Justia Government & Administrative Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Real Estate & Property Law
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Appellants Darren Herrera and Paula Garcia purchased a home in the City of Espanola, New Mexico (the “City”). At the time Appellants purchased the home, the existing owner, Charlotte Miera, was not current on her water and sewer bill. Although the City initially provided water service to Appellants, it discontinued service in February 2017, and declined to recommence it until someone paid the water and sewer bill. In June 2020, Appellants filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983 and the New Mexico Tort Claims Act (“NMTCA”) based on the City’s refusal to provide them water service unless someone paid Miera’s bill. The City filed a Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) motion, arguing the statute of limitations had elapsed before Appellants filed their action. Although Appellants conceded a three-year statute of limitations governed their section 1983 claims, and a two-year statute of limitations governed their NMTCA claim, they argued the limitations period had not expired on their claims because the City repeatedly denied their requests for water service between February 2017 and February 2020. They expressly relied on the continuing violation doctrine to extend the limitations period, and also argued facts consistent with the related repeated violations doctrine. The district court granted the City’s motion to dismiss. The Tenth Circuit affirmed in part, vacated in part and reversed in part. The Court agreed with the district court that Appellants’ action first accrued no later than March 2017. Further, although it held the continuing violation doctrine was available within the section 1983 context, the Court concurred with the district court that it did not save Appellants’ claims against the City or their NMTCA claim. The Court found Appellants’ claims premised on the City’s alleged policy of conditioning water service to new property owners on the payment of bills owed by prior property owners was not time-barred under the repeated violation doctrine and Hamer v. City of Trinidad, 924 F.3d 1093 (10th Cir. 2019). View "Herrera, et al. v. City of Espanola, et al." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs are property owners in Forsyth County who used to rent their homes on a short-term basis. Forsyth County recently amended its Unified Development Code (“UDC”) to prohibit certain property owners from renting their homes on a short-term basis. The amendment includes a grandfathering provision under which a property owner who was engaged in previously lawful activity that is now prohibited may continue to engage in that use. Plaintiffs sought the ability to continue renting their homes on a short-term basis under the amended UDC. The dispute involves determining which of the terms, “owner occupancy,” “rental,” and/or “lease” the phrase “on a weekly, monthly or longer basis” modifies. The court determined that neither the last-antecedent rule nor the series-qualifier canon rule would shed light on the UDC’s meaning. Therefore, the court found that it must discern and apply the ordinary meaning of the terms at issue. Applying ordinary meanings, the court concluded that the prior version of the UDC prohibited short-term rentals.Further, the court disagreed with Plaintiffs’ argument that “[b]ecause the prohibition on ‘rentals’ of less than a week was not explicit in the ordinances, the former UDC[‘s short-term rental ban] was void for vagueness.” The court reasoned that “when the plain text of the statute sets forth clearly perceived boundaries, our inquiry is ended.” Here, the court found that the plain text of the ordinance prohibited short-term rentals, thereby ending the court’s vagueness inquiry. Thus, short-term rentals remain prohibited. View "Kenneth R. Heyman, et al v. Molly Cooper, et al" on Justia Law

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Counties sued to quiet title to section line rights-of-way within the Little Missouri National Grassland, a section of the Dakota Prairie Grasslands, and six roads located in McKenzie County. The State also sought to quiet title to section line rights-of-way in the Little Missouri grassland and two other parts of the Dakota Prairie Grasslands. The district court granted the government’s motion to dismiss all of the State’s claims and the Counties’ claim as to the Little Missouri National Grassland, and Plaintiffs appealed.The court found the statute of limitations began to run as to the Counties when they “knew or should have known” of the government’s claim. The statute of limitations would not begin to run as to the State until the government issued “public communications” that were “sufficiently specific as to be reasonably calculated” to give the State notice. Here, the Travel Plans and Public Notices were sufficient notice of the government’s exclusive claim to the 33 feet on either side of the section lines within the Dakota Prairie Grasslands over which Plaintiffs claim a right-of-way.Plaintiffs also argue that if the court finds that the Travel Plans and Public Notices did put Plaintiffs on notice, any such notice was only as to the section lines that fall within the specific areas where motor vehicle access was restricted. The court found that the Travel Plans and Public Notices made an adverse claim as to all the national grasslands within North Dakota, including areas over which USFS chose not to restrict travel. View "North Dakota v. United States" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the Board of Review for the City of Kenosha classifying certain property as residential, holding that the Board's determination to sustain the residential classification was supported by sufficient evidence.The City assessor valued the subject property at $89,800 and classified it as residential for property tax purposes. On appeal, Appellant argued that the property should be classified as residential. The Board sustained the assessor's classification. The circuit court and court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the Board acted according to law when it looked for more than minimal agricultural use in evaluating whether the property was devoted primarily to agricultural use; (2) the Board did not err in considering the prospective residential use of the property; and (3) the Board's determination to sustain the residential classification was supported by sufficient evidence. View "Nudo Holdings, LLC v. Board of Review for the City of Kenosha" on Justia Law

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The California Coastal Act of 1976 (“the Act”) requires, among other things, a city to obtain approval from the Coastal Commission for any amendments to its coastal plan. Local coastal programs contain a land use plan and a local implementing program. A local implementing program consists of zoning ordinances, zoning maps, and other possible actions.The City of Manhattan Beach (“the City”) sent the plaintiff a notice of violation for operating a short-term rental. The plaintiff petitioned for a writ of mandate to prevent the City from enforcing its ban on short-term rentals. The trial court determined that the City’s original local implementing plan permitted short-term rentals. Thus, when the City enacted the prohibition on short-term rentals it needed to obtain approval from the Coastal Commission. The City appealed.The Second Appellate District affirmed. The City’s residential zoning ordinance prior to the modifications at issue did not distinguish between long-term and short-term rentals. The court held that the use of the term “residence” doesn’t affect the analysis because it does not apply some minimum length of occupancy. View "Keen v. City of Manhattan Beach" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court vacated in part the judgment of the superior court affirming the Board of Environmental Protection's decision to upheld a cleanup order issued by the Commissioner of the Department of Environmental Protection pursuant to Me. Rev. Stat. 38, 1365 against Sultan Corporation for hazardous substances located on its property, holding that the Board improperly declined to address the availability of a third-party defense.In upholding the Commissioner's remediation order the Board expressly declined to reach the issue of whether the third-party defense afforded by Me. Rev. Stat. 38, 1367(3) was available to Sultan in an appeal of a Commissioner's section 1365 order because of the Board's conclusion that even if the defense were available, Sultan failed to prove the elements of the defense by a preponderance of the evidence. The superior court affirmed. The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the portion of the Board's order in which the Board declined to address the availability of the third-party defense, holding that the question of whether the defense was available was a threshold issue that must be determined before the Board or a court can consider the merits of the defense. View "Sultan Corporation v. Department of Environmental Protection" on Justia Law

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Fraser Township filed a complaint against Harvey and Ruth Ann Haney, seeking a permanent injunction to enforce its zoning ordinance and to prevent defendants from raising on their commercially zoned property, hogs or other animals that would violate the zoning ordinance, to remove an allegedly nonconforming fence, and to plow and coat the ground with nontoxic material. Defendants brought a hog onto their property as early as 2006, and defendants maintained hogs on their property through the time this lawsuit was filed in 2016. Defendants moved for summary disposition, arguing that plaintiff’s claim was time-barred by the six-year statutory period of limitations in MCL 600.5813. The trial court denied the motion, concluding that because the case was an action in rem, the statute of limitations did not apply. The Court of Appeal reversed, finding that the statute of limitations applied. Finding that the appellate court erred in concluding the statute of limitations applied, the Michigan Supreme Court reversed and reinstated the trial court's order denying defendants' motion for summary judgment. View "Township of Fraser v. Haney" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court affirming the decision of the Department of Marine Resources (DMR) to grant an aquaculture lease to Mere Point Oyster Company, LLC (MPOC) in Maquoit Bay, holding that there was no error or abuse of discretion.MPOC applied for a ten-year aquaculture lease for a site in Marquoit Bay located near the shorefront property of Maquoit Bay, LLC and its sole members, Paul and Kathleen Dioli (collectively, the Diolis). DMR approved the application. Thereafter, the Diolis filed a Me. R. Civ. P. 80C petition requesting review of DMR's decision. The superior court affirmed. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding (1) DMR did not err by approving the lease application without requiring MPOC to consider practicable alternatives; (2) DMR did not err by balancing the interests of MPOC and the public pursuant to Me. Rev. Stat. 6072's express requirements; and (3) the Diolis were not entitled to relief on any of their remaining allegations of error. View "Maquoit Bay LLC v. Department of Marine Resources" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the district court dismissing Appellants' petition for review of a decision of the Board of County Commissioners, Lincoln County under Wyo. R. App. P. 12 and Wyo. Stat. Ann. 16-3-114, holding that the district court abused its discretion by sanctioning Appellants with dismissal of their petition for review.The district court dismissed Appellants' petition, determining that Wyo. R. App. P. 2.06 required a transcript to be filed within sixty days of the filing of the petition for review of agency action and that no transcript was filed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the district court misstated and misapplied Rule 2.06; (2) the Board failed to transmit the record as required by Rule 12.07; and (3) because the Board, not Appellants, had the responsibility to transmit the entire record to the district court, the court abused its discretion by dismissing the action. View "Depiero v. Board of County Commissioners, Lincoln County" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court upheld the action of the Deuel County Board of Adjustment (Board) unanimously approving the application filed by Crowned Ridge Wind II, LLC for a special exception permit (SEP) to construct and operate a wind energy system (WES) in Deuel County, holding that there was no error.In 2004, the Deuel County Board of County Commissioners adopted the Deuel County Zoning Ordinance, which created the Board and authorized it to decide requests for "special exceptions" from zoning standards. In 2018, Crowned Ridge sought an SEP from the Board for the construction and operation of a WES with up to sixty-eight wind turbines to be build on property zoned for agricultural use. The Board granted the SEP, and the circuit court upheld the decision. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the ordinance complied with the statuary requirements of S.D. Codified Laws 11-2-17.3, and therefore, the Board acted within its jurisdiction by considering crowned Ridge's application for an SEP; (2) the Board acted within the requirements of the ordinance and S.D. Codified Laws chapter 11-2; and (3) as to Appellants, landowners in Deuel County, the Board did not illegally grant an easement over Appellants' property, nor did the ordinance violate due process. View "Ehlebracht v. Deuel County Planning Commission" on Justia Law