Justia Government & Administrative Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Zoning, Planning & Land Use
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There have been multiple cases that purported to (at least partially) adjudicate and reserve water rights of various parties throughout the Yakima River Drainage Basin (the Basin). The underlying litigation began in 1977 when the Washington State Department of Ecology filed a general water rights adjudication for all waters contained within the Basin. The Yakima County Superior Court divided the Basin into multiple distinct subbasins and issued conditional final orders (CFOs) for each subbasin at various points within the litigation. The superior court issued its final decree in May 2019, incorporating all of the prior CFOs as necessary. Multiple parties appealed the final decree, and, after briefing, the Court of Appeals certified the case to the Washington Supreme Court. The appeal could be categorized as three separate appeals, each seeking to modify the trial court's final decree (or the incorporations of the CFOs within). Although each distinct appeal was unrelated as to the disputed issues, some parties had an interest in more than one appeal. Further, all three appeals were tied together by variations on one common procedural gatekeeping issue: the appealability of CFOs and how that related to an appeal of the final decree. Overall, the Supreme Court reversed the superior court in part and affirmed in part. View "Dep't of Ecology v. Acquavella" on Justia Law

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The People filed suit against Venice Suites for violation of the Los Angeles Municipal Code (LAMC) and for public nuisance, among other causes of action, alleging that Venice Suites illegally operates a hotel or transient occupancy residential structure (TORS).The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's grant of summary adjudication in favor of Venice Suites. As a preliminary matter, the court concluded that the People did not raise the issue of permissive zoning in their briefing but the court exercised its discretion to consider the issue on its merits. On the merits, the court concluded that the LAMC did not prohibit the length of occupancy of an apartment house in an R3 zone. Furthermore, the court concluded that the permissive zoning scheme does not apply to the length of occupancy, and the Rent Stabilization Ordinance and Transient Occupancy Tax Ordinance do not regulate the use of an apartment house. View "People v. Venice Suites, LLC" on Justia Law

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After years of unsuccessful negotiation and several years of contentious litigation, this case came before the Colorado Supreme Court to resolve a dispute over the placement of an irrigation ditch and maintenance obligations related to that ditch. Instead of proceeding as a straightforward determination of these issues under the standards established in Roaring Fork Club v. St. Jude’s Co., 36 P.3d 1229 (Colo. 2001), the case was made complex by plaintiffs’ repeated assertions of unsubstantiated factual allegations and multiple legal claims lacking substantial justification. In the end, after ruling against plaintiffs on the merits, the water court took the rare step of awarding attorney fees to defendants because of the “frivolous, vexatious, and litigious” nature of many of the plaintiffs’ claims. Plaintiffs appealed, arguing the water court lacked jurisdiction over the case, notwithstanding their vigorous assertion the court did have jurisdiction throughout proceedings at the trial level. Further, plaintiffs argued the water court made numerous errors on the merits of the case. Reviewing these arguments, the Supreme Court concluded: (1) the water court did have jurisdiction to hear this case; (2) the court’s conclusions on the merits of the various claims were correct; and (3) the court’s decision to award attorney fees was not an abuse of discretion. Accordingly, the Supreme Court affirmed the water court. View "Glover v. Resource Land Holdings LLC" on Justia Law

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Defendants Yolo County and its board of supervisors (collectively, the County) adopted a revised mitigated negative declaration and issued a conditional use permit to real parties in interest to operate a bed and breakfast and commercial event facility supported by onsite crop production intended to provide visitors with an education in agricultural operations (project). A trial court found merit in three of several arguments presented to challenge the decision, specifically finding substantial evidence supported a fair argument under the California Environmental Quality Act that the project may have had a significant impact on the tricolored blackbird, the valley elderberry longhorn beetle (beetle), and the golden eagle. The trial court ordered the County to prepare an environmental impact report limited to addressing only the project’s impacts on those three species. Further, the Court ordered the project approval and related mitigation measures would remain in effect, and the project could continue to operate. Plaintiffs-appellants Farmland Protection Alliance and Yolo County Farm Bureau appealed, contending the trial court violated the Act by: (1) ordering the preparation of a limited environmental impact report, rather than a full one, despite finding substantial evidence with respect to the three species; (2) finding the fair argument test was not met as to agricultural resource impacts; and (3) allowing the project to continue to operate during the period of further environmental review. Real parties in interest cross-appealed, arguing the trial court erred in finding substantial evidence supported the significant impacts on the three species. They requested an order vacating the judgment requiring the preparation of the limited environmental impact report (even though the limited environmental impact report was already certified by the County). The Court of Appeal concluded Public Resources Code section 21168.9 did not authorize a trial court to split a project’s environmental review across two types of environmental review documents. The trial court thus erred in ordering the County to prepare a limited environmental impact report after finding the fair argument test had been met as to the three species. In the unpublished portion of the opinion, the Court concluded the trial court did not err in: (1) upholding the County’s determination that the project was consistent with the Code and the Williamson Act; and (2) finding substantial evidence supported the projects effects on the beetle. Judgment was reversed requiring the preparation of a limited impact report, and the case remanded with directions to issue a peremptory writ of mandate directing the County to set aside its decision to adopt the revised mitigated negative declaration and to prepare a full environmental impact report for the project. View "Farmland Protection Alliance v. County of Yolo" on Justia Law

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This case arose from Rockdale County, Georgia's denial of an application for a permit to build a QuikTrip on property owned by William Corey and U.S. Enterprises, Inc. (the “Owners”), on the ground that the proposed facility was a “truck stop,” which was a prohibited use under the County’s Unified Development Ordinance (“UDO”). After the County’s Board of Adjustment affirmed the denial of the permit, the Owners filed a petition to the Rockdale County Superior Court seeking, among other things, certiorari under OCGA 5-4-1 et seq. The superior court sustained the petition for certiorari, rejecting the County’s argument that the Owners’ lawsuit was barred by res judicata and reversing the Board’s decision on the ground that the UDO’s applicable definition of a “truck stop” was unconstitutionally vague and therefore violated due process under the Georgia Constitution. The Georgia Supreme Court granted County’s application for a discretionary appeal, and the Owners then cross-appealed. The Supreme Court affirmed the superior court’s rejection of the County’s res judicata argument, reversed the part of the superior court’s judgment ruling that the “truck stop” definition was unconstitutionally vague, and remanded the case for further proceedings. The Court's holding made it unnecessary to address the Owners’ cross-appeal, which was accordingly dismissed as moot. View "Rockdale County et al.. v. U. S. Enterprises, Inc." on Justia Law

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Appellants Keith Aaron and Weston Street Trust appealed a trial court’s summary judgment upholding a Notice of Violation (NOV) concerning the Trust’s property on grounds it was occupied by more than four unrelated adults in violation of applicable zoning restrictions. The property at issue was an individual unit (unit #1) within a three-unit building (the property) located in the City of Burlington’s Residential Low Density Zoning District (RL District). In the context of cross motions for summary judgment, the Trust did not deny that more than four unrelated adults lived in unit #1, and did not contest that the applicable zoning ordinance prohibited such a use in the RL District. The Trust argued that the violation was unenforceable because it first occurred more than fifteen years ago or, in the alternative, that this enforcement action was barred by claim preclusion. The Environmental Division granted summary judgment to the City, upholding the NOV. The Vermont Supreme Court concluded the City was not precluded from enforcing the zoning violation on account of 24 V.S.A. 4454 because a valid municipal ordinance established that if an unlawful use is discontinued for more than sixty days, resumption of the unlawful use constituted a new violation, and the Supreme Court rejected the Trust’s alternate argument that its use was a lawful preexisting nonconforming use based on the preclusive effect of permitting proceedings in 1972 and 1994. View "In re 15-17 Weston Street NOV" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the appellate court affirming the judgments of the trial court dismissing Plaintiff's appeals challenging various text amendments to the Hartford Zoning Regulations and zoning map changes made by the City of Hartford's Planning and Zoning Commission, holding that the appellate court erred.Plaintiff applied for a special permit to construct a restaurant on property that it owned in the City. Thereafter, Plaintiff filed four separate appeals challenging the City's zoning map changes which, if properly adopted, would effectively preclude Plaintiff from obtaining the special permit. The trial court dismissed the appeal on the ground that Plaintiff had failed to exhaust its administrative remedies. The appellate court affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the appellate court erred in determining that the City's zoning administrator had the authority to void Plaintiff's application for a special permit; and (2) Plaintiff could not have appealed the zoning administrator's action to the zoning board of appeals because it was not a legal decision for purposes of Conn. Gen. Stat. 8-6. View "Farmington-Girard, LLC v. Planning & Zoning Commission of City of Hartford" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs Merrimack Premium Outlets, LLC and Merrimack Premium Outlets Center, LLC, appealed, and defendant Town of Merrimack (Town), cross-appealed superior court orders in an action challenging the Town’s reassessment of taxable property. Merrimack Premium Outlets, LLC owned a large property in Merrimack (the Property) that it leased to Merrimack Premium Outlets Center, LLC. The latter entity operated a retail outlet shopping mall, known as the Merrimack Premium Outlets, on the Property. In 2016, the Town conducted a revaluation of all taxable property within the municipality. As a result, the Property was assessed at $86,549,400. Later that year, the Town became aware that the Property had been used in or about 2013 as collateral for a loan and had been valued for that purpose at $220,000,000. Based on this information, the Town believed that it had severely undervalued the Property. Accordingly, the Town reassessed the Property for the 2017 tax year at $154,149,500 (the 2017 reassessment). Plaintiffs then brought this action for declaratory judgment and injunctive relief, alleging there were no changes in either the Property or the market that justified the 2017 reassessment. The superior court ruled in favor of the Town. The New Hampshire Supreme Court concluded that the trial court erred in ruling that the Town had the authority to correct its undervaluation of the Property by adjusting its assessment pursuant to RSA 75:8. Given this disposition, the Court did not address the parties' remaining arguments. View "Merrimack Premium Outlets, LLC et al. v. Town of Merrimack" on Justia Law

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Defendant Town of Windham (Town) appealed a superior court order denying its motion to dismiss the tax abatement appeal of plaintiff Shaw’s Supermarkets, Inc. (Shaw’s), for lack of standing. The Town also appealed the superior court's order granting Shaw’s requested tax abatement. The owner of the property at issue leased 1.5 acres of a 34.21-acre parcel in Windham established as Current Use. The lease, in relevant part, required Shaw’s to pay the Owner its pro rata share of the real estate taxes assessed on the entire parcel, and the Owner was required to pay the taxes to the Town. If the Owner received a tax abatement, Shaw’s was entitled to its pro rata share of the abatement. In 2017, Shaw’s was directed by the Owner to pay the property taxes directly to the Town, and it did. Shaw’s unsuccessfully applied to the Town’s selectboard for a tax abatement and subsequently appealed to the superior court. The Town moved to dismiss, arguing that Shaw’s lacked standing to request a tax abatement on property it did not own. Finding the superior court did not err in finding Shaw's had standing to seek the abatement, or err in granting the abatement, the New Hampshire Supreme Court affirmed the superior court's orders. View "Shaw's Supermarkets, Inc. v. Town of Windham" on Justia Law

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Applicants Marian Wright and Greg Boester and their neighbors, Day Patterson and Janet Showers, owned abutting parcels of land on the shore of Caspian Lake in Greensboro, Vermont. Neighbors appealed an Environmental Division decision granting applicants a permit to tear down and reconstruct a lakeside structure on their parcel in accordance with a revised plan they submitted just prior to trial. The Vermont Supreme Court reversed, concluding that the court erred both when it determined that the structure at issue was properly designated an “accessory structure” rather than a “boathouse” under the applicable zoning bylaws, and when it declined to remand the materially revised proposal for consideration by the municipal developmental review board in the first instance. View "In Wright & Boester Conditional Use Application (Patterson and Showers, Appellants)" on Justia Law