Justia Government & Administrative Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Zoning, Planning & Land Use
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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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This appeal centered whether Section 6 of the California Constitution required the state to reimburse the defendant local governments (collectively permittees or copermittees) for costs they incurred to satisfy conditions which the state imposed on their stormwater discharge permit. Defendant-respondent Commission on State Mandates (the Commission) determined that six of the eight permit conditions challenged in this action were reimbursable state mandates. They required permittees to provide a new program. Permittees also did not have sufficient legal authority to levy a fee for those conditions because doing so required preapproval by the voters. The Commission also determined that the other two conditions requiring the development and implementation of environmental mitigation plans for certain new development were not reimbursable state mandates. Permittees had authority to levy a fee for those conditions. On petitions for writ of administrative mandate, the trial court upheld the Commission’s decision in its entirety and denied the petitions. Plaintiffs, cross-defendants and appellants State Department of Finance, the State Water Resources Board, and the Regional Water Quality Board, San Diego Region (collectively the State) appealed, contending the six permit conditions found to be reimbursable state mandates were not mandates because the permit did not require permittees to provide a new program and permittees had authority to levy fees for those conditions without obtaining voter approval. Except to hold that the street sweeping condition was not a reimburseable mandate, the Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's judgment. View "Dept. of Finance v. Commission on State Mandates" on Justia Law

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Appellants Bull Field, LLC, Barley, LLC and Colburn Hills Ranch, LLC (Appellants) appeal from a judgment denying their petition for a writ of mandate (Petition). Appellants sought an order compelling respondent Merced Irrigation District (District) to sell them surplus surface water for the 2019 water year. Appellants’ farmland is outside the District, but within the same groundwater basin as the District’s service area. The District authorized the sale of surplus water to out-of-district users for 2019 but denied Appellants’ application to purchase such water. The District claimed, and the trial court found, that the District’s general manager denied Appellants’ applications to purchase surplus surface water because the District had a history of difficult dealings with Appellants’ manager. Substantial evidence supports that finding.   The Second Appellate District affirmed, finding that District acted within its discretion in making its decision on this ground. The court explained that the court may not interfere with the District’s discretionary decision that denying Appellants’ applications to purchase surplus water was in its best interest. The court may not substitute its judgment for the District about how its interests would best be served. So long as the District actually exercised such discretion, this court may not issue a writ contravening the District’s decision. View "Bull Field, LLC v. Merced Irrigation Dist." on Justia Law

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The Adorers, an order of nuns whose religious beliefs require them “to protect and preserve Earth,” own property in Pennsylvania. When Transco notified them that it was designing a 42-inch diameter interstate gas pipeline to cross their property, the Adorers explained that they would not sell a right-of-way through their property. Transco sought a certificate of public convenience and necessity. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) published notices and hosted open meetings to discuss the pipeline. The Adorers neither provided comments nor attended meetings. When FERC contacted the Adorers directly, they remained silent. Transco altered the pipeline’s route 132 times in response to public comment. FERC issued the requested certificate, which authorized Transco to use eminent domain to take rights-of-way 15 U.S.C. 717f(c)(1)(A). Transco sought an order of condemnation to take rights-of-way in the Adorers’ property. The Adorers failed to respond to the complaint.Days after the district court granted Transco default judgment, the Adorers sought an injunction under the Religious Freedom and Restoration Act (RFRA) 42 U.S.C. 2000bb-1(c). The Third Circuit rejected the Adorers’ contention that RFRA permitted them to assert their claim in federal court rather than before FERC. After the pipeline was put into service, the Adorers sought damages under RFRA. The Third Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the suit. To permit a party to reserve a claim, the success of which would imperil a FERC decision to certify an interstate pipeline, by remaining silent during the FERC proceedings and raising the claim in separate litigation would contravene the Natural Gas Act’s exclusive review framework. View "Adorers of the Blood of Christ United States Province v. Transcontinental Gas Pipe Line Co., LLC" 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 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 City of Helena ("Helena") appealed the issuance of a preliminary injunction by the Shelby Circuit Court in favor of the Pelham Board of Education ("the Board") and its officers and/or members, in their official capacities (collectively, "the Board defendants"). In June 2021, the Board purchased approximately 52 acres of undeveloped land located within the corporate limits of Helena. The land has not been annexed by the City of Pelham or the Board. Helena collects property taxes on the land, and the land was zoned for single-family residential use under a Helena zoning ordinance. After purchasing the land, the Board began clearing the land for the purpose of constructing one or more athletic fields and a parking lot as part of the Pelham High School campus. Pelham High School was located adjacent to the land but lied within the corporate limits of the City of Pelham. The athletic-field project was originally scheduled to be completed on or before January 17, 2022, but it was delayed by Helena's attempts to enforce its zoning ordinance, which was an issue in this case. Helena asserted in its complaint, among other things, that the Board has no statutory authority to construct the athletic-field project within the corporate limits of Helena. The Board defendants counterclaimed, seeking sought declaratory and injunctive relief based on their position that the athletic-field project served a governmental purpose and, therefore, was not subject to Helena's zoning ordinance. Finding that the trial court did not follow the mandatory requirements of Rule 65(d)(2), the preliminary injunction was dissolved and the order issuing the injunction was, therefore, reversed and the case remanded. View "City of Helena v. Pelham Board of Education, et al." on Justia Law

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Two cases were consolidated for the purposes of appeal, both from the Circuit Court of Hancock County, Mississippi. In each case, the circuit court found that it lacked jurisdiction due to a defect in the notice of appeal pursuant to Mississippi Code Section 11- 51-75(a)(i) (Rev. 2019). The circuit court dismissed both cases. The Mississippi Supreme Court found the statute did require that a petitioner before a local governing authority be made a party to an appeal of the authority’s decision. "But naming petitioners as appellees in the notice of appeal is procedural. Therefore, a notice of appeal that is filed on time but erroneously omits a petitioner’s name does not defeat the circuit court’s jurisdiction, and the error may be corrected." Finding that a defect in the contents of the notice of appeal was a procedural rather than a jurisdictional error, the Supreme Court reversed and remanded. View "Longo, et al. v. City of Waveland, et al." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff George Sheetz challenged a $23,420 traffic impact mitigation fee (TIM fee or fee) imposed by defendant El Dorado County (County) as a condition of issuing him a building permit for the construction of a single- family residence on his property in Placerville. Sheetz appealed the judgment entered after the trial court sustained the County’s demurrer without leave to amend and denied his verified petition for writ of mandate. To the Court of Appeal, he contended reversal was required because the TIM fee was invalid under both the Mitigation Fee Act and the takings clause of the United States constitution, namely the special application of the “unconstitutional conditions doctrine” in the context of land-use exactions established in Nollan v. California Coastal Comm’n, 483 U.S. 825 (1987) and Dolan v. City of Tigard, 512 U.S. 374 (1994). Finding no error, the Court of Appeal affirmed. View "Sheetz v. County of El Dorado" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision and judgment of the superior court affirming the decisions of the Rhode Island Coastal Resources Management Council (CRMC) denying the application of Champlin's Realty Associates to expand its marina on the Great Salt Pond in the Town of New Shoreham, holding that there was no error.The trial justice found there was sufficient evidence to support the CRMC's denial of Champlin's application to expand its marina and held that the CRMC had acted within its authority in denying the application. Champlin's and the CRMC later filed a motion seeking to incorporate and merge a joint memorandum of understanding (the MOU) purporting to serve as the CRMC's decision relative to this matter into a consent order of the Court. Certain entities (intervenors) and the attorney general contested the propriety of the purported settlement and the validity of the MOU. The superior court affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed and denied the request by Champlin's and the CRMC to incorporate and merge the MOU into a consent order of the Supreme Court, holding that the remand justice erred in determining that the CRMC and Champlin's had authority to meditate. View "Champlin's Realty Associates v. Coastal Resources Management Council" on Justia Law