Articles Posted in Zoning, Planning & Land Use

by
The Eighth Circuit reversed the district court's denial of plaintiff's motion to preliminarily enjoin enforcement of Bel-Nor's Ordinance 983, which restricts the number of signs displayed on private property. The court held that Ordinance 983 is a content based restriction that is not narrowly-tailored to achieve the compelling government interests of government safety and aesthetics. The court held that the ordinance is also facially overbroad; plaintiff was likely to succeed on his First Amendment claim; and the district court erred in denying the motion for a preliminary injunction. Accordingly, the court remanded for further proceedings. View "Willson v. City of Bel-Nor" on Justia Law

by
The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to the City in an action alleging that the City discriminated against plaintiff based on her race when it denied her applications for rezoning to open a beauty salon in a residential neighborhood. The court held that plaintiff's race discrimination claim under the Equal Protection Clause failed because plaintiff failed to produce evidence that the City's decision constituted racial discrimination and the City's interest in preserving the neighborhood's residential character from increased commercialization was supported by the record. In a class-of-one challenge to local zoning decisions, courts are not entitled to review the evidence and reverse the commission merely because a contrary result may be permissible. Instead, the court is authorized only to ascertain whether there has been a transgression upon the property owner's constitutional rights. In this case, the court held that plaintiff's class-of-one discrimination claim failed to meet this standard where she failed to identify how any purported comparators were similarly situated in all material respects. View "Mensie v. City of Little Rock" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff and others filed suit alleging federal and state law claims arising from a nuisance abatement carried out on his land. The district court dismissed the claims based on the doctrine of claim preclusion. The court held that plaintiff's federal action challenging the nuisance abatement was precluded by the summary judgment granted in the Ramsey County District Court and affirmed by the Minnesota Court of Appeals. In this case, the actions involved the same set of factual circumstances, same parties or privies, there was a final judgment on the merits in the prior litigation, and plaintiff had a full and fair opportunity to litigate this matter in the prior action. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Anderson v. City of St. Paul, Minnesota" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiffs own mineral interests in Chalybeat Springs and granted 21 oil and gas leases based on those interests. EnerQuest and BP America are the lessees. The property interests in Chalybeat, including the leases at issue, are subject to a Unit Agreement that establishes how the oil and gas extracted from certain formations will be divided and provides for a unit operator with the exclusive right to develop the oil and gas resources described in the Unit Agreement. In the late 1990s, PetroQuest became the operator of the Chalybeat Unit. Unhappy with the level of extraction, lessors filed suit against EnerQuest and BP, seeking partial cancellation of the oil and gas leases on the ground that EnerQuest and BP breached implied covenants in the leases to develop the oil and gas minerals. The district court granted the companies’ motion for summary judgment, reasoning that the lessors had not provided EnerQuest and BP with required notice and opportunity to cure a breach. The Eighth Circuit affirmed, rejecting an argument that the plaintiffs’ earlier effort to dissolve the Chalybeat Unit constituted notice. View "Lewis v. Enerquest Oil & Gas, LLC" on Justia Law

by
Smith sought a conditional use permit (CUP) to build a 300-foot-tall cellular tower on a Washington County site zoned "Agriculture/Single-Family Residential." There are homes within one-quarter of a mile of the site. The Zoning Code authorizes a CUP upon findings: That the proposed use is compatible with the surrounding area; will not be detrimental to or endanger the public health, safety, morals, comfort or general welfare; and will not be injurious to use and enjoyment of other property in the area for purposes already permitted, nor substantially diminish and impair property values within the area. The Planning Board approved the application. Neighbors appealed to the Quorum Court with arguments focused on "safety," "property values," the tower's "fit" with the area, proximity to their homes, and having purchased their homes specifically because of the surrounding scenery and views. Hearing participants discussed cellular phone reception; potential safety issues, particularly in inclement weather; proximity to residences; and impact on nearby residents' views and property values. The application was rejected. The district court and Eighth Circuit affirmed, rejecting arguments that Washington County failed to provide a legally adequate explanation of its reasons for denial and that the denial was not based on substantial evidence in violation of the Telecommunications Act, 47 U.S.C. 332(c)(7)(B). View "Smith Commc'ns, LLC v. Washington Cnty." on Justia Law

by
Hawkes wishes to mine peat from wetland property owned by affiliated companies in northwestern Minnesota. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers issued an Approved Jurisdictional Determination (JD) that the property constitutes “waters of the United States” within the meaning of the Clean Water Act, requiring a permit to discharge dredged or fill materials into the “navigable waters,” 33 U.S.C. 1344(a), 1362(7). The district court dismissed a challenge, holding that an approved JD, though the consummation of the Corps’ jurisdictional decision-making process, was not a “final agency action” within the meaning of the Administrative Procedure Act, 5 U.S.C. 704. While the appeal was pending, a panel of the Fifth Circuit reached the same conclusion. The Eighth Circuit reversed, finding that both courts misapplied the Supreme Court’s 2012 decision, Sackett v. EPA. A “properly pragmatic analysis of ripeness and final agency action principles compels the conclusion that an Approved JD is subject to immediate judicial review. The Corps’s assertion that the Revised JD is merely advisory and has no more effect than an environmental consultant’s opinion ignores reality.” View "Hawkes Co., Inc. v. U.S. Army Corps of Eng'rs" on Justia Law

by
The Smiths appealed from the district court's order condemning portions of their property for the construction of a natural gas pipeline owned and operated by Alliance and granting Alliance immediate use and possession of the condemned land. The court concluded that it lacked jurisdiction to consider the Smiths' statutory challenges based on 18 C.F.R. 157.6(d) and North Dakota Administrative Code (NDAC) 69-06-08-01. The court also concluded that the Smiths received reasonable notice that Alliance was applying to FERC for the right to condemn their land; the court rejected the Smiths' allegation that Alliance violated several state procedural rules in bringing the condemnation action because Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 71.1 preempted all of these state procedures; Alliance satisfied any duty to negotiate with the Smiths in good faith pursuant to the Natural Gas Act, 15 U.S.C. 717f(h); and the district court did not abuse its discretion in holding that Alliance was entitled to immediate use and possession pursuant to Dataphase Sys., Inc. v. C L Sys., Inc. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment of the district court. View "Alliance Pipeline L.P. v. 4.360 Acres of Land, et al." on Justia Law

by
Plaintiffs filed suit against the city alleging that the city's zoning scheme violated the First and Fourteenth Amendments. The court concluded that the zoning ordinances at issue were content-neutral, time, place and manner regulations subject to intermediate scrutiny; the zoning scheme was narrowly tailored to serve a substantial government interest; and there were reasonable alternative avenues in which plaintiffs could operate an adult entertainment business despite the zoning ordinances. Accordingly, the zoning ordinances did not violate plaintiffs' constitutional rights and the court affirmed the judgment of the district court. View "Peterson, et al. v. City of Florence" on Justia Law

by
This dispute involved the rights of the County and the rights of a public utility, Laclede, in shared easements. On appeal, the County challenged the district court's grant of Laclede's motion for preliminary injunction. The order enjoined the County from, among other things, constructing any additional portion of retaining wall on top of gas lines on the Pitman easement; removing, or hiring another entity to remove any portion of the Pitman Hill Road gas lines located on the Pitman easement; and removing any portion of the gas lines from the Ehlmann Road easement. The court concluded that the district court had jurisdiction under the Pipeline Safety Act, 49 U.S.C. 60101-60137, a federal statute that specifically authorized the district court to enjoin threats to damaged pipelines. The issuance of a preliminary injunction in those circumstances was not error. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Laclede Gas Co. v. St. Charles County" on Justia Law

by
Rogers Group, Inc. brought suit in district court against the City of Fayetteville, seeking to prevent the enforcement of the City's ordinance regulating rock quarries in or near the City's corporate limits. The district court granted Rogers Group's motion for a preliminary injunction to enjoin the ordinance prior to its enforcement date. The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed. The City then repealed the ordinance. Rogers Group moved for attorneys' fees and costs, arguing that it was a prevailing party. The district court granted the motion, concluding that Rogers Group was entitled to a fee award under 42 U.S.C. 1988 even though the court never reached the constitutional claims because the allegations in the complaint raised a substantial constitutional claim sufficient to confer jurisdiction. The Eighth Circuit affirmed, holding that Rogers Group was a prevailing party entitled to an award of attorneys' fees pursuant to section 1988 even though the district court never reached its constitutional claims.