one egress point. However, the court found that the county's decision was rooted in the express approval standard of the health and safety provisions of the Twin Falls City Code, and provided a reasoned statement for the decision, satisfying the requirements of the Idaho Code. Therefore, the court affirmed the lower court's decision dismissing the petition for judicial review. View "Renaissance Project Development, LLC v. Twin Falls" on Justia Law

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The case involves Sanimax USA, LLC, who sued the City of South Saint Paul, Minnesota, under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that the city's zoning and odor ordinances violated the First Amendment and Equal Protection Clause. Sanimax contended that the city enacted these ordinances in retaliation for Sanimax challenging prior ordinances and that the ordinances unfairly singled out Sanimax. The district court granted the city's motion for summary judgment on all counts.Sanimax operates a rendering plant in South Saint Paul that processes animal carcasses and organic byproducts, emitting pungent, foul odors that have drawn numerous complaints from nearby residents and businesses. Sanimax was designated as a "Significant Odor Generator" by the city, and later challenged the constitutionality of the city's odor ordinance, alleging that it was unconstitutionally vague.The United States Court of Appeals For the Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's decision. The Court found that Sanimax failed to show that the city's actions were a direct retaliation for Sanimax's prior lawsuits challenging the city's ordinances. Additionally, the Court rejected Sanimax's argument that it was unfairly singled out, finding that Sanimax was not similarly situated to other businesses due to the significantly higher number of odor complaints it generated. Lastly, the Court rejected Sanimax's argument that the city's odor ordinance was unconstitutionally vague, finding that the ordinance provided sufficient notice of the prohibited conduct and did not lend itself to arbitrary enforcement. View "Sanimax USA, LLC v. City of South St. Paul" on Justia Law

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The case involves a zoning enforcement action initiated by the Town of Pawlet against landowner Daniel Banyai. Banyai launched a firearms training facility on his property in 2017, which was found to be in violation of the town's Uniform Zoning Bylaws. The Environmental Division issued a judgment in 2021, ordering Banyai to remove unpermitted structures and have his property surveyed within 30 days. Banyai failed to comply with these orders, leading to the imposition of contempt sanctions.The contempt sanctions included fines of $200 per day until all violations were rectified, and the potential for Banyai's arrest. The court also granted the town permission to enter Banyai's property to remove the unpermitted structures if he continued to ignore the orders.Banyai appealed, arguing that the sanctions were punitive and violated the excessive fines clause of the U.S. Constitution. However, the Vermont Supreme Court affirmed the Environmental Division's decision, deeming Banyai’s arguments an impermissible collateral attack on a final order. The court stated that Banyai had failed to challenge the February 2023 contempt order or denial of reconsideration by a timely direct appeal, which would have been the appropriate channel for his grievances. As a result, his attempt to challenge the determinations now were considered an impermissible collateral attack on the February 2023 contempt order. View "Town of Pawlet v. Banyai" on Justia Law

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In this case, the plaintiff, Candice K. Harvey, challenged the decision of the Superior Court affirming the Town of Barrington Planning Board's approval of a subdivision on a lot adjacent to her property. The lot was previously subdivided into two lots, one owned by the plaintiff and the other retained by the owners, David and Glenda Henderson. The Hendersons sought a variance to subdivide their lot into two residential lots and gain access via an easement over the plaintiff's lot. The plaintiff protested that the easement was initially meant for accessing only one lot, not two. The Superior Court affirmed the Planning Board's decision, validating the Zoning Board of Adjustment's authority to approve variances and amend subdivision plans under New Hampshire law.The Supreme Court of New Hampshire reversed the decision of the Superior Court and remanded with instructions to vacate the Planning Board's approval of the subdivision application. The Court held that the easement, as specified in the plaintiff's deed and the 2006 plan, is to be used for a single lot and one buildable location only. Therefore, the Planning Board was precluded from approving the new plan absent legal access to the back lot consistent with RSA 674:41. The court disagreed with the trial court's conclusion that the Zoning Board of Adjustment or the Planning Board could modify the terms of the easement. The court also rejected arguments that the rule of reason should be applied to interpret the language of the easement, stating that the language was clear and unambiguous. View "Harvey v. Town of Barrington" on Justia Law

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In this case, the plaintiff, Chicago Joe's Tea Room LLC, had plans to open an adult entertainment business in a suburb of Chicago. However, the Village of Broadview denied the plaintiff's application for a special-use permit, which led to the plaintiff claiming that their constitutional rights were violated. The plaintiff sought millions of dollars in lost profits for the business that never opened. The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois excluded most of the plaintiff's evidence and theories for lost-profit damages due to substantive and procedural issues. The court then awarded the plaintiff just $15,111 in damages. The plaintiff appealed, but the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit affirmed the decision of the lower court, finding no abuses of discretion. The appellate court stated that the plaintiff's calculations of lost profits were beyond the scope of the plaintiff's personal knowledge of a similar business and required expert-like analysis and adjustments. The court also ruled that the plaintiff failed to disclose necessary damages evidence in a timely manner, a violation of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. The plaintiff was also denied the opportunity to amend their complaint to challenge a state statute, as the request was made a decade after the issue became relevant. The court found that granting the amendment would have caused undue delay and prejudice to the Village. View "Chicago Joe's Tea Room, LLC v. Village of Broadview" on Justia Law