Justia Government & Administrative Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Real Estate & Property Law
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Plaintiff TransFarmations, Inc. appealed a superior court decision to uphold the Town of Amherst Planning Board's (Town) decisions to deny TransFarmations' two successive applications for a conditional use permit (CUP). In May 2019, TransFarmations requested a “Conceptual Meeting” with the Town’s planning board (Board) concerning its proposed development of an approximately 130-acre property known as the Jacobson Farm. It stated that the “development will be designed to meet many of the desired attributes the Town . . . has articulated in [its] Master Plan and [Integrated] Innovative . . . Housing Ordinance (IIHO),” including workforce housing and over-55 housing. TransFarmations subsequently submitted a CUP application under the IIHO for a planned residential development containing 64 residential units. In its challenge to the decisions, TransFarmations argued both that the decisions failed to adequately state the ground for denial and that the Board acted unreasonably because the second CUP application was materially different from the first. The trial court concluded that the Board adequately provided the reason for its first decision on the record because “the Board members discussed, in detail, their reasons for concluding that no material differences [between the first and second applications] existed.” The court also concluded that “the Board acted reasonably and lawfully in reaching [that] decision.” Accordingly, the court affirmed both of the Board’s decisions. TransFarmations contended the trial court erred in affirming the Board’s decision not to accept the second application because TransFarmations submitted that application “at the Board’s invitation and with the information the Board requested.” The New Hampshire Supreme Court concluded TransFarmations’ second application supplying the requested information was “materially different from its predecessor, thus satisfying Fisher.” Because the trial court’s decision concluding otherwise misapplied Fisher v. Dover, it was legally erroneous. Accordingly, the Court reversed the trial court’s order as to the second CUP decision and remanded. View "TransFarmations, Inc. v. Town of Amherst" on Justia Law

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The federal district court for the District of North Dakota certified five questions regarding N.D.C.C. § 38-08-08(1) and North Dakota Industrial Commission pooling orders. The litigation before the federal court involved allocation of mineral royalties in the case of overlapping oil and gas spacing units. Allen and Arlen Dominek owned oil and gas interests in Williams County, North Dakota. In 2011, the North Dakota Industrial Commission pooled the interests in Section 13 on the Dominek property with the interests in Section 24 in a 1280-acre spacing unit (the “Underlying Spacing Unit”). In 2016, the Commission pooled the interests in Sections 11, 12, 13, and 14 in a 2560-acre spacing unit (the “Overlapping Spacing Unit). The "Weisz" well terminated in the southeast corner of Section 14. The Defendants (together “Equinor”) operated the Weisz well. The Domineks sued Equinor in federal district court to recover revenue proceeds from the Weisz well. The parties agreed production from the Weisz well should have been allocated equally to the four sections comprising the Overlapping Spacing Unit. Their disagreement was whether the 25% attributable to Section 13 should have been shared with the interest owners in Section 24 given those sections were pooled in the Underlying Spacing Unit. In response to the motions, the federal district court certified five questions to the North Dakota Court. Responding "no" to the first: whether language from N.D.C.C. § 38-08-08(1) required production from Section 13 to be allocated to Section 24, the Supreme Court declined to answer the remaining questions because it found they were based on an assumption that the Commission had jurisdiction to direct how production was allocated among mineral interest owners. "Questions concerning correlative rights and the Commission’s jurisdiction entail factual considerations. ... An undeveloped record exposes this Court 'to the danger of improvidently deciding issues and of not sufficiently contemplating ramifications of the opinion.'” View "Dominek, et al. v. Equinor Energy, et al." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the circuit court reversing the orders issued by Petitioner while sitting as the Berkeley County Board of Assessment Appeals arising from appeals of ad valorem assessments owned by Taxpayers, as determined by the Berkeley County Assessor for the 2019 tax year, holding that circuit court erred in reversing the Board.Although the two consolidated appeals dealt with different pieces of property owned by two different entities the Supreme Court concluded that resolution dependent on two overarching questions common to both appeals. The Court then held (1) Petitioner waived any objection to the Assessor not being named as a party to this action; and (2) the circuit court erred in determining the assessments as affirmed by the Board were not supported by substantial evidence or were otherwise in contravention of any regulation, statute, or constitutional provision. View "Berkeley County Council v. Government Properties Income Trust LLC" on Justia Law

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In 2008, California enacted a Property Assessed Clean Energy program (PACE) as a method for homeowners to finance energy and water conservation improvements. A PACE debt was created by contract and secured by the improved property. But like a tax, the installment payments were billed and paid as a special assessment on the improved property, resulting in a first-priority tax lien in the event of default. The named plaintiffs in these putative class actions were over 65 years old and entered into PACE contracts. The defendants were private companies who either made PACE loans to plaintiffs, were assigned rights to payment, and/or administered PACE programs for municipalities. The gravamen of the complaint in each case was that PACE financing was actually, and should have been treated as, a secured home improvement loan. Plaintiffs alleged that defendants engaged in unfair and deceptive business practices by violating consumer protection laws, including Civil Code section 1804.1(j), which prohibited taking a security interest in a senior citizen’s residence to secure a home improvement loan. Generally, a taxpayer could not pursue a court action for a refund of property taxes without first applying to the local board of equalization for a reduction and then filing an administrative claim for a refund. Here, defendants demurred to the complaints on the sole ground that plaintiffs failed to allege they first exhausted administrative remedies. The trial court agreed, sustained the demurrers without leave to amend, and entered a judgment of dismissal in each case. On appeal, plaintiffs primarily contend they were not required to pursue administrative remedies because they have sued only private companies and do not challenge “any aspect of the municipal tax process involved.” The Court of Appeal found that despite their assertions to the contrary, plaintiffs did challenge their property tax assessments. And although they did not sue any government entity, the “consumer protection statutes under which plaintiffs brought their action cannot be employed to avoid the limitations and procedures set out by the Revenue and Taxation Code.” Thus, the Court concluded plaintiffs were required to submit their claims through the administrative appeals process in the first instance. "Their failure to do so requires the judgments to be affirmed." View "Morgan v. Ygrene Energy Fund, Inc." on Justia Law

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Long Beach Harbor Resort, LLC (the Resort), leased a parcel of land located on the Public Trust Tidelands from the City of Long Beach. The issue this case presented for the Mississippi Supreme Court to determine was whether the Resort was required to enter into a separate lease with the Secretary of State for the use of the tidelands property or whether the Resort already had a valid lease allowing use of the tidelands in question. The Supreme Court found that the State of Mississippi had, through its Boundary Agreement and Tidelands Lease with the City of Long Beach, ratified the prior lease entered into between the City and the Resort. Accordingly, the Court affirmed the chancery court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of the Resort and found that the Resort had a valid tidelands lease as ratified by the Secretary of State. View "Mississippi v. Long Beach Harbor Resort, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the Tax Equalization and Review Commission (TERC) affirming the decision of the Lancaster County Board of Equalization affirming the valuations of the agricultural land owned by Mary and Brad Moser for the tax year 2020 but reversing the County Board's decisions for the 2018 and 2019 tax years, holding that TERC erred.For the tax years 2018 and 2019, TERC reduced the value of the Mosers' irrigated acres to equalize those acres with a nearby parcel of agricultural property. The Supreme Court (1) reversed TERC's decision to the extent it ordered that irrigated cropland on certain property be valued as drylands cropland for the 2018 and 2019 tax years, holding that TERC's conclusions as to this property was factually incorrect, was not supported by competent evidence, failed to conform to the law, and was unreasonable; and (2) otherwise affirmed, holding that there was no error was to the 2020 tax year valuation. View "Lancaster County Bd. of Equalization v. Moser" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the circuit court affirming the decision of the Hanson County Drainage Board granting a drainage permit sought by James Paulson to clean out a pre-existing ditch, holding that Appellants were not entitled to relief on their allegations of error.On appeal, Appellants argued that the Board failed to follow the relevant approval procedures and that the Board abused its discretion by approving the drainage permit. The circuit court affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the Board complied with the proper procedures for approving the permit; (2) the circuit court did not err in denying Appellants' request to present additional testimony; and (3) the circuit court did not err by denying Appellants' request to take judicial notice of an earlier proceeding. View "Little v. Hanson County Drainage Board" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court affirming the decision of the Wyoming State Board of Equalization (Board) affirming the tax assessment set forth by the Wyoming Department of Revenue (DOR) imposing severance and ad valorem property taxes on the waste mine gas (WMG) captured and used by Solvay Chemicals, Inc., holding that there was no error.Solvay used the WMG released from its trona mining operations to help fuel its soda ash processing plant during the years 2012 through 2015. The DOR imposed severance and ad valorem taxes on the WMG during those years. Solvay objected, arguing that the WMG was not taxable under the severance or ad valorem tax statutes. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Solvay failed to show the DOA and DOR improperly valued the WMG for production years 2012-2015. View "Solvay Chemicals, Inc. v. Wyoming Dep't of Revenue" on Justia Law

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The Oklahoma Supreme Court retained this case to resolve a question of first impression on whether Production Tax Credits (PTCs) used to finance the building of a wind farm were "property" which could be used to determine the fair cash value of the wind farm for ad valorem taxation purposes. To this, the Court held PTCs were intangible personal property, and were not subject to ad valorem taxation pursuant to the Okla. Const. art. 10, §6 A. Because the trial court's findings regarding valuation were not otherwise against the weight of the evidence, the Supreme Court affirmed the trial court. View "Kingfisher Wind, LLC v. Wehmuller" on Justia Law

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This case involved a challenge to the Town of Bartlett’s 2018 tax assessment of a single-family home located on 0.88 acres of land owned by petitioner Eleonora Porobic. In 2017, the property was assessed at $206,000. In 2018, following the construction of an addition to the house and the clearing of trees, which expanded a view of the mountains, as well as a “full update” of property values in the Town by its new assessing contractor, Avitar Associates of New England, Inc., the property was assessed at $408,400. After the Town denied Porobic’s abatement request, she appealed to the New Hampshire Board of Tax and Land Appeals (BTLA), objecting to the Town’s position that the value of the land had increased by $153,000 as a result of the expanded view of the mountains. Porobic submitted an appraisal of the property prepared by Nanci Stone-Hayes, a certified general appraiser, valuing the property at a fair market value of $270,000 (Hayes Appraisal), and argued that she was entitled to an abatement based on that valuation. The Town, however, defended its assessment, arguing that the Hayes Appraisal understated the value of the expanded view. The BTLA found neither party’s valuation entirely persuasive, determining the Hayes Appraisal understated the property’s market value, and the Town’s assessment overstated it. Consequently, the BTLA concluded that Porobic had carried her burden to demonstrate that the property was assessed at a higher percentage of fair market value than the general level of assessment in the Town, and that, as such, she was paying more than her proportional share of taxes. The BTLA granted Porobic’s request for an abatement, and reduced the property’s 2018 assessed value to $345,400. Porobic appealed the new valuation, but the New Hampshire Supreme Court found no reversible error in the BTLA's decision and affirmed it. View "Appeal of Eleonora Porobic" on Justia Law