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Although the Louisiana Constitution generally restricts the government from expropriating private property, it provides broad exceptions for public port authorities. The Constitution provides that the government can expropriate property for “[p]ublic ports . . . to facilitate the transport of goods or persons in domestic or international commerce.” The Louisiana Supreme Court granted review in this matter to determine whether St. Bernard Port, Harbor & Terminal District’s (the “Port”) expropriation of property owned by Violet Dock Port, Inc., L.L.C. (“Violet”) on the Mississippi River satisfied the “public purpose” requirement of art. I, section 4(B)(1) of the Louisiana Constitution and, further, whether it violated the business enterprise clause of art. I, section 4(B)(6). The Court found the record demonstrated that the Port’s expropriation was for the public purpose “to facilitate the transport of goods or persons in domestic or international commerce” and not for the constitutionally prohibited purpose of operating Violet’s enterprise or halting competition with a government enterprise. Therefore, the Court affirmed the court of appeal’s judgment that the expropriation was constitutional. However, the Supreme Court also found the trial court made a legal error in setting the just compensation due to Violet under art. I, section 4(B)(1), and further found the court of appeal failed to correct that error. This case was remanded to the court of appeal solely for the purpose of fixing the amount of just compensation based on the evidence in the record and in accordance with the principles discussed by the Supreme Court in this opinion. View "St. Bernard Port, Harbor & Terminal Dist. v. Violet Dock Port, Inc." on Justia Law

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Defendant-landowner Carl Casagrande appealed a superior court order that granted summary judgment to plaintiff Town of Goshen. The issue before the trial court was whether a section of road abutting Casagrande’s property was an unmaintained town road, or whether, as Casagrande contended, it was private property because the residents of Goshen voted at a town meeting in 1891 to discontinue the road. After reviewing the record of the 1891 town meeting, including the language of the warrant article, the trial court concluded that the town had not voted to discontinue the road, and, therefore, the abutting road was a public highway. View "Town of Goshen v. Casagrande" on Justia Law

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Michele Brandt, as Trustee of the Michele L. Brandt Revocable Trust, appealed an order dismissing her appeal of the City of Fargo's resolution of necessity. Karen Wieland appealed a judgment dismissing her appeal to the district court from the City's resolution of necessity. In December 2016, the Fargo City Commission passed a resolution of necessity for property owned by Brandt related to construction of a flood protection project. Days later in a separate proceeding, the City passed a similar resolution of necessity for property owned by Wieland. Each resolution authorized the City to proceed with all legal means to obtain the property, including eminent domain. In each case the City filed a record on appeal in the district court and moved the court to dismiss the appeal. In Brandt's appeal, the City moved alternatively to consolidate Brandt's appeal with an eminent domain proceeding that the City also commenced in December 2016. In both appeals, Brandt and Wieland moved the district court to strike all materials from the record that had not specifically been placed in front of the city commission during the respective December 2016 meetings. After a February 22, 2017 hearing in Brandt's appeal, the district court entered an order granting the City's motion to dismiss and holding a resolution of necessity as a predicate to eminent domain is not subject to appellate review by the court. The court also held the City had not acted in bad faith, with a gross abuse of discretion, or fraudulently in passing the resolution of necessity. The order denied Brandt's motion to strike, concluding further consideration of the motion was moot. After a March 21, 2017 hearing in Wieland's appeal before a different judge, the district court entered an order and judgment dismissing Wieland's appeal. The court explained that the decision to go forward with an eminent domain proceeding is the City's political or legislative decision which the court could not review by appeal from issuance of the resolution. The City commenced an eminent domain proceeding for the Wieland property in April 2017. Because of similar dispositions, the North Dakota Supreme Court addressed both appeals in this decision and affirmed, concluding the court in each case did not err in dismissing the appeals because no statutory basis authorized an appeal to the district court from the City's resolutions of necessity. View "Brandt v. City of Fargo" on Justia Law

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Subsection 4(a) of Rhode Island’s Right to Farm Act, Rhode Island General Laws chapter 23 of title 2, does not permit Landowner to host commercial events, such as weddings for a fee, on his farmland in the Town of Exeter, Rhode Island. Landowner attempted to obtain a zoning certificate from the Town that would allow him to host a commercial fundraising event on his farmland. When the Town denied the request, Landowner filed suit, seeking a number of declarations. At issue was whether a 2014 amendment to R.I. Gen. Laws 2-23-4(a) rendered a previous permanent injunction enjoining Landowner from using his property for commercial events a nullity. The trial justice denied Landowner’s request for declaratory relief, concluding that the 2014 amendment did not supersede the 2011 injunction. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that, based on the unambiguous language of section 2-23-4(a), Landowner remained bound by the injunction. View "Gerald P. Zarrella Trust v. Town of Exeter" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff-appellant Golden Eagle Land Investment, L.P. (Golden Eagle) and its coplaintiff-appellant Mabee Trust owned real property in the vicinity of Rancho Santa Fe. Appellants sought approvals for a joint development project (the project) from San Diego County land use authorities. At the same time, they began the process of seeking land use approvals for the project from defendant, respondent and cross-appellant, the Rancho Santa Fe Association (the Association or RSFA), whose activities in this respect were governed by a protective covenant and bylaws, as well as County general planning. Appellants sued the Association on numerous statutory and tort theories, only some of which were pled by the Trust, for injuries caused by allegedly unauthorized discussions and actions by the Association in processing the requested approvals, in communicating with County authorities and others. Appellants contended that these Association activities and communications took place without adequate compliance with the Common Interest Development Open Meeting Act. Appellants challenged the trial court's order granting in large part (eight out of nine causes of action) the Association's special motion to strike their complaint, based on each of the two prongs of the anti-SLAPP test. Appellants contended that none of these related tort and bylaws claims arose out of or involved protected Association activity, but rather they were mixed causes of action that were "centered around" alleged earlier false promises by Association representatives to abide by the provisions of the Open Meeting Act. The trial court denied the Association's motion as to one remaining cause of action, in which Golden Eagle alone alleged violations of the Open Meeting Act. The court ruled that the Association's challenged conduct in that respect was not on its face entitled to the benefits of Code of Civil Procedure section 425.16, because it did not fall within the statutory language that defined protected communications during "official" proceedings. On that cause of action only, the trial court did not find it necessary to reach the second portion of the statutory test under the anti-SLAPP statute, on whether Appellants are able to establish a probability that they will prevail on their claims. The Association cross-appealed that portion of the order, arguing the trial court erred as a matter of law in finding the anti-SLAPP statute was inapplicable by its terms. The Court of Appeal concluded the trial court correctly applied the anti-SLAPP statutory scheme in granting the Association's motion to strike the second through ninth causes of action, as variously alleged by one or both Appellants. In addition, the Court reversed the order in part, concluding that the trial court should have granted the motion to strike the first cause of action regarding alleged violations of the Open Meeting Act. View "Golden Eagle Land Inv. v. Rancho Santa Fe Assn." on Justia Law

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The Town of Bow (town) appealed a superior court order granting plaintiff Public Service Company of New Hampshire (PSNH) an abatement of taxes on its property in the town for tax years 2012 and 2013. PSNH owns certain special-purpose utility property in the town, including Merrimack Station, two combustion turbines, and a high-voltage regional electric transmission and distribution network. Merrimack Station consists of two coal-fired units that produce steam to rotate turbines and generators to produce electricity. The combustion turbines cannot be remotely turned on and, instead, must be physically turned on in a control room at the Merrimack Station site. At trial, the sole issue was the determination of the proper value of this special-purpose utility property for the tax years in question. Following a six-day bench trial, the trial court found PSNH's expert “testimony [to be] more credible than” the town's and, therefore, ruled that PSNH had met its burden of demonstrating that it was entitled to an abatement for tax years 2012 and 2013 with respect to the disputed property. The town moved for reconsideration, which the court denied, and this appeal followed. Finding no reversible error, the New Hampshire Supreme Court affirmed the superior court's judgment. View "Public Service Company of New Hampshire v. Town of Bow" on Justia Law

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Cities and towns may exercise their zoning authority to determine whether land in their communities may be used as a noncommercial private restricted landing area (in this case, a private heliport). Here, the Land Court judge concluded that he was constrained to apply the Appeals Court’s holding in Hanlon v. Sheffield, 89 Mass. App. Ct. 392 (2016), which interpreted Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 90, 39B to provide that a town may not enforce a zoning bylaw that would prohibit a private landowner from creating a noncommercial private restricted landing area on his property unless the bylaw had been approved by the Department of Transportation (division). The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the judgment of the Land Court, holding that there is no clear legislative intent to preempt local zoning enactments with respect to noncommercial private restricted landing areas, and cities and towns do not need the prior approval of the division to enforce a zoning bylaw that requires some form of approval, variance, or special permit for land to be used as a private heliport. View "Roma, III, Ltd. v. Board of Appeals of Rockport" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs Clews Land and Livestock, LLC; Barbara Clews; and Christian Clews (collectively, CLL) appealed a judgment in favor of defendant City of San Diego (City) on CLL's petition for writ of mandate and complaint for declaratory and injunctive relief, violation of procedural due process, and equitable estoppel. CLL challenged the City's approval of a project to build a private secondary school on land neighboring CLL's commercial horse ranch and equestrian facility and the City's adoption of a mitigated negative declaration (MND) regarding the project. CLL contended the City should not have adopted the MND because the Cal Coast Academy project would cause significant environmental impacts in the areas of fire hazards, traffic and transportation, noise, recreation, and historical resources, and because the MND identified new impacts and mitigation measures that were not included in the draft MND. CLL further argued the City should not have approved the project because it is situated in designated open space under the applicable community land use plan and because the City did not follow the provisions of the San Diego Municipal Code (SDMC) applicable to historical resources. After review, the Court of Appeal concluded CLL's challenge to the MND was barred because it did not exhaust its administrative remedies in proceedings before the City. In doing so, the Court rejected CLL's argument that the City's process for administrative appeals (at least as implicated by this project) violated the California Environmental Quality Act by improperly splitting the adoption of an environmental document (e.g., the MND) from the project approvals. In addition, the City complied with all applicable requirements of the SDMC regarding historical resources and the City's approval of the project did not conflict with the open space designation because the project would be located on already-developed land. View "Clews Land & Livestock, LLC v. City of San Diego" on Justia Law

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In 1998, Modesto, its Sewer District, and its Redevelopment Agency (RDA) sued retail dry cleaning businesses operating in Modesto, the manufacturers of dry cleaning equipment used at those establishments, and the manufacturers and distributors of dry cleaning solvent, alleging that the city’s groundwater, sewer system and easements, and the soil of property within the RDA project area were contaminated with perchloroethylene, a “toxic chlorinated solvent” and seeking recovery for past, present and future costs of investigation and remediation. The Polanco Redevelopment Act (Health & Saf. Code, 33459), which authorized redevelopment agencies to remediate contamination found in property, including private property, located in a redevelopment project area, and to recover costs from the “responsible parties” was central to the suit. After 14 years of litigation, with three appeals, a final judgment awarded damages with respect to three dry cleaning sites, including an award of punitive damages against three defendants; as to all other claims, judgment was entered in favor of defendants. The court of appeal vacated, holding that no special causation standard applies to Polanco Act claims. The court also: remanded with directions to deny motions for summary adjudication on the nuisance claims; reversed a punitive damages award; and vacated a directed verdict regarding property damage. View "City of Modesto v. Dow Chemical Co." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court’s issuance of an injunction requiring modification or reconstruction of a new home but reversed the circuit court’s conclusion that the City of Sioux Falls owed adjacent property owners a duty to properly enforce building codes. Property owners adjacent to a newly constructed home located within a historic district sought the injunction and also alleged that the City was negligent in issuing a building permit and failing to enforce state regulations on new construction in historic districts as well as a local ordinance governing chimneys. The Supreme Court held (1) the circuit court did not err in granting an injunction with respect to the historic-district regulations; but (2) the circuit court erred in concluding that the new home violated the chimney ordinance and that the City owed a duty to the adjacent owners. View "McDowell v. Sapienza" on Justia Law