Articles Posted in Zoning, Planning & Land Use

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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

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Landowners protested pursuant to Mont. Code Ann. 76-2-205(6) to block the Board of County Commissioners of Missoula County from establishing a special zoning district north of Lolo, Montana. Landowners effectively blocked the zoning proposal pursuant to section 76-2-205(6). L. Reed Williams filed a complaint against Commissioners, challenging the constitutionality of the statute. Landowners intervened in the action. The district court denied Landowners' motion to dismiss and granted summary judgment to Williams and Commissioners, concluding that section 76-2-205(6) was an unconstitutional delegation of legislative power and an unconstitutional violation of the right to equal protection and the right to suffrage. The Supreme Court upheld the Commissioners' adoption of the special zoning district and affirmed the district court, holding that the district court did not err in (1) denying Landowners' motion to dismiss Williams' complaint for failure to join them as necessary parties; (2) determining that section 76-2-205(6) was an unconstitutional delegation of legislative power; and (3) ruling that section 76-2-205(6) was severable from the remainder of the statute. View "Williams v. Bd. of County Commr's" on Justia Law

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The Lakeside Neighborhood Planning Board approved a revised neighborhood plan (Plan) created by the Lakeside Neighborhood Planning Committee (LNPC). The Flathead County Commissioners passed a resolution to adopt the Plan. Numerous property owners in Flathead County sought to have the Plan declared void, contending that the LNPC violated Montana's open meeting laws by holding unannounced meetings in private homes or via a private Yahoo Group website and that LNPC unlawfully destroyed public records by deleting files that had been posted to the Yahoo Group website. The district court entered judgment in favor of LNPC and Flathead County, concluding (1) LNPC initially failed to fully comply with the open meeting laws, but voiding the final Plan was not an appropriate remedy for the offense; and (2) the term "meetings" as defined by the relevant statute could not be held on Yahoo Group. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court did not err (1) when it declined to void the Plan and determined that no relief was available on Plaintiffs' claims regarding the destruction of public records and violations of Montana's open meeting laws; and (2) in determining that an electronic meeting did not occur in this case. View "Allen v. Lakeside Neighborhood Planning Comm." on Justia Law

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In 2011, the Granite County Commissioners (County) created a Georgetown Lake zoning district and adopted Georgetown Lake zoning regulations. Plaintiff filed this action to declare void the County's resolution to create the zoning district and to adopt the zoning regulations. The district court entered summary judgment that the County had properly enacted the Georgetown Lake zoning and determined Plaintiff to be a vexatious litigant. The Supreme Court affirmed except for the portion of the judgment requiring Plaintiff to pay the County's attorneys' fees, holding that the district court (1) correctly ruled that the County properly enacted the zoning; (2) did not err in determining that Plaintiff was a vexatious litigant; but (3) erred in its award of attorneys' fees to the County, as this case was not a case in which extraordinary circumstances justified the award of attorneys' fees. View "Motta v. Granite County Comm'rs" on Justia Law