Articles Posted in Zoning, Planning & Land Use

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Charles Breland, Jr., and Breland Corporation (collectively, "Breland") appealed the grant of summary judgment entered in favor of the City of Fairhope in Breland's declaratory action based on alleged negligent conduct by Fairhope in relation to real property owned by Breland. In 2000, Breland filed applications for permits and certifications from the United States Army Corps of Engineers and the Alabama Department of Environmental Management ("ADEM") in order to fill approximately 10.5 acres of wetlands on the property. Fairhope opposed the fill project. Breland purchased the mitigation credits required by the Corps permit, and hired engineers and consultants for the project sometime before he began actual filling activity. Eight years later, actual work on the fill project began, but the City issued a stop-work order that halted operations. Because his Corps permit would expire in late 2008, Breland sued Fairhope for declaratory relief and an injunction against the effects of multiple City ordinances passed in attempts to stop Breland's work. Fairhope moved to dismiss the complaint. Charles Breland testified that he dismissed his lawsuit against Fairhope when both his Corps permit had been extended (to 2013), and that "there [were] conversations that the city [initiated] about buying the property." According to Breland, by late 2011, he got the impression that Fairhope had been negotiating with him to buy the remainder of the property under false pretenses and that Fairhope actually was trying to delay Breland from resuming the fill project until the Corps permit expired. In early 2013, Breland sued again seeking a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction against Fairhope's attempts to stop the fill project. The trial court dismissed Breland's case on statute of limitations grounds. The Supreme Court reversed, finding that each time Fairhope enforced its ordinances to stop Breland from filling activity on his property, Fairhope committed a new act that served as a basis for a new claim. Fairhope's last stop-work order was issued in November 2011; Breland filed this action on August 7, 2013. Accordingly, the two-year statute of limitations did not bar a claim for damages stemming from the 2011 stop-work order. View "Breland v. City of Fairhope" on Justia Law

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Richard and Betty B. Chesnut petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for a writ of certiorari seeking review of the Court of Civil Appeals' opinion affirming the Madison Circuit Court's summary judgments in favor of the City of Huntsville, the Board of Zoning Adjustment of the City of Huntsville, Denton-Niemitz Realty, LLC, and Guild Building and Remodeling, LLC. In 1983, the Chesnuts purchased a house and the adjacent lot to the east of their house, which was in a Huntsville neighborhood that had been established in 1908. The neighborhood was zoned as a 'Resident 1-B' district. In October 2012, Denton-Niemitz purchased the house on the west side of the Chesnuts' house. Subsequently, Denton-Niemitz obtained a permit to raze the house it purchased. Denton-Niemitz hired Guild Building & Remodeling, LLC to demolish the Denton-Niemitz house. The city issued the permits and construction began on the new house. Richard Chesnut was concerned the new house did not comply with the applicable set-back line requirement, and requested the zoning code be enforced. When no action was taken, the Chesnuts filed suit. The Chesnuts argued that the Circuit Court erred in entering a summary judgment in the civil action because, they said, Jim McGuffey (the zoning-enforcement coordinator for the City) incorrectly interpreted Articles 12.2.4 and 73.7.4 of the City's zoning code; that, when McGuffey issued the permits, he used an "extralegal dictionary definition" of "developed" and "undeveloped"; that McGuffey ignored a mandate of the Huntsville City Council that he did not have the power to permit construction that did not conform with the zoning code; and that McGuffey and the City ignored well established rules of statutory construction and ignored their statutory mandate to administer ordinances according to their literal terms. After review, the Supreme Court reversed in part the judgment of the Court of Civil Appeals because the zoning enforcement coordinator's interpretation of the zoning ordinance was unreasonable. The Supreme Court affirmed in part the appellate court's judgment because the summary judgment and the Court of Civil Appeals' affirmance of that judgment was appropriate, not because the Chesnuts' appeal was untimely but because the Chesnuts' administrative appeal was barred by the doctrine of res judicata. The case was remanded for further proceedings. View "Ex parte Richard and Betty Chesnut." on Justia Law

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The City of Pike Road appealed a circuit court judgment holding that a manufacturing facility owned and operated by Dow Corning Alabama, Inc., located in Mt. Meigs, an unincorporated part of Montgomery County, was within the police jurisdiction of the City of Montgomery as opposed to the police jurisdiction of Pike Road. Finding no reversible error in that judgment, the Alabama Supreme Court affirmed. View "City of Pike Road v. City of Montgomery" on Justia Law

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Sara Crossfield appealed the grant of summary judgment in favor of the Limestone County Commission in her action to reverse the Commission's decision to vacate a portion of Dogwood Flats Road in Limestone County. In early 2013, the Commission proposed to vacate a portion of Dogwood Flats Road. Crossfield's property did not abut the portion of Dogwood Flats Road proposed to be vacated; it abutted Dogwood Flats Road approximately 400 feet north of the portion of the road that the Commission proposed to vacate. At a hearing on the matter, Crossfield alleged that she was a "party affected by the vacation of a portion of Dogwood Flat[s] Road" and asked the trial court to set aside the vacation of the road. Crossfield alleged, among other things, that the Commission had obstructed her access to Piney Creek, east and south of Crossfield's property. The Commission moved to dismiss, arguing Crossfield was not affected by the vacation and therefore lacked standing to appeal the Commission's decision regarding Dogwood Flats. The trial court granted the Commission's motion for a summary judgment and dismissed Crossfield's appeal. Crossfield's evidence, even when viewed in the light most favorable to her as the nonmovant, did not create a genuine issue of material fact that would preclude a summary judgment for the Commission. Therefore, the Supreme Court affirmed summary judgment in favor of the Commission. View "Crossfield v. Limestone County Commission " on Justia Law

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Calvin Kendrick and K & D Automotive, Inc. sued the City of Montgomery, the City's employees Eddie Hill, Jr., Nathaniel Bracy, and Scott Adams, Tony's Automotive, L.L.C. and Tony's Automotive's owner Tony D. Brooks and manager Ellen F. Brooks asserting various due-process claims after, on two occasions, the City declared vehicles parked at K&D Automotive to be public nuisances under the City nuisance ordinance and authorized Tony's Automotive to abate the nuisances by removing the vehicles from the premises. The trial court thereafter entered a summary judgment in favor of the City defendants and the Tony's Automotive defendants on those claims; however, Kendrick and K&D have established on appeal that a judgment as a matter of law was not warranted on counts 5, 7, 8, 9, and 11 of their amended complaint. The Supreme Court reversed the trial court's grant of summary judgment as to those counts. Kendrick and K&D did not establish, however, that the trial court erred by entering a summary judgment in favor of the defendants on count 10, and that judgment was accordingly affirmed. View "K & D Automotive, Inc. v. The City of Montgomery" on Justia Law

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Shelby Land Partners, LLC and Alabaster Land Company, LLC each own a 50% undivided interest in a parcel of undeveloped real property located within the municipal limits of the City of Alabaster. At the request of Shelby Land, the property was initially zoned as a "community business district," permitting only commercial uses. In 2009, Shelby Land petitioned the City to rezone the land to permit multifamily residential use in order to pursue the development of a low-income apartment complex for senior citizens on the property. The Alabaster City Council denied Shelby Land's rezoning application. Shelby Land and Alabaster Land then brought this action to appeal the denial of the rezoning request. The trial court entered a summary judgment in favor of Shelby Land and Alabaster Land and ordered the City and the City Council to rezone the land to permit multifamily residential development. The City and the members of the City Council, who were sued in their official capacities, appealed. Upon review of the trial court record, the Supreme Court reversed and remanded the case for further proceedings.View "The City of Alabaster v. Shelby Land Partners, LLC" on Justia Law

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In order to meet the 300 inhabitants required for incorporation under section 11-41-1, the petitioners included 51 people actually living in Caritas Village along with 296 people who had declared that they have designated Caritas Village as their place of residence pursuant to 12-13-23, Ala. Code 1975. The probate court determined that: (1) the proposed municipality had a population of less than 300; (2) the population of the proposed municipality did not constitute a body of citizens whose residences were contiguous and formed a homogeneous community; (3) the application was not signed by at least 15 percent of the qualified electors residing within the municipality limits; (4) there were not 4 qualified electors residing on each quarter of a quarter section of the platted or unplatted lands; (5) the application did not contain an accurate plat of the land to be included within the proposed corporate limits; (6) the place of residence by street and number of those living within the proposed municipality was not included; and (7) the petition did not accurately state the name of the proposed municipality. The issue before the Supreme Court was whether the probate court erred in its determination, and whether the declarations of residency were indeed sufficient under 11-41-1. After careful consideration of the probate court record, the Supreme Court concluded petitioners' declarations were not sufficient to meet the statute's requirements, and therefore affirmed the probate court's decision. View "In re The incorporation of Caritas Village" on Justia Law

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Deidre W. Lee and Samuel G. McKerall appealed the grant of summary judgment in favor of Town of Magnolia Springs Mayor Charles Houser and Town Councilman Robert C. Holk. The Town of Magnolia Springs and the Magnolia Springs Planning Commission (the remaining defendants in the underlying action), appealed a judgment entered on a jury award to Lee and McKerall. In 2005, Lee purchased 47 acres of property in Baldwin County. In 2006, she submitted an application for preliminary subdivision-plat approval detailing a 124-lot residential subdivision to the Baldwin County Planning Commission. The Town of Magnolia Springs incorporated in June 2006, six months before Lee submitted her plat application to the Baldwin County Planning Commission. The first mayor and council for the Town of Magnolia Springs were sworn in 13 days before Lee submitted her application to the Baldwin County Planning Commission. When Lee submitted her application, the Town of Magnolia Springs had no jurisdiction over Lee's property, and only the Baldwin County Planning Commission had the authority to consider Lee's application because her property was outside the town limits. The Baldwin County Planning Commission tabled Lee's application. The Town of Magnolia Springs' mayor informed the Baldwin County Planning Commission that the jurisdiction of Magnolia Springs would extend to include Lee's property and that Magnolia Springs intended to pass a moratorium on subdivision approvals because "a couple of [the town's] council members ... have been involved in ... trying to get [Lee's plat application] delayed." He also acknowledged that Magnolia Springs had "no rules and regulations" regarding applications for preliminary subdivision-plat approvals. Lee sued when the plan was ultimately denied. After careful review, the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment in favor of Lee against the Town of Magnolia Springs and its planning commission, as well as the summary judgment in favor of Houser and Holk, and pretermitted any remaining issues. The Court held that McKerall's claims against the Town of Magnolia Springs and its planning commission were barred by his failure to timely file a notice of claim, and reversed the judgment in his favor. View "Lee v. Houser" on Justia Law

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Lowell and Deborah Fuller, and Ronald Sheila Turner, appealed a circuit court judgment that found that although the Town of Magnolia Springs held no riparian rights in or to the Magnolia River, the Town was entitled to construct improvements on the shores and to construct a boat launch, dock and/or pier to be used in connection with "Rock Landing," a public landing on the River, and that Rock Street (a public street adjoining land owned by the Fullers and Turners) could be used as temporary parking for the purpose of launching a boat or other float at Rock Landing. The Town cross-appealed that portion of the judgment which declared that the Town held no authority to convert a portion of Rock Street from a public street to a parking facility and recreational area. The Supreme Court, after its review, concluded that the trial court's findings of fact and conclusions of law were contradictory to the remedy it ultimately fashioned. Because of this contradiction, the Supreme Court reversed the trial court's judgment and remanded the case for revision of either the conclusion of law or the relief ordered. With regard to the Town's cross appeal, the Court found that because the issue of parking along Rock Street directly related to the issues on appeal, it too should have been reconsidered. View "Fuller v. Town of Magnolia Springs " on Justia Law

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Lowell and Deborah Fuller, and Ronald and Sheila M. Turner, appealed a circuit court judgment which found that, although the Town of Magnolia Springs held no riparian rights in and to the Magnolia River, the Town was entitled to construct improvements on the shores of the River and extending into the River for a boat launch, a boat dock, and/or a pier to be used in connection with Rock Landing, a public landing on the River, and that Rock Street, a public street in the Town that adjoined the lands owned by the Fullers and the Turners and that terminated at Rock Landing, could be used for temporary parking "for the purpose of launching a boat, kayak, canoe or other float at Rock Landing." The Town cross-appealed that part of the judgment that declared the Town was without authority to convert a portion of Rock Street from a public street to a parking facility and recreational area. On appeal, the Fullers and Turners argued that the remedy ordered by the circuit court was inconsistent with the underlying factual findings and conclusions of law. Upon review, the Supreme Court agreed that the conclusions of law were indeed contradictory to the remedy the circuit court fashioned. The Court reversed the circuit court and remanded the case for the court to either revise its conclusions of law or the relief it ordered. Furthermore, because the Town's cross-appeal directly related to the issues raised on appeal, the Court ordered the cross-appeal to be reconsidered by the circuit court on remand. View "Fuller v. Town of Magnolia Springs " on Justia Law