Justia Zoning, Planning & Land Use Opinion Summaries

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In the case of Planning and Conservation League et al., v. Department of Water Resources heard in the California Court of Appeal, Third Appellate District, the court considered whether the Department of Water Resources’ (department) approval of amendments to long-term contracts with local government agencies that receive water through the State Water Project violated various laws. The amendments extended the contracts to 2085 and expanded the facilities listed as eligible for revenue bond financing. Several conservation groups and public agencies challenged the amendments, arguing they violated the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Reform Act (Delta Reform Act), and the public trust doctrine. However, the court held that the department did not violate CEQA, the Delta Reform Act, or the public trust doctrine, and therefore affirmed the trial court's judgment in favor of the department. The court found that the department used the correct baseline for its environmental impact report (EIR), properly segmented the amendments from related projects, and adequately considered the direct, indirect, and cumulative impacts of the amendments. The court also held that the department adequately described the project and considered a reasonable range of alternatives, and that recirculation of the EIR was not required. The court rejected arguments that the amendments violated the Delta Reform Act or the public trust doctrine, finding that they did not impact "water that is imbued with the public trust." The court concluded that the department acted within its authority in approving and executing the amendments. View "Planning and Conservation League v. Dept. of Water Resources" on Justia Law

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In the case before the Supreme Court of the State of South Dakota, Love’s Travel Stops & Country Stores and One Shot, LLC, filed a petition against the City of Wall, South Dakota, City Council, and Planning and Zoning Commission for the City. Love’s, a corporation that operates 24-hour truck stops, entered into an agreement to purchase a 13-acre parcel of land from One Shot, contingent on obtaining the necessary zoning and permitting approvals from the city. After the City Council denied Love's rezoning and building permit applications, Love’s filed a petition for writ of mandamus, writ of certiorari, and request for declaratory relief with the circuit court. The circuit court granted Love's petition in part, declaring that the City’s Zoning Ordinance did not apply to the property and required the City to reconsider Love's application for a building permit. The City Council reconsidered and again denied Love's building permit application. Love’s then filed a motion for order to show cause requesting the circuit court to find the City in contempt of the court’s order and sought issuance of a building permit. The circuit court found the City in contempt and ordered the City to issue Love's a building permit. The City appealed.The South Dakota Supreme Court reversed the circuit court's decision. The Supreme Court found that the circuit court order was clearly erroneous in finding that the City willfully and contumaciously violated the court’s order to reconsider and vote on Love's requested building permit. The Supreme Court also noted that the circuit court’s remedy for its finding of contempt was inconsistent with the purpose of civil contempt and exceeded its authority by imposing a punitive, rather than coercive civil contempt remedy. The court's order to issue a building permit was punitive and denied the City the opportunity to purge itself of contempt and come into compliance with the original court order. Therefore, the Supreme Court reversed the circuit court’s finding of contempt and the order issuing a building permit to Love's. View "Love’s Travel Stops V. City Of Wall" on Justia Law

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In the case before the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, Ateres Bais Yaakov Academy of Rockland (ABY) sued the Town of Clarkstown, George Hoehmann, CUPON Inc., and Citizens United to Protect Our Neighborhoods of Greater Nanuet Inc. ABY, a religious educational institution, planned to purchase property in Clarkstown, New York, to establish an Orthodox Jewish school. It alleged that the Defendants manipulated an ostensibly neutral building permit application and zoning appeals process to block this construction. The district court dismissed the complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, concluding that ABY's religious discrimination and civil rights claims were not ripe as it had not received a final decision from the town’s Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) and that the lost-contract injury underpinning ABY’s tortious interference claim was not traceable to the Town Defendants.In this appeal, the Second Circuit disagreed with the district court. The Second Circuit found that the ZBA's refusal to adjudicate ABY's appeal of its permit application constituted a final decision for ripeness purposes. The court also determined that ABY had plausibly alleged a causal connection between the Town Defendants’ actions and the injuries resulting from ABY's lost contract with Grace Church. Therefore, the Second Circuit reversed the district court's judgment and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "Ateres Bais Yaakov Academy of Rockland v. Town of Clarkstoawn" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court of Alabama reversed a lower court's judgment regarding the denial of a preliminary plat for a proposed development within the geographical limits of the City of Montgomery. The plaintiffs, T Investments, LLC, and FHM Company, LLLP, contested the Montgomery Circuit Court's judgment that refused their petition for a writ of mandamus directing the City of Montgomery Planning Commission to conditionally approve their preliminary plat. The Supreme Court found that the City of Montgomery Planning Commission's decision to deny approval on the basis of "safety reasons" was insufficiently specific and did not comply with the requirement that valid and sufficiently clear grounds for the denial of a subdivision plat be recorded. The court held that the failure to meet this requirement resulted in the automatic approval of the preliminary plat and ordered the lower court to grant the petition for the writ of mandamus. View "T Investments, LLC v. City of Montgomery Planning Commission" on Justia Law

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In 1882-1883, the Railway acquired property and constructed the now-abandoned railroad line. In 2008, the Railway filed a notice of exemption from formal abandonment proceedings with the Surface Transportation Board (STB). The Illinois Department of Natural Resources showed interest in railbanking and interim trail use under the 1983 National Trails System Act Amendments, 16 U.S.C. 1247(d). The STB issued a Notice of Interim Trail Use (NITU). The owners of property adjoining the railroad line sued, alleging takings by operation of the Trails Act with respect to 51 parcels; 22 parcels were conveyed by instruments including the words “right of way” (ROW Agreements); three were conveyed by instruments including the words “for railroad purposes” (Purpose Agreements); and three are those for which no instruments were produced.The Claims Court granted the government summary judgment, finding that the Railway held the ROW Agreement and Purpose Agreement parcels in fee simple and that the owners failed to show that they had cognizable property interests in the non-instrument parcels. The Federal Circuit reversed. The court rejected the government’s argument that using the term “right of way” in the ROW Agreements referred to the land conveyed, not a limitation on the interest conveyed. For the Purpose Agreements, the Claims Court mistakenly relied on cases discussing deeds that did not include an expression of purpose in the granting clause. Illinois law indicates that the Railway obtained, at most, an easement over the non-instrument parcels. View "Barlow v. United States" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs are Constance Swanston (“Swanston”), Shannon Jones (“Jones”), and Women’s Elevated Sober Living, LLC (“WESL”) (collectively, “Plaintiffs”). Swanston is an individual in recovery from substance use disorders (“SUDs”) and the owner and operator of WESL. In November 2018, WESL opened a sober living home (the “Home”) on Stoney Point Drive in Plano, Texas. Jones is a caretaker and resident of the Home. Defendant-Appellant, the City of Plano (the “City”) appealed the district court’s judgment holding that it violated the Fair Housing Act (“FHA”) due to its failure to accommodate Plaintiffs as to the capacity limits in the applicable zoning ordinance. The district court enjoined the City from (1) restricting the Home’s occupancy to fewer than fifteen residents; (2) enforcing any other property restriction violative of the FHA or ADA; and (3) retaliating against Plaintiffs for pursuing housing discrimination complaints under the FHA and ADA. Following a hearing, awarded Plaintiffs nominal damages of one dollar.   The Fifth Circuit vacated the district court’s injunction and remanded it. The court held that the district court erred in determining that the evidence satisfied the applicable legal standard. The court explained that the Third Circuit concluded that, based on its strict reading of Section 3604(f)(3)(B) and the prior jurisprudence in its court and its sister circuits, the resident failed to prove that her requested accommodation was necessary considering the definition of the term, the purpose of the FHA, and the proffered alternatives. The court wrote that for the same reasons, it holds that Plaintiffs have failed to establish that their requested accommodation was therapeutically necessary. View "Women's Elevated v. City of Plano" on Justia Law

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A dispute arose under the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA; Water Code 10720) regarding which local groundwater sustainability agency is authorized to manage the groundwater in a portion of the 180/400 Foot Aquifer Subbasin of the Salinas Valley Groundwater Basin called the CEMEX area. The City of Marina challenged the groundwater sustainability plan of the Salinas Valley Basin Groundwater Sustainability Agency (SVBGSA) as adopted by Monterey County and posted by the Department of Water Resources as the operative groundwater sustainability plan for most of the Subbasin. The County sought a declaration that the formation of the City’s groundwater sustainability agency was void.The court of appeal affirmed the trial court, agreeing with the Department that under section 10724 the County could step in as the presumptive groundwater management agency for the CEMEX area when the City and SVBGSA failed to reach an agreement to allow prompt designation of a groundwater sustainability agency; the Department properly posted the County’s notice of the formation of a groundwater sustainability agency for the CEMEX area on its website and properly identified the County’s groundwater sustainability agency as the exclusive groundwater sustainability agency for the area. View "City of Marina v. County of Monterey" on Justia Law

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In consolidated appeals, the City of Orange Beach ("the City") appealed a judgment entered in favor of Ian Boles in regard to a dispute over the City's inspection of Boles' property. Between 2013 and 2015 Boles constructed two eight-bedroom duplexes on property he owned located within the City limits ("the beachfront property"). In September 2015, Boles filed a building-permit application seeking a permit to construct two additional multiple-level duplexes on the beachfront property. Additionally, in October 2015, Boles filed a separate building-permit application for the construction of a single-family dwelling on another parcel of property that Boles owned within the City limits ("the Burkhart Drive property"). At the time of each permit request, Boles completed a "Home Builders Affidavit" attesting that he was the owner of the property; that he would be acting as his own contractor on the proposed project, which would not be offered for sale; and that he was, thus, exempt from the requirement that he be licensed under Alabama's Home Builders Licensure Law. The building-permit packages provided to Boles explained that a certificate of occupancy for the proposed structure would not be issued until, among other things, "a subcontractor list has been submitted to the [City's] Finance Department." Boles also received with each package a blank subcontractor form for identifying all subcontractors for the proposed project, which specified that it was due within 10 days of the issuance of the building permits. Boles proceeded with construction on the two properties without completing or returning the subcontractor form for either property. Boles's electrical subcontractor apparently contacted the City to request an electrical meter-release inspection upon completion of the electrical portion of that project; the City refused. Boles contended the City either lacked the authority to and/or were exceeding their authority in refusing to inspect the beachfront property until the City received information to which, according to Boles, it was not entitled. The Alabama Supreme Court concluded the trial court erred both in submitting Boles's damages claims to a jury and in denying the City's motion seeking a judgment as a matter of law. The trial court's judgment was reversed, and these matters were remanded for further proceedings. View "City of Orange Beach v. Boles." on Justia Law

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The Housing Crisis Act of 2019 (the Act) is among the measures that the California Legislature has adopted to address the state’s housing shortage. Subdivision (b)(1)(A) of section 66300 prohibits affected cities from (1) enacting any policy that changes the zoning of parcels to “a less intensive use” or (2) “reducing the intensity of land use” within a zoning district to below what was allowed under zoning ordinances in effect on January 1, 2018. Defendants the City of Culver City and the City Council of the City of Culver City (City Council) (collectively, the City) adopted Ordinance No. 2020-010, changing development standards in its single-family residential, or R-1, zone. The Ordinance reduced the allowable floor area ratio (FAR) for primary residences from .60 to .45, decreasing the square footage of a house that could be built on a lot. Plaintiffs Yes In My Back Yard (collectively, YIMBY) filed a petition for writ of mandate seeking an order declaring the Ordinance void. The trial court determined the Ordinance violated section 66300 because the FAR reduction impermissibly reduced the intensity of land use.   The Second Appellate District affirmed. The court explained that there is no published authority addressing the proper interpretation of section 66300, and thus, the trial court did not abuse its discretion in considering the novelty of the questions presented. In calculating the lodestar amount, the court accepted the hourly rates of YIMBY’s counsel, noting that “[the City] ma[d]e no argument to the contrary.” There is no showing that the trial court applied the multiplier to punish the City. View "Yes In My Back Yard v. City of Culver City" on Justia Law

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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