Articles Posted in Zoning, Planning & Land Use

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Walker Brothers Investment, Inc., and James Walker (collectively, "Walker Brothers") appealed a circuit court order granting a motion for a summary judgment in favor of the City of Mobile ("the City"). In 2012, the City filed a complaint against Walker Brothers seeking a preliminary and a permanent injunction, alleging Walker Brothers owned a building, known as the Tobin Building, located in a historic district in downtown Mobile and that Walker Brothers had allowed the building to deteriorate in violation of the Mobile City Code. The City asked the circuit court to enter an order requiring Walker Brothers to "mothball" the Tobin Building in accordance with plans submitted by Walker Brothers and subsequently approved by the Board. Walker Brothers argued that the City, through the HDC and the Board, had treated Walker Brothers unequally from other developers of historic properties, and it alleged that the City had engaged in selective enforcement of the City's rules and regulations in a manner that "amounted to malicious prosecution and abuse of process." Walker Brothers filed an objection to the City's motion to dismiss, stating that it had intentionally left part of the mothballing plan uncomplete so that it could file a counterclaim against the City. The circuit court purported to grant the City's motion to dismiss later the same day. The Alabama Supreme Court dismissed Walker Brothers’ appeal, finding the City's "motion to dismiss" was a valid notice of dismissal pursuant to Rule 41(a)(1)(i), and, the circuit court was without the power to act on Walker Brothers' attempt to reinstate the City's action so that Walker Brothers could file a counterclaim. Accordingly, any order entered after the City filed its notice of dismissal was void, including the summary judgment in favor of the City that was the basis of Walker Brothers' appeal to the Supreme Court. View "Walker Brothers Investment, Inc. v. City of Mobile" on Justia Law

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Robert and Carin Diercks, residents of a subdivision located in Escambia County Alabama, purchased a vacant lot in the subdivision located directly behind their house and began constructing a garage. A group of homeowners in the subdivision ("the plaintiffs") sued the Dierckses contending that construction of the garage violated various restrictive covenants applicable to the lot. The trial court agreed and entered a summary judgment in favor of the plaintiffs, enjoined the Dierckses from further construction on the garage, and ordered the removal of what had been constructed on the lot. On direct appeal, the Court of Civil Appeals reversed the judgment of the trial court, finding that the trial court had not properly applied the restrictive covenants. The Alabama Supreme Court applied the covenant at issue here as originally intended by the parties at the time the covenant was created: it was clear that the intent of the covenant was to prohibit a garage or carport located on lot 58 from opening onto Brooks Boulevard. The Dierckses could not unilaterally reverse the meaning of this covenant by the subsequent combination of the two lots into a single parcel. Thus, the Dierckses' garage violated the restrictive covenant prohibiting garages and carports from opening onto the front of the lot. With respect to restrictive covenant 1.C., the Alabama Supreme Court found the trial court correctly entered a summary judgment. To the extent the Court of Civil Appeals' decision was to the contrary, that decision was reversed, and the case was remanded for further proceedings. The Court pretermitted discussion as to the remaining restrictive covenants. View "Ex parte Phillip D. Odom, et al." on Justia Law

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In October 2009, the Town of Summerdale filed a complaint against East Central Baldwin County Water, Sewer and Fire Protection Authority (ECBC) and the county commission, seeking a judgment declaring that the 2002 and 2008 amendments to ECBC's certificate of incorporation were void. The 2002 amendment expanded ECBC's geographic service area, and the 2008 amendment authorized ECBC to include sewer services in certain parts of its service area. Summerdale sought a declaration that the 2002 amendment and the 2008 amendment were void because the county commission's approval of the amendments was based on incorrect facts set forth in the applications for the amendments. In June 2012, the trial court entered a partial summary judgment declaring the 2002 amendment void. On appeal, the Court of Civil Appeals, by order, set aside the Rule 54(b) certification and dismissed the appeal because the partial summary judgment did not address the validity of the 2008 amendment. The trial court then entered a new order stating that its partial summary judgment also applied to the 2008 amendment. ECBC appealed. After review, the Alabama Supreme Court concluded the Court of Civil Appeals applied the wrong standard of review and that, therefore, its decision was reversed. The Supreme Court also concluded that the summary judgment was erroneous because: (1) it did not give appropriate weight to the county commission's findings as to the adequacy of the existing services; and (2) there appeared to be genuine questions of material fact that would have precluded summary judgment. View "Ex parte East Central Baldwin County Water, Sewer and Fire Protection Authority." on Justia Law

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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