Justia Government & Administrative Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Zoning, Planning & Land Use
Women’s Elevated v. City of Plano
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
City of Marina v. County of Monterey
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
City of Orange Beach v. Boles.
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
Yes In My Back Yard v. City of Culver City
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
In re Petition of Apple Hill Solar LLC
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
Mary’s Kitchen v. City of Orange
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
Van Sant & Co. v. Town of Calhan, et al.
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
State of New York v. Raimondo
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
Appeal of Beal, et al.
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
State ex rel. Miller v. Union County Bd. of Elections
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