Justia Government & Administrative Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Zoning, Planning & Land Use
Pueblo of Jemez v. United States, et al.
The Pueblo of Jemez filed a quiet title action against the United States relating to lands comprising the Valles Caldera National Preserve (“Valles Caldera”), which the United States purchased from private landowners in 2000. In an earlier appeal, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals reviewed the district court’s ruling dismissing the case for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction. The Court reversed and remanded, finding that an 1860 federal grant of title to private landowners would not extinguish the Jemez Pueblo’s claimed aboriginal title. Upon remand, the Jemez Pueblo could establish that it once and still had aboriginal title to the lands at issue. After a twenty-one-day trial, the district court ruled that the Jemez Pueblo failed to establish ever having aboriginal title to the entire lands of the Valles Caldera, failing to show that it ever used the entire claimed land to the exclusion of other Indian groups. The Jemez Pueblo moved for reconsideration under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(e). But rather than seek reconsideration of its complaint’s QTA claim to the entire Valles Caldera, the Jemez Pueblo shrunk its QTA claim into claims of title to four discrete subareas within the Valles Caldera: (1) Banco Bonito, (2) the Paramount Shrine Lands, (3) Valle San Antonio, and (4) the Redondo Meadows. The district court declined to reconsider all but Banco Bonito, on grounds that the Jemez Pueblo hadn’t earlier provided the government notice of these claims. Even so, being thorough, the court later considered and rejected those three claims on the merits. Of the issues raised by the Jemez Pueblo on appeal, we primarily address its challenge to the district court’s ruling that the Jemez Pueblo lost aboriginal title to Banco Bonito. The Tenth Circuit concluded the district court erroneously interpreted "Jemez I" in ruling that the Jemez Pueblo lost aboriginal title to Banco Bonito. So in accordance with longstanding Supreme Court precedent, and by the district court’s findings, the Court held the Jemez Pueblo still had aboriginal title to Banco Bonito. The Court reversed in part the denial of the Jemez Pueblo’s motion for reconsideration, and vacated in part and remanded with instructions to the district court. The Court affirmed in all other respects. View "Pueblo of Jemez v. United States, et al." on Justia Law
Wells et al. v. Spera
Brothers Newton and Jason Wells (plaintiffs) and their mother Beverly Wells, filed suit in September 2017 seeking to partition real property they held as tenants in common with defendant Pall Spera in Stowe, Vermont. The court granted plaintiffs’ summary-judgment motion on the question of whether they were entitled to partition as a matter of law, and issued an order of appointment of commissioners and order of reference by consent of the parties. The order appointed three commissioners and directed them to determine whether the property could be divided, assigned to one of the parties, or sold. They were ordered to determine the fair market value of the property and each person’s equitable share. Neither party reserved the right to object to the commissioners’ report. Ultimately, the commissioners concluded that physical division would cause great inconvenience to the parties. Finding division inequitable, the commissioners awarded defendant first right of assignment due to his ability to buy out plaintiffs’ interest immediately, while plaintiffs required a loan to do so, and because partition would constitute the dissolution of the partnership agreement, which defendant had wished to continue. Plaintiffs filed a motion objecting to the report, citing Vermont Rule of Civil Procedure 53(e)(2)(iii). Plaintiffs’ main argument was that the commissioners exceeded their mandate as provided by the order of reference in concluding that partition would result in zoning violations, and the commissioners erred on that question as a matter of law. In the alternative, they argued the equities favored assigning the property to them. The court denied the motion, including plaintiffs’ request for a hearing, and adopted the report without qualification. It reasoned that plaintiffs had not reserved their right to object to the report as required by the plain language of Civil Rule 53(e)(2)(iii). Finding no reversible error in this decision, the Vermont Supreme Court affirmed. View "Wells et al. v. Spera" on Justia Law
City of Jackson v. Cities of Pearl & Flowood, & Rankin County, Mississippi
Pursuant to Mississippi Code Sections 61-9-1 to -9 (Rev. 2022) the City of Jackson passed an ordinance on August 6, 2019, to incorporate land in Rankin County that surrounded what was known as the Jackson-Medgar Wiley Evers International Airport. Rankin County, the City of Pearl and the City of Flowood appealed the ordinance; the trial court declared the ordinance void because Jackson had failed to obtain the consent and approval of the Rankin County Board of Supervisors before passing the ordinance. Jackson appealed to the Mississippi Supreme Court claiming that the trial court erred by finding that approval of the Rankin County Board of Supervisors was required. The Supreme Court found the ordinance void and affirmed the circuit court's judgment. View "City of Jackson v. Cities of Pearl & Flowood, & Rankin County, Mississippi" on Justia Law
In re Petition of Ku’ulei Higashi Kanahele
The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the Land Use Commission (LUC) denying Petitioners' petition for a declaratory order challenging the construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT), holding that Haw. Rev. Stat. 205-2(e) does not authorize the Commission to exclude or enforce certain land uses within conservation districts.Petitioners in this case sought to use the LUC's districting authority in a manner that would compel the removal of all astronomy facilities located within the Astronomy Precinct. The LUC denied the petition, and Petitioners appealed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) this Court had jurisdiction to directly review Petitioners' appeal; (2) the LUC correctly determined that it lacked jurisdiction to issue the requested declaratory orders; and (3) Petitioners were not entitled to relief on their remaining claims of error. View "In re Petition of Ku'ulei Higashi Kanahele" on Justia Law
Stop B2H Coalition v. Dept. of Energy
Petitioners sought the Oregon Supreme Court's review of an order of the Energy Facility Siting Council (EFSC) that approved an Idaho Power Company (Idaho Power) application for a site certificate to construct a high-voltage electrical transmission line from Boardman, Oregon, to Hemingway, Idaho. Petitioner STOP B2H Coalition (Stop B2H) contended that EFSC erred by : (1) denying Stop B2H’s request for full party status in the contested case proceedings; (2) granting an exception or variance to noise level requirements; (3) modifying the governing rule to limit the noise assessment to landowners within one-half mile of the transmission line; and (4) misapplying EFSC’s rules on the visual impacts from the transmission line. Petitioner Michael McAllister contended EFSC erred by failing to require Idaho Power to include in its application an “environmentally preferable” location for a segment of the transmission line in Union County. Petitioner Irene Gilbert contended EFSC erred by: (1) denying Gilbert’s request for full party status; (2) failing to document the impacts on historic properties and mitigation measures; (3) delegating future approval of mitigation plans to the Oregon Department of Energy (ODOE); (4) relying on federal standards to determine mitigation requirements for historic properties; and (5) modifying a mandatory site certificate condition without rulemaking. Applying the governing standard of review, the Supreme Court affirmed EFSC’s final order approving the site certificate for this transmission line. View "Stop B2H Coalition v. Dept. of Energy" on Justia Law
Malanga v. West Orange Twp.
At issue in this case before the New Jersey Supreme Court was whether the Township of West Orange improperly designated the site of its public library as an area in need of redevelopment under the Local Redevelopment and Housing Law (LRHL), N.J.S.A. 40A:12A-1 to -49. The local Planning Board hired a consulting firm to evaluate the Library. The firm concluded the Library met the statutory conditions. The Board, in turn, adopted that conclusion and recommended the site of the Library be designated an area in need of redevelopment. The Township Council agreed. Plaintiff Kevin Malanga, who lived in West Orange, filed a lawsuit to challenge the designation. The trial court rejected his arguments and dismissed the complaint, and the Appellate Division affirmed. The Supreme Court found the Township’s designation was not supported by substantial evidence in the record: the record did not establish that it suffered from obsolescence, faulty arrangement, or obsolete layout in a way that harmed the welfare of the community. The Township argued that even though the Library actively provided services to the residents of West Orange, it could have better served the public if it had more programming and computers, among other things. "That laudable concept, by itself, does not satisfy the standards in the LRHL." View "Malanga v. West Orange Twp." on Justia Law
High Lonesome Ranch v. Board of County Commissioner, et al.
For years, the High Lonesome Ranch restricted access to two roads by locking a gate. But in 2015, during a county meeting, the Garfield County Commission directed the Ranch to remove the locked gate after concluding that the two disputed roads were subject to public rights-of-way. The Ranch refused and filed a declaratory-judgment action in Colorado state court opposing the County’s position. At first, the County asked the state court to dismiss the case for failure to name the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (“BLM”) as a party. But rather than dismissing, the state court ordered the Ranch to join the United States (BLM) as a necessary party, and the Ranch did so. The United States removed the case to federal district court. In October 2020, after a five-day bench trial, the district court ruled that the entire lengths of the two disputed roads were subject to public rights-of-way. On appeal—and for the first time—the Ranch contended that various procedural shortcomings deprived the district court of subject-matter jurisdiction. It also challenged the district court’s rights-of-way rulings. The Tenth Circuit affirmed the district court’s adverse-use ruling, but reversed its Colorado R.S. 2477 ruling and remanded for the court to reconsider that ruling under recent circuit authority governing acceptance of R.S. 2477 rights. The Court also remanded for the district court to determine the locations and widths of the rights-of-way by survey. View "High Lonesome Ranch v. Board of County Commissioner, et al." on Justia Law
Robinson v. Super. Ct.
Southern California Edison Company (Edison), an investor-owned public utility, filed a complaint in eminent domain to condemn an easement across a landowner’s property for the purpose of accessing and maintaining existing power transmission lines. Edison also filed a motion for order of prejudgment possession under the quick-take provisions of Code of Civil Procedure section 1255.410.1 The trial court granted the motion. The landowners filed a petition for writ of mandate requesting the court vacate the order granting Edison prejudgment possession. The Fifth Appellate District vacated the order of prejudgment possession and directed the trial court to conduct further proceedings on the motion. Because the maintenance of power transmission lines is a matter of urgency, the court issued a peremptory writ in the first instance. The court explained a trial court evaluating a quick-take motion in the absence of a timely opposition shall grant the motion “if the court finds each of the following: (A) The plaintiff is entitled to take the property by eminent domain (B) The plaintiff deposited pursuant to Article 1 an amount that satisfies the requirements of that article.” Here, the trial court did not make express findings. Among other things, the court did not expressly find that it was necessary for the access easement to be 16 feet wide, that the 16-foot-wide access easement was compatible with the least private injury, or that it was necessary for Edison to have the right to move guy wires and anchors, crossarms, and other physical fixtures onto the property. View "Robinson v. Super. Ct." on Justia Law
Mississippi v. RW Development, LLC, et al.
The City of Biloxi and Harrison County, Mississippi adopted a joint resolution that authorized the lease of a piece of property to RW Development, LLC, for the development of a joint public/private pier seaward of Veterans Avenue. As a result, the State initiated this case seeking a declaratory judgment that the State was the sole and exclusive authority to lease Public Trust Tidelands, that the City had no authority to lease the subject property to RW, and that preliminary and permanent injunctive relief should issue against the actions of the City and RW. The Chancery Court of Harrison County denied the State’s requested relief and ultimately determined that the City and County had statutory authority to lease the property to RW for public use. Because the Mississippi Supreme Court agreed that Mississippi statutory law granted the City authority to build the pier, the court granted the chancery court's judgment. View "Mississippi v. RW Development, LLC, et al." on Justia Law
Markatos v. Zoning Board of Appeals
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court denying a motion to intervene on the grounds that it was untimely, holding that the proposed intervenors were not entitled to relief on their claim of error.Plaintiffs appealed to the trial court from a decision of the Zoning Board of Appeals of the Town of New Canaan (Board) upholding the issuance of a zoning permit to Grace Farms Foundation, the intervening defendant. Nearly nineteen months later and after the trial court issued a decision remanding the case to the Board for further proceedings, the proposed intervenors brought the motion to intervene at issue. The trial court denied the motion, concluding that it was untimely. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in finding that the motion to intervene as of right was untimely. View "Markatos v. Zoning Board of Appeals" on Justia Law