Articles Posted in Zoning, Planning & Land Use

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The Supreme Court affirmed the district court’s decision quashing Appellant’s petition for writ of mandate seeking an order directing that Park County rescind its order instructing him to cease construction of his septic system. Appellant was issued a permit to construct and install a permitted septic system on his property. Thereafter, the Park County Sanitarian found several deficiencies in Appellant’s application that would, in the Sanitarian’s determination, allow the proposed septic system to be operated in violation of the Park County Water Onsite Treatment Regulations and potentially create a threat to public health. The Sanitarian informed Appellant that the permit issued to him was voided and instructed him to cease construction of the septic system. Appellant filed a petition for writ of mandate and complaint for libel. The district court quashed the petition, concluding that a writ of mandate was inapplicable. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) mandate was not available in this case because the petition sought an order to direct Park County to undo an action already taken and because the Sanitarian’s voiding of the permit was a discretionary action; and (2) Appellant was not denied due process of law. View "Boehm v. Park County" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed three orders of the district court that directed Southwest Montana Building Industry Association (SWMBIA) to transfer funds from the impact fee payer class refund account (refund account) to the City of Bozeman, to submit an accounting of the refund account, and for contempt of court. The Court held (1) the district court did not exceed its authority when it ordered SWMBIA to transfer the funds remaining in the refund account to Bozeman; (2) the district court’s order regarding the transfer of the remaining refund account funds was enforceable; (3) the district court did not err when it did not dispose of the remaining refund account funds in accordance with Mont. R. Civ. P. 23(i)(3); (4) the district court did not abuse its discretion when it ordered SWMBIA to provide an accounting of the refund account; and (5) SWMBIA cannot obtain relief from the district court’s contempt order. View "Southwest Montana Building Industry Ass’n v. City of Bozeman" on Justia Law

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Todd Carlson, who began construction on a detached garage on his property in a subdivision without first obtaining a zoning compliance permit, requested a variance from the Yellowstone County Board of Adjustment. The board denied the variance request, noting that Carlson had not done his due diligence and had carelessly disregarded zoning regulations. The district court upheld the Board’s decision. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court properly declined to second-guess the Board’s discretionary determinations and did not abuse its discretion in affirming the Board’s denial of Carlson’s variance request. View "Carlson v. Yellowstone County Board of Adjustment" on Justia Law

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Two zoning actions were at issue in this proceeding - the “Text Amendment” and the “Map Amendment.” Citizens for a Better Flathead and Sharon DeMeester (collectively, Citizens) initiated this action challenging the Board of County Commissioners of Flathead County’s adoption of both the Text Amendment and the Map Amendment. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of Citizens. The Commissioners appealed. Uncertain over the scope of relief granted by the district court’s order, Citizens cross-appealed from any partial denial of the relief it sought. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding (1) the district court did not err by holding that the Map Amendment was invalid for failing to comply with statutory requirements; (2) the Text Amendment was not invalid for failure to comply with public participation requirements; and (3) the district court erred in awarding attorneys’ fees to Citizens. View "Citizens For A Better Flathead v. Flathead County Commissioners" on Justia Law

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Appellants owned property adjacent to Whitefish Lake, which the City of Whitefish has annexed. In 2005, Appellants petitioned the City for annexation of the property, and their petition was granted. In 2010, Appellants petitioned to have their property de-annexed. The City Council denied the petition. Appellants commenced a declaratory action in the district court challenging the decision. The district court dismissed the complaint on the basis of lack of service and on the ground that the statute of limitations for Appellants’ claims would bar any re-filed action. In 2014, Appellants filed another petition for de-annexation of their property. The City Council denied Appellants’ second petition for de-annexation, and Appellants filed a second declaratory action challenging the denial of their second petition. The district court entered summary judgment for the City, concluding that Appellants’ action was barred by claim preclusion. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court did not err by granting summary judgment on the basis of claim preclusion. View "Schweitzer v. City of Whitefish" on Justia Law

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The Water Court is adjudicating the existing water right claims of all appropriators in the Teton River Basin and issued a temporary preliminary decree for Basin 41O. Eldorado, which distributes water to shareholders from the Teton River northwest of Choteau, owns water rights that historically have been administered under the 1908 Perry Decree by a water commissioner (MCA 85-5-101). In 2014, the Water Court addressed objections to Eldorado’s existing water right claims as established under the temporary preliminary decree. The Montana Supreme Court, in Eldorado I, upheld the Water Court’s determinations that Eldorado’s claims required a volume quantification and that Eldorado historically put to beneficial use 15,000 acre-feet of water under its existing rights. The Joint Objectors later informed the water commissioner that Eldorado was approaching the volumetric quantification established by that order and requested that he cap the distribution of Eldorado’s water. Eldorado petitioned the Water Court to stay the volume quantification order pending the Eldorado I appeal. The Water Court denied Eldorado’s request and the commissioner ceased delivering water to Eldorado. Eldorado filed a dissatisfied water user complaint (MCA 85-5-301). The Montana Supreme Court affirmed denial of that complaint. Eldorado participated in every step of the process that resulted in the establishment of its rights under the modified temporary preliminary decree. View "Eldorado Coop Canal Co. v. Hoge" on Justia Law

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Appellants (“the Silvertip Landowners”) were a group of private landowners in Carbon County who initiated a petition to establish a “Part 1” zoning district pursuant to 76-2-101, MCA, et seq. Appellees were the Board of County Commissioners of Carbon County (“the Commissioners”), and a group of private landowners in Carbon County who opposed the proposed zoning district (“the Neighbors”). At at hearing on the petition, the Commissioners reported that landowners holding 60.7% of the total acreage in the proposed district had submitted protests opposing the zoning district. The Commissioners rescinded their resolution of intent, and voted to deny creation of the zoning district as proposed, citing as the reason for doing so the formal protests lodged. The Silvertip Landowners filed suit at the district court, arguing: (1) reliance on an unconstitutional protest provision in 76-2-101(5), MCA; (2) arbitrary and capricious reversal of the Commissioners’ own finding of public interest; and (3) unconstitutional deprivation of the Silvertip Landowners’ right to a clean and healthful environment as guaranteed by the Montana Constitution. For relief, the Silvertip Landowners asked the District Court to: (1) declare 76-2-101(5), MCA, unconstitutional and therefore void; (2) declare the Commissioners’ decisions to withdraw the resolution of intent to create the zoning district and to deny the Silvertip Landowners’ petition as arbitrary and capricious; and therefore void; and (3) declare the Commissioners’ decisions to withdraw the resolution of intent and to deny the petition as violative of the Montana Constitutional environmental protections. The Commissioners and the Neighbors both moved to dismiss, and their motion was granted. Finding no reversible error, the Montana Supreme Court affirmed the district court's dismissal. View "Martinell v. Carbon Co. Comm." on Justia Law

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Section 11-41-2 of the Helena City Code (the Ordinance) places limitations on roofing materials used on structures located within the wildland-urban interface (WUI) district. The City filed suit against homeowners whose property was situated within the WUI zoning district (Homeowners), alleging violation of the Ordinance. Homeowners answered the complaint and petitioned for a declaratory judgment that the Ordinance was invalid on statutory and constitutional grounds. The district court granted summary judgment for Homeowners, concluding that the Ordinance was a building regulation, and the City was not authorized to adopt building regulations under the guise of a zoning ordinance. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed and remanded in part, holding that the district court (1) did not err by determining that the Ordinance was an impermissible building code and not a zoning ordinance; (2) erred by concluding that Homeowners were ineligible for an award of attorney fees; and (3) did not err by denying and dismissing Homeowners' constitutional arguments. View "City of Helena v. Svee" on Justia Law

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In 2010, the City of Whitefish passed Resolution 10-46, which authorized the City to enter into an interlocal agreement with Flathead County concerning planning and zoning authority over a two-mile area surrounding the City. In 2011, voters in Whitehead passed a referendum repealing the Resolution. Plaintiffs, residents of the City and the County, filed the present lawsuit claiming that the citizens’ power of referendum and initiative did not extend to the Resolution. The district court agreed with Plaintiffs and granted summary judgment to Plaintiffs and the County. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court (1) did not err by not dismissing the suit as untimely based upon the doctrine of laches; and (2) did not err by determining that the Resolution was not subject to the right of voter initiative and referendum because the Resolution was an administrative act by the City.View "Phillips v. City of Whitefish" on Justia Law

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Within thirty days of the Town of Eureka’s passage of an annexation ordinance Darrell Sharp filed a petition naming himself, his wife, and “John Does 1-200” as petitioners. After the thirty-day deadline for filing the petition had passed, Sharp filed an amended petition naming himself, his wife, eighty-nine other individuals, and “John Does 1-10” as petitioners. Eureka filed a motion to dismiss. The district court converted Eureka’s motion to dismiss to a motion for summary judgment and granted summary judgment for Eureka, concluding that Mont. Code Ann. 7-2-4741 does not allow relation back of amended pleadings. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the requirements of section 7-2-4741 do not contemplate relation back of an amendment adding the names of a majority of real property owners to the petition after the thirty-day deadline has passed; and (2) Eureka was entitled to judgment as a matter of law because the petition in this case was not filed within thirty days of the passage of the annexation ordinance by a majority of real property owners in the area to be annexed. View "Sharp v. Eureka" on Justia Law