Justia Zoning, Planning & Land Use Opinion Summaries

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Petitioner Allco Renewable Energy Limited appealed a Vermont Public Utility Commission denial of its request for a certificate of public good (CPG) to construct a solar energy project in Bennington, Vermont. Under Vermont law, a company desiring to build an in-state electric generation facility may not begin site preparation or construction unless the Commission “first finds that the [project] will promote the general good of the State and issues a certificate to that effect.” Under the test used by the Commission, an adverse impact on aesthetics is undue if it “violate[s] a clear, written community standard intended to preserve the aesthetics or scenic, natural beauty of the area.” In 2015, petitioner applied for a CPG to construct a 2.0-megawatt solar electric generation facility. The project site was in a Rural Conservation District as defined in the Bennington Town Plan. The plan stated that development in Rural Conservation Districts “cannot be sited in prominently visible locations on hillsides or ridgelines.” Appellee Apple Hill Homeowners Association (AHHA) intervened in the CPG proceeding, as did the Town of Bennington. The Town initially argued that petitioner should not be granted a CPG because the project would violate clear, written community standards in the Town Plan, and would therefore interfere with the orderly development of the region and have an undue adverse impact on aesthetics. The Town later changed its position, voting not to oppose the project, and withdrew from the proceeding. Based in part on the Town’s decision not to oppose the project, the hearing officer issued a proposal for decision recommending the Commission conclude the project would not violate any written community standard, and would therefore not unduly interfere with the orderly development of the region or have an undue adverse effect on aesthetics. The Commission adopted the hearing officer’s findings and issued petitioner a CPG. The Vermont Supreme Court reversed, finding the Commission's conclusion was only based on the Town's decision not to oppose the project. The case was remanded to the Commission, who assigned it to a new hearing officer, who then reversed the prior decision, finding the project would therefore unduly interfere with the orderly development of the region and have an undue adverse impact on aesthetics. Ultimately the Commission concurred with this decision. Petitioner moved for reconsideration, which the Commission denied. The Supreme Court affirmed the Commission's last decision on this matter, upholding the denial of a CPG. View "In re Petition of Apple Hill Solar LLC" on Justia Law

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Snowball West Investments, LP applied to build a housing project consisting of 215 homes in the Sunland/Tujunga area of the City of Los Angeles. The current zoning for the site is RA and A1; the project must be rezoned to RD5 and R1 for the project to move forward. The City denied Snowball’s zone change request, stating that more information was needed before building homes in a high wildfire hazard area. Snowball petitioned for a writ of mandate, which was denied. Snowball appealed. Snowball argues that under the rezoning exemption in the Housing Accountability Act (HAA), Government Code section 65589.5, subdivision (j)(4)1 (section 65589.5(j)(4)), its project is exempt from the need for a zone change.   The Second Appellate District affirmed the superior court’s denial of Snowball’s writ petition. The court explained that the current RA and A1 zoning is consistent with the community plan through the language of that plan. Because the rezoning exemption in section 65589.5(j)(4) only applies when “the zoning for the project site is inconsistent” with the applicable plan, the rezoning exemption in section 65589.5(j)(4) does not apply here, and Snowball’s project was not exempt from zone change requirements.  Further, the court wrote that the HAA does not apply, and the City’s findings were sufficient under the LAMC and supported by substantial evidence. View "Snowball West Investments v. City of Los Angeles" on Justia Law

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Defendant City of Orange (the City) appealed an order denying an anti-SLAPP motion. The underlying lawsuit alleged a violation of the Ralph M. Brown Act (Brown Act). Plaintiff Mary’s Kitchen provided homeless services in the City of Orange. Prior to the filing of this lawsuit, the city manager for the City terminated Mary’s Kitchen’s license, citing safety concerns. Subsequently, the city council held an executive (i.e., closed) session to discuss potential unspecified litigation. Afterward, the city attorney exited the meeting and declared that the council had “unanimously confirmed” the termination of Mary’s Kitchen’s license. The Brown Act required that any contemplated action or topic of discussion be posted in an agenda at least 72 hours prior to the meeting; the meeting agenda pertinent here did not mention anything about Mary’s Kitchen’s license. Plaintiffs Mary’s Kitchen and Gloria Suess (chief executive officer and president of Mary’s Kitchen) filed a verified complaint/petition for writ of mandate against the City. The City filed an anti-SLAPP motion, arguing that because the agenda described the meeting as discussing legal matters, the complaint/petition arose out of protected activity. The City took the position that no action was taken at the meeting, and that the unanimous approval described in the minutes simply reflected inaction—i.e., that the city council chose to do nothing to override the city manager’s decision to terminate the license. The court denied the motion, concluding the complaint targeted the City’s failure to provide adequate notice of the confirmation of the license termination rather than anything that was said at the meeting. To this the Court of Appeal agreed with this assessment and further concluded that the “unanimous confirm[ation]” was evidence of an action: ratification. View "Mary's Kitchen v. City of Orange" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals reversed the decision of the appellate division affirming the judgment of Supreme Court granting Respondents' motions to dismiss Petitioners' amended N.Y. C.P.L.R. 78 petition as time-barred, holding that the relation back doctrine applied.In 2012, Petitioners secured an injunction barring Respondents from using part of their property for nonresidential purposes. Thereafter, Respondents sought a variance from the Village of Hancock Board of Appeals (ZBA), which was granted. Petitioners later commenced a CPLR article 78 proceeding seeking annulment of the use variation. The appellate division granted the request and reversed. In 2016, Respondents sought a variance, which the ZBA granted. Petitioners subsequently commenced this CPLR article 78 proceeding seeking annulment of the ZBA's decision. This time, however, Petitioners omitted Respondent Rosa Kuehn. Supreme Court granted Respondents' motion to dismiss, concluding that the petition was time-barred against Rosa and that the claims against the remaining respondents must be dismissed for lack of a necessary party. The appellate division affirmed. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that the relation back doctrine is not limited to cases where the amending party's omission results from doubts regarding the omitted party's identity or status. View "Nemeth v. K-Tooling" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Van Sant & Co. (Van Sant) owned and operated a mobile home park in Calhan, Colorado, for a number of years. In 2018, Van Sant began to publicly explore the possibility of converting its mobile home park to an RV park. In October 2018, Calhan adopted an ordinance that imposed regulations on the development of new RV parks, but also included a grandfather clause that effectively exempted the two existing RV parks in Calhan, one of which was connected to the grandparents of two members of Calhan’s Board of Trustees (Board) who voted in favor of the new RV park regulations. Van Sant subsequently filed suit against Calhan, several members of its Board, the owners of one of the existing RV parks, and other related individuals. asserting antitrust claims under the Sherman Act, as well as substantive due process and equal protection claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The defendants successfully moved for summary judgment. Van Sant appealed, but finding no reversible error, the Tenth Circuit affirmed. View "Van Sant & Co. v. Town of Calhan, et al." on Justia Law

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New York brought this action against the National Marine Fisheries Service—the federal agency responsible for the summer flounder fishery—and several related federal entities. New York argues the current quotas fail to account for the long-term movement of summer flounder northward, closer to New York’s shores. New York claims the quotas violate the Magnuson-Stevens Act as well as the Administrative Procedure Act. The district court rejected that argument; it granted summary judgment to the Fisheries Service.   The Second Circuit affirmed, concluding that in setting each state’s summer flounder quotas, the Fisheries Service properly weighed the relevant statutory considerations. The court explained that the NMFS adopted a rule that sought to “balance preservation of historical state access and infrastructure at recent quota levels, with the intent to provide equitability among states when the stock and quota are at higher levels.” The court explained that it could not say that this adjustment to the previous rule—the result of balancing ten different national standards—lacked a rational basis articulated in the administrative record. The court therefore concluded that the NMFS did not violate the MSA or the APA when it set summer flounder quotas through the 2020 Allocation Rule. View "State of New York v. Raimondo" on Justia Law

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Petitioners James Beal, Mary Beth Brady, Mark Brighton, Lenore Weiss Bronson, Nancy Brown, William R. Castle, Lawrence J. Cataldo, Ramona Charland, Lucinda Clarke, Fintan Connell, Marjorie P. Crean, Ilara Donarum, Joseph R. Famularo, Jr., Philippe Favet, Charlotte Gindele, Julia Gindele, Linda Griebsch, Catherine L. Harris, Roy W. Helsel, John E. Howard, Nancy B. Howard, Elizabeth Jefferson, Cate Jones, Robert McElwain, Mary Lou McElwain, Edward Rice, April Weeks, Michael Wierbonics, and Lili Wierbonics, appealed a Housing Appeals Board (HAB) order that reversed a decision of the Portsmouth Zoning Board of Adjustment (ZBA), which, in turn, had reversed certain approvals granted by the Portsmouth Planning Board (Planning Board) to respondent, Iron Horse Properties, LLC (Iron Horse). Iron Horse owned real property at 105 Bartlett Street in Portsmouth. In 2021, it requested various approvals from the Planning Board in connection with its proposed redevelopment of the site: three multi-family apartment buildings with a total of 152 dwelling units. Iron Horse sought a site review permit, lot line revision permit, conditional use permit (CUP) for shared parking, and a wetland CUP. The Planning Board granted the approvals, and the petitioners, describing themselves as “a group of abutters and other concerned citizens,” then filed an appeal with the ZBA. The ZBA granted the appeal, effectively reversing the Planning Board’s site plan and CUP approvals. Following denial of its motion for rehearing, Iron Horse then appealed the ZBA’s decision to the HAB. The HAB reversed the ZBA’s findings as to six of the petitioners’ claims and dismissed the remaining three claims. Petitioners took their appeal to the New Hampshire Supreme Court, raising a number of issues that were consolidated under two overarching questions: (1) whether Iron Horse’s proposed project met the six criteria for a wetland CUP set forth in section 10.1017.50 of the Portsmouth Zoning Ordinance; and (2) whether Iron Horse’s permit requests were barred under the doctrine of Fisher v. City of Dover, 120 N.H. 187 (1980). Finding no reversible error in the HAB’s decision, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "Appeal of Beal, et al." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court granted a writ of mandamus ordering the Union County Board of Elections to place a referendum on the November 7, 2023 general election ballot in this expedited election case, holding that the Union County Board of Elections and Secretary of State based their discretion and acted in clear disregard of the applicable law when they removed the referendum from the ballot.On the same day that the Marysville City Council passed an ordinance to annex 263.25 acres adjoining Marysville it passed an ordinance to rezone the territory from agricultural use to a planned-unit development. Relators circulated referendum petitions for the annexation ordinance, and the board certified the referendum to the ballot. Respondent filed an election protest to the referendum. The Secretary of State sustained the protest and excluded the referendum from the ballot. Relators then brought this action for a writ of mandamus to compel the board to place the referendum on the November 2023 general election ballot. The Supreme Court granted the writ, holding that it was an abuse of discretion to remove the referendum from the ballot. View "State ex rel. Miller v. Union County Bd. of Elections" on Justia Law

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The Historic Architecture Alliance and the Laguna Beach Historic Preservation Coalition (collectively, the Alliance) appealed the denial of their petition for mandamus relief. The action involved a decision by the City of Laguna Beach and its City Council (collectively, the City) to approve real parties in interest Ian Kirby and Cherlin Kirby’s (the Kirbys) application to renovate and build an extension on an existing single-family dwelling listed in the City’s “Historic Resources Inventory.” Because of this listing, the Kirbys’ residence was considered a presumptive historical resource under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). The Alliance asserted the showing it made before the City was sufficient to support the historical resource exception, which stated: “A categorical exemption shall not be used for a project which may cause a substantial adverse change in the significance of a historical resource.” The Alliance asserted the project caused a substantial adverse change in the significance of a historical resource and preparation of an EIR or a mitigated negative declaration was required. The Court of Appeal concluded substantial evidence supported the City’s finding the project was exempt under the historical resource exemption because it was consistent with the Secretary’s Standards. The Court further concluded the fair argument standard did not apply where application of the historical resource exemption and the historical resource exception depended on the same issue—whether the project complies with the Secretary’s Standards. Accordingly, the judgment was affirmed. View "Historic Architecture Alliance v. City of Laguna Beach" on Justia Law

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Willow purchased a house that needed repairs. Bids for the work exceeded $100,000. Renovations began in 2017 but soon halted. After several years passed, with the house remaining empty, the Village proposed its demolition as a nuisance. The Village published notice, posted notices on the house, and mailed notice to Willow, which concedes having actual knowledge of the impending demolition. Willow did not respond until the week scheduled for the demolition when its lawyer proposed a meeting. The parcel was sold at auction to satisfy the Village’s lien for demolition expenses.Willow sued under 42 U.S.C. 1983, claiming a taking without compensation. The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment for the Village. Demolition of a dilapidated structure that constitutes a public nuisance is not problematic under the Due Process Clause and does not require compensation. The protection that the federal Constitution offers to property owners is notice and an opportunity for a hearing. The Village gave such a notice to Willow, which did not ask for a hearing. Illinois law offers procedures that are constitutionally adequate; someone wanting to stop a demolition need only file suit in state court, which automatically blocks action until the judge decides whether the building meets the statutory criteria for demolition. The district court was not required to decide a state law inverse-condemnation claim. View "Willow Way, LLC v. Village of Lyons, Illinois" on Justia Law