Community group did not have standing to challenge rezoning denial

by Hannah Dankbar and Gary Taylor

Iowa Coalition Against The Shadow (ICATS) and Rockne Cole v City Council of Iowa City
Iowa Court of Appeals, January 27, 2106

Iowa City owned property zoned as “Neighborhood Public Zone” (P-1) that was no longer needed for city purposes.  The City Council requested developers to submit proposals, and accepted a proposal for a twenty-story building that would have both commercial and residential units. The proposed building would require the property to be rezoned as CB-10, which contains no height restrictions.  Cole and others filed an application to rezone the property to “Central Business Support Zone” (CB-5) to prevent a building that height from being constructed (CB-5 allows for mixed-use buildings that are less than 75 feet fall). None of the rezoning applicants owned property neighboring the parcel in question or sought to purchase the property to erect a building to comply with CB-5 zoning.  Their application urged the City Council to “protect our cherished commons, and allow future generations of children to enjoy the bright sunlight at Chauncey Swan Park without a 20 story tower looming over them.

The Planning and Zoning Commission held multiple meetings, and ultimately recommended denial of the rezoning application.  The City Council ultimately denied the request.  this left the property as P-1

Cole and ICATS filed a petition for a writ of certiorari claiming that the denial of the rezoning application was arbitrary and discriminatory because City Council had prejudged the issue and intended to grant CB-10 to accommodate the development. They argued that CB-10 zoning violated the comprehensive plan and Iowa Code section 414.3 (2013) and was illegal spot zoning. The district court determined that Cole and ICATS did not have standing because they did not suffer an injury and did not have a vested interest in the property. Cole and ICATS appealed the decision.

On appeal, Cole argued that because he applied for rezoning he had standing. ICATS claimed that they had standing to assert the rights of its members in challenging the rezoning denial.

To determine whether a person has sufficient interest to challenge a zoning decision Iowa is guided by a decision of the Florida Supreme Court: “(1) proximity of the person’s property to the property to be zoned or rezoned; (2) character of the neighborhood, including existence of common restrictive covenants and set-back requirements; (3) type of change proposed; and (4) whether the person is on entitled to receive notice under the zoning ordinance.” (Renard v. Dade County, 261 So. 2d 832, 837 (Fla. 1972)).

The court applied those factors to this case and determined that neither Cole nor ICATS had standing. There is nothing in the character of the neighborhood or the proposed zoning change that indicates Cole or ICATS had a particular interest in the change. They were interested in the change primarily so community members could enjoy the sun, but people with only a general interest shared by the public are not permitted to initiate action to promote judicial enforcement or interpretation of zoning regulations.

In addition to affirming that neither Cole nor ICATS had standing, the court also agrees that leaving that property zoned P-1 furthered the interest of ensuring residents can enjoy the sun. The specific injury that was the concern of Cole and ICATS (blocking the sun) did not occur by the denial of the rezoning application. Also, if the rezoning application was approved, there was nothing to prevent the developer from submitting an application to rezone the property to CB-10, so this zoning application did not necessarily prevent the injury Coke and ICATS sought to avoid.

The decision of the district court was upheld.

Idaho Supreme Court finds real, substantial harm may come to neighbor of proposed multi-story apartment complex if development is approved

by Hannah Dankbar and Gary Taylor

Lusk, LCC v City of Boise
Idaho Supreme Court, February 10, 2015

In fall 2011, Royal Boulevard Associates, LP applied for a conditional use permit (CUP) to build a 352,000 square foot, five-story, multi-family apartment complex called River Edge Apartments. The site is located near Boise State University and is zoned Residential Office with a Design Review Overlay (R-OD). Multi-family housing is allowed at this site, but Boise City Code requires a CUP to build a building that is more than 35 feet tall in an R-OD zone. River Edge was planned to be between 59 and 63 feet tall. Lusk, LLC owns a building next to the proposed site and was therefore entitled to notice of the application for a CUP.

In spring 2012, the Boise Planning and Zoning Commission (Commission) conducted a hearing and unanimously approved the CUP for River Edge. The Commission provided a written explanation for their decision for the height variance and the CUP. Lusk appealed this decision to City Council claiming that the Commission did not adequately address the criteria for a CUP found in the zoning code. Lusk claimed that the proposed building was incompatible with the buildings in the area and that constructing 622 bedrooms and 280 parking spaces would place an “undue burden on transportation and other public facilities in the vicinity” and “the proposed project will adversely affect other property in the vicinity.” The City Council denied this appeal. The District Court affirmed the City Council’s decision and Lusk appealed to the Idaho Supreme Court.

Lusk did not appeal the height variance, just the City Council’s decision affirming the CUP. Lusk argued that because the Commission did not follow the correct procedure for granting the CUP the City Council was wrong to affirm the Commission’s decision.  Lusk argued that the district court erred in affirming the City Council’s decision because: (1) the Commission’s approval did not follow the legal procedure, (2) the decision was not supported by substantial evidence in the record, and (3) the decision was arbitrary, capricious and an abuse of discretion.

Boise City Code requires the Commission to consider the criteria set forth in Boise City Code section 11-06-04.13 before approving a height exception.  It states, in part, that the Commission must find that “the site is large enough to accommodate the proposed use and all yards, open spaces, pathways, walls and fences, parking, loading, landscaping and other features as are required by this title.” Idaho Code §67-6512(d)(7) provides that “conditions may be attached” to a CUP “requiring more restrictive standards than those generally required in an ordinance.” The Boise City Code also requires that the Commission determine “that the proposed use…will not adversely affect other property of the vicinity.”

Lusk argued that the Boise Code requires the Commission to determine whether planned parking is adequate for the proposed project before granting a conditional use permit.  The question is whether the Commission recognized that it possessed the discretionary authority to impose parking requirements beyond the minimum established by the Parking Chapter of the code. The record unambiguously demonstrated that the Commission failed to perceive that it had discretion to require additional parking as a condition of approval of the CUP. A staff member of Boise City Planning and Development Services said that the issue of parking is not before the Commission, rather the question of variance for a height exception and the Boise River System Permit were the only questions that can be addressed.

The Commission failed to recognize that Idaho statutes and the Boise City Code provided it with discretion to require the project to provide on-site parking beyond the minimum required by the Parking Chapter. As a result of this failure to apply governing legal standards, the Commission refused to consider the adverse effects on property in the vicinity. The Court found that the decision reflected an abuse of discretion.

The Court, deciding that the Commission abused its discretion, then had to consider whether Lusk identified prejudice to their substantial rights.  Under Idaho caselaw, a party opposing a landowner’s request for a development permit has no substantial right in seeing someone else’s application adjudicated correctly. He or she must be in jeopardy of suffering substantial harm if the project goes forward, such as a reduction in the opponent’s land value or interference with his or her use or ownership of the land.  Without even attempting to evaluate the impact of guests who arrive by automobile, if only half of the River Edge tenants have an automobile, there will be significant numbers of residents looking for parking in the vicinity.  The potential devaluation of petitioner’s property, time and expense to police parking on petitioner’s property, and inconvenience to employees and visitors to the property suggest the real potential for substantial harm.  The Court concluded that there was sufficient evidence that Lusk is in jeopardy of economic harm from the project to satisfy the requirements set forth in Idaho caselaw.

The Idaho Supreme Court reversed the district court’s decision to affirm the city’s CUP approval.

Church did not have standing to appeal rejection of city’s approval of cross display

by Rachel Greifenkamp

Chris Cabral and Nancy Tarsitano v. City of Evansville, Indiana
(Federal 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, June 25, 2014)

In April of 2013 the West Side Christian Church in Evansville, Indiana submitted an application to the City’s Engineer’s Office seeking permission to erect thirty-one six-foot plastic crosses on a 1.5-mile-long public riverfront for two weeks in August of 2013. The city denied the permit originally because the display was intended to be decorated with phrases like “Jesus saves,” which was against the City municipal code regarding “First Amendment signs.” When the permit was resubmitted without the religious phrases, the Board of Public Works approved the display contingent on a disclaimer being placed on either end of the display saying that it was not endorsed by the City of Evansville.

In June 2013 Cabral and Tarsitano (plaintiffs) filed a complaint against Evansville challenging the display as violating the Establishment Clause, and requested a preliminary injunction preventing the installation of the crosses. The church then filed a motion to intervene in July. The district court entered an injunction holding that, “the City’s approval of this display of crosses constitutes an impermissible endorsement of religion that violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.” The city did not appeal the decision.  The church, however, filed a timely appeal arguing that the display did not violate the Establishment Clause and that instead the injunction violates the church’s First Amendment rights.

Rather than address the First Amendment issues, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals found that the church lacked standing to pursue its appeal.  There are three requirements that must be met in order for a litigant to have standing: (1) they must have suffered an actual or imminent injury in fact, (2) the injury must be traceable to the challenged action, and (3) it must be likely, not just speculative,  that the injury will be redressed by the court returning a favorable decision. Standing does not exist in this appeal primarily due to the fact that even if the court were to overturn the district court’s decision, it is only speculative as to whether the “injury” suffered by the church would be redressed because the City of Evansville might deny the permit for a number of reasons.  Such speculation as to future events is not enough to support a claim of standing “[S]tanding requires that it is likely, as opposed to merely speculative, that the injury will be redressed by a favorable decision.

In addition, the only party expressly bound by the injunction – the city of Evansville – did not appeal the lower court decision and was not a party to the church’s appeal.  A judgment will not be altered on appeal in favor of a party who did not appeal, even if the interests of the party not appealing are aligned with those of the appellant.

For these reasons, the church’s appeal was dismissed for lack of standing.

 

Non-profit association has standing to challenge major North Dakota coal gasification facility; loses on merits

by Gary Taylor

Dakota Resource Council, et al. v. Stark County Board of County Commissioners
(North Dakota Supreme Court, June 7, 2012)

Great Northern planned to construct and operate a coal gasification facility on 8,100 acres of land in Stark County. Great Northern’s planned complex would include a coal gasification plant, chemical fertilizer plant, electrical power plant, coal mine, solid waste landfill, and facilities for manufacture and storage of hazardous, explosive, and odorous products. Great Northern submitted an application to the Stark County Zoning Commission (Commission) to change the zoning of the land from agricultural to industrial and to allow nine conditional uses of the land, including “[m]ineral and other substance exploration or excavation and mining [in] accordance with provisions of Sec. 6.10” of the Stark County Zoning Ordinance. The Commission scheduled a hearing and sent notice by certified mail to all persons who owned land within 200 feet of the boundaries of the proposed rezoned tract. Following the hearing, the Commission voted to recommend that the County Board of Supervisors (Board) approve the application, conditioned upon Great Northern obtaining all necessary local, state, and federal permits or approvals. The Board subsequently approved the application to rezone the property from agricultural to industrial and approved the requested conditional uses. The Board’s approval was subject to several express conditions, including a requirement that Great Northern “obtain all the necessary local, state and federal approvals, licenses and permits relative to the operation of the coal mine.”

The Dakota Resource Council (Council) is a membership-based non-profit corporation which, among other things, works for preservation of family farms, regulation of coal mining and oil and gas development, protection of ground water and clean air, and sound management of solid and toxic wastes. Neighbors United is an unincorporated association which promotes the protection of farming and ranching. The Council, Neighbors United, and several individuals who owned land near the rezoned tract appealed the Board’s decision to the district court. The district court initially determined that the Council, Neighbors United, and the individual landowners had standing to challenge the Board’s decision, but the district court affirmed on the merits the Board’s decision to rezone the property and allow the conditional uses.

The Council, Neighbors United, and landowners appealed.  The Board and Great Northern cross-appealed, arguing that the Council lacked standing to appeal the Board’s decision to the district court.

Standing.  The North Dakota Supreme Court noted at the outset that “standing is the concept used to determine if a party is sufficiently affected so as to insure that a justiciable controversy is presented to the court.”  A not-for-profit association such as the Council that has not suffered an injury itself must satisfy a three-pronged test to demonstrate standing: (a) its members would otherwise have standing to sue in their own right; (b) the interests it seeks to protect are germane to the organization; and (c) neither the claim asserted nor the relief requested requires the participation of individual members in the lawsuit. In addition, a nonprofit membership corporation has standing to seek judicial review on behalf of its members, of governmental or municipal regulations directly affecting such members.  The Board and Great Northern challenged the Council’s standing only on the first prong of the test.  The Court affirmed the district court’s conclusion that the Council had standing in this case, at the same time acknowledging that it presented a “close question.” The Stark County Zoning Ordinance requires that, when a proposed amendment to the Zoning Ordinance and Map affects a property use, all property owners within 200 feet of the affected property must be notified of the hearing by personal service or certified or registered mail. In this case, the record demonstrated that at least two individuals identified as Council members received notice of the scheduled hearing from Stark County by certified mail because they owned property within 200 feet of the proposed rezoned tract.  The Court saw the notice requirement “effectively [as] a legislative determination that landowners within 200 feet of the proposed rezoned property have a significant, protectable interest in the Board’s decision whether to grant an application to rezone the property and permit requested conditional uses.  The notice requirement established that Kenneth Kudrna and Randall Kudrna’s property interests were affected by the Board’s decision in a manner different than that suffered by the public generally, and they were more than just an elector and resident taxpayer affected by the decision….We do not believe it can be seriously argued that an 8,100 acre industrial complex, including a coal gasification plant, chemical fertilizer plant, electrical power plant, coal mine, solid waste landfill, and facilities for manufacture and storage of hazardous, explosive, and odorous products, would not adversely affect the Kudrnas’ use and enjoyment of their respective properties located within 200 feet of the proposed complex.”

Rezoning decision.  The Council contended that the Board failed to correctly interpret and apply the Stark County Zoning Ordinance. The Court began this analysis by noting that although interpretation of an ordinance presents a question of law fully reviewable on appeal, the interpretation of a zoning ordinance by a governmental entity is a quasi-judicial act, and a reviewing court should give deference to the judgment and interpretation of the governing body rather than substitute its judgment for that of the enacting body.  The Council argued that Great Northern was required by the ordinance to submit all application materials necessary to apply for a land disturbance permit.  The Board disagreed.  The Court disagreed, as well.  The Board, construing its Zoning Ordinance in light of the facts presented in this case, concluded that the Zoning Ordinance allowed the Board to issue a conditional use permit for mining operations, subject to the requirement that Great Northern ultimately comply with another section of the ordinance and obtain a land disturbance permit before commencing any exploration, excavation, or mining activities on the property.  The Board viewed the granting of the conditional use permit as merely the first step in a lengthy and complex process, and its approval of the conditional use was contingent upon Great Northern complying with all of the enumerated special conditions imposed upon the conditional use permit.  The Court concluded that “this is a reasonable interpretation of the Zoning Ordinance, and we give deference to the Board’s interpretation and will not substitute our judgment for that of the Board.”

The district court decision was affirmed in all respects.

Owner of purchase option has standing to apply for variance in Nebraska

by Gary Taylor

Field Club Home Owners League v. Zoning Board of Appeals of the City of Omaha
(Nebraska Supreme Court, May 11, 2012)

Volunteers of America (VOA) proposed to build an apartment-style building for veterans in Omaha.  To construct the building as planned, VOA applied to the Omaha Zoning Board of Appeals (Board) for variances from area and use restrictions. The appellants, Field Club Home Owners League and Thornburg Place Neighborhood Association (Field Club) opposed the application. The Board granted the variances, concluding that the 1987 Code created an unnecessary hardship because it did not contemplate a project like VOA’s. The district court affirmed the Board’s decision, and Field Club appealed to the Nebraska Supreme Court.

Field Club argued that VOA lacked standing to request variances from the Board because VOA had not obtained a certificate of authority pursuant to Neb. Rev. Stat. 21-20,169(1), which provides that “[a] foreign corporation transacting business in this state without a certificate of authority may not maintain a proceeding in any court in this state until it obtains a certificate of authority.”  The Nebraska Supreme Court found the provision inapplicable because, although VOA is a foreign corporation, VOA was not “maintaining” a court proceeding. It was Field Club that petitioned the district court and named VOA as a defendant.

Field Club also contended that because the owner of the property was Kiewit Construction Company, and not VOA, that VOA lacked standing because it had no legally cognizable interest in the property. The Supreme Court noted that the majority of courts that have considered the issue hold that a prospective purchaser under a purchase agreement subject to the grant of a variance or rezoning has standing to seek the change. Similarly, courts have held that the holder of an option to purchase property has standing to apply for a variance when the holder is bound to purchase the property if the variance is obtained or when the property owner anticipated that the option holder would seek the variance to complete the sale.  The Supreme Court agreed with these other jurisdictions, and further noted that the principles hold true in administrative proceedings as well as judicial proceedings.

However, the Supreme Court noted that Field Club did not raise the issue of standing until the case reached the Supreme Court.  Partly as a result of this, the record did not contain evidence addressing VOA’s interest in the property.  Therefore, the Supreme Court remanded the case to district court to receive additional evidence and determine whether VOA had sufficient interest in the property to seek the variances.

Missouri Court of Appeals addresses neighbor’s standing in zoning board litigation

by Gary Taylor

Underwood v. St. Joseph (MO) Board of Zoning Adjustment; Sharon Kennedy (Appellant)
(Missouri Court of Appeals, January 17, 2012)

Underwood submitted construction plans to the city of St. Joseph to obtain a building permit for a detached garage measuring 1,328 square feet. The city approved the plan and issued a building permit. Approximately three months later, however, when the structure was 80% complete, the city received an anonymous complaint about the garage and issued a stop work order because the garage actually measured 1,427 square feet. In fact, the city zoning ordinance limits the size of a detached garage to “an area no greater than 30% of the rear yard area behind the principal structure” which, based on the size of Underwood’s yard, meant that the garage could be no larger than 1,035 square feet. The city advised Underwood to either obtain a demolition permit or seek an area variance from the city board of zoning adjustment (BZA). Underwood chose the variance route.

In response to Underwood’s variance request, the city mailed certified letters to adjacent landowners (including Kennedy) notifying them of the BZA hearing on the variance request. Prior to the hearing the city acknowledged that it erroneously issued the building permit for the 1,328-square-foot design and offered to pay 76% of Underwood’s cost to downsize the garage (the portion of excessive square footage attributable to the city’s error). Also prior to the hearing the BZA received written comments from three adjacent landowners regarding Underwood’s requested variance. One of the comments was from Kennedy, expressing her opposition to the variance based upon her concern that “the garage does not fit the character of the neighborhood due to its size and construction material.” and that it “may adversely affect property values in the neighborhood.” At the BZA hearing, however, no one appeared to testify in opposition to the variance request. Nonetheless, the BZA denied the variance. Underwood filed an appeal of the denial with the circuit court. Underwood was identified as “petitioner,” and the BZA and City were identified as “respondents.” On April 4, 2011, the circuit court entered a judgment reversing the BZA’s denial of the variance and remanding the case with orders that the variance request be granted. At a second BZA hearing held May 3, 2011, the city recommended that the BZA adopt the circuit court’s findings of fact and conclusions of law. Kennedy appeared at this second hearing and argued against granting the variance request based upon her previously stated reasons. At the second hearing, the BZA adopted the circuit court’s findings and granted the variance. One week later, Kennedy filed a notice of appeal in the Missouri Court of Appeals challenging the circuit court’s judgment.

The Court of Appeals determined that Kennedy lacked standing to bring the appeal before the Court of Appeals because Missouri statute limits the right to appeal to “any party” aggrieved by a decision of a circuit court, and Kennedy was not a party to the proceedings before the circuit court.  Kennedy cited two reasons why the statute should not be followed; first, that the Missouri Administrative Procedures Act allows any person “aggrieved by a decision in a contested case” to appeal and that, as a result, she was not required to be a party to the circuit court litigation.  The court rejected this argument because the zoning enabling statutes contemplate a different process that makes this provision of the Administrative Procedures Act inapplicable. Second, Kennedy argued that when the city chose not to appeal the circuit court’s decision, standing transferred to those for whom the city was acting in a representative capacity; i.e., those like Kennedy who would be aggrieved by the decision. The court rejected this argument as well, stating that state law allows aggrieved persons to formally intervene in litigation when their interests are at stake.   Kennedy countered by pointing to Missouri caselaw that suggests that neighboring landowners do not have a right to intervene in circuit court proceedings stemming from BZA matters (because, in her interpretation, the BZA is adequately representing the interests of the neighbors).  The court rejected her interpretation of those cases, and pointed to other Missouri cases, including the dissent of a case where intervention was denied, that imply that a landowner may indeed be able to intervene in a BZA case at the circuit court level if the motion to intervene is timely.

The Court of Appeals dismissed Kennedy’s appeal for lack of standing.

Realtors Association has standing to challenge rental licensing ordinance

by Gary Taylor

St. Louis Association of Realtors v. City of Ferguson
(Missouri Supreme Court, October 25, 2011)

In 2006, the City of Ferguson enacted an ordinance that created a regulatory fee and licensing system for owners of residential property within Ferguson who lease or rent their property to others.  To qualify for a rental license, property owners must undertake building inspections, file affidavits stating whether any adult tenants are registered as sex offenders, retain a property manager residing within 25 miles of the rental property and pay licensing fees. The ordinance makes it unlawful for property owners to rent or lease their property without a license.

The St. Louis Association of Realtors (Association) is a trade association with approximately 9,000 members in the St. Louis metropolitan area. The association challenged the validity of the ordinance on both constitutional and statutory grounds. Its petition asserted that it has associational standing on behalf of its members because some of those members are affected by the ordinance directly, because it has an interest in protecting private property rights of the type affected by the ordinance, and because the relief it requested is a declaration that the ordinance is invalid rather than damages and so, its suit does not require joinder of individual members.  The trial court dismissed the association’s petition, determining that it lacked standing to bring suit.  The association appealed.

According to the Missouri Supreme Court “Reduced to its essence, standing roughly means that the parties seeking relief must have some personal interest at stake in the dispute, even if that interest is attenuated, slight or remote.  A legally protectable interest exists only if the plaintiff is affected directly and adversely by the challenged action or if the plaintiff’s interest is conferred statutorily….An association that itself has not suffered a direct injury from a challenged activity nevertheless may assert ‘associational standing’ to protect the interests of its members if certain requirements are met. The association must demonstrate that (a) its members would otherwise have standing to sue in their own right; (b) the interests it seeks to protect are germane to the organization’s purpose; and (c) neither the claim asserted nor the relief requested requires the participation of individual members in the lawsuit.”

The Missouri Supreme Court determined that the association had associational standing.  The association satisfied the first prong of the test because some of its members are property owners in Ferguson and, so, would have standing in their own right to challenge Ferguson’s ordinance. Specifically, three realtor-members testified that they own rental property within Ferguson and, as such, have felt a direct impact from the various requirements imposed by the ordinance.  The Court disagreed with the city’s assertion that a majority of an association’s members must be able to prove standing in their own right.

In assessing the association’s satisfaction of the second prong the Court observed that the relevant question is whether the basis on which the individual association members were found to have standing under the first prong also is germane to the association’s purpose.  “Mere pertinence between litigation subject and organizational purpose is sufficient. Requiring otherwise would undermine the primary rationale of associational standing, which is that organizations are often more effective at vindicating their members’ shared interests than would be any individual member.” The association supported its claim that it has an organizational interest in protecting property rights by introducing its by-laws, and mission statement, which both contain statements about the association’s stated purpose to protect members’ and homeowners’ property interests. The association also presented evidence that the association regularly engages in lobbying activities and fundraising to advance the interests of its members, including their interest in protecting real property rights. Further, two association representatives testified that the organization has initiated or participated in litigation challenging ordinances or defending its members cited for violating ordinances deemed objectionable to the association’s mission of protecting property rights.

Finally, the Court concluded that the third prong was met because the association merely sought prospective relief via a declaratory judgment that Ferguson’s ordinance was invalid. It was not pressing for damages or other relief that would require joinder of individual association members. “Where an association seeks only a prospective remedy, it is presumed that the relief to be gained from the litigation will inure to the benefit of those members of the association actually injured.”

City failed to establish injury in Fair Housing Act claim

by Gary Taylor

City of Kansas City v. Yarco Company and Churchill Properties
(Federal 8th Circuit Court of Appeals, November 9, 2010)

Yarco runs an apartment complex in Kansas City. Its lease agreement with its tenants reads, “CURFEW time for everyone under the age of 18 will be 8:30 p.m. nightly.” The city filed a complaint with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) alleging that the curfew discriminated against “families with children under the age of eighteen,” in violation of the Fair Housing Act (FHA).   Yarco opted for judicial proceedings, and the city sued in state court, alleging violation of the FHA. Yarco removed the case to the District Court for the Western District of Missouri on federal question grounds. Finding that the city could not make a plausible showing of discriminatory intent, the district court granted Yarco’s Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings, and the city appealed to the Federal 8th Circuit Court of Appeals.

On appeal, the 8th Circuit found that the federal courts lacked subject matter jurisdiction to hear the case, because the city could not make the requisite showing of standing.  “The constitutional minimum of standing requires an ‘injury in fact,’ a causal connection between the injury and the conduct complained of.”  The city did not allege injury to itself, but rather that “families with children and children under the age of 18 years of age are aggrieved,” and that the city has a sovereign interest in enforcing the FHA.  The 8th Circuit disagreed, noting that the FHA does not assign claims of aggrieved parties to state and local agencies.  “The city is silent about harm to its particular interests.”  The case was remanded to district court, for further remand to state court.

Need not exhaust administrative remedies at City Development Board before bringing suit on notice issue

by Allison Arends

Oglesby, et al v. City Of Coralville
(Iowa Court of Appeals, November 25, 2009)

Scanlon Properties submitted an application to the City of Coralville for annexation of property it owned, including a half mile of the right-of-way for North Liberty Road that connects the city to the Scalon property.  The property is in the two-mile extraterritorial area of the city of North Liberty.  Owners of adjacent property to the proposed annexed land filed a petition seeking a write of certiorari, a declaratory judgment and injunctive relief. The petition alleged that the city had not complied with Iowa Code section 368.7 (1)(b) and (d) when it failed to provide required notice of the annexation. Additionally the plaintiffs argued that although Iowa Code chapter 368 allows the annexation of adjoining land, this particular annexation involved a “shoestring” or “umbilical cord” annexation in which the annexation included noncontiguous land that was only connected to the city through the proposed annexation of one half-mile of a right-of-way. Despite the petition, the City Council voted to approve the annexation application.

At the district court hearing, the city moved to dismiss the petition arguing that the plaintiff’s failed to exhaust all administrative remedies with a state agency and that because they did not own property within the territory of the proposed annexation, the plaintiffs lacked standing .The district court denied their dismissal and enacted a temporary injunction which prevented the city, “from taking further action on the proposed Scanlon property annexation until such time as it complies with all statutory notice requirements.”

The city, in its appeal, first argued that the plaintiffs failed in exhausting all administrative remedies specifically because the City Development Board had not yet approved the annexation, and therefore a judiciary decision on the annexation violated the very principle of exhaustion remedies. The court responds by noting that it is, “well established that a party must exhaust any available administrative remedy before seeking relief in the courts.”  “The exhaustion doctrine applies when (1) an adequate administrative remedy exists and (2) the governing statute requires the remedy to be exhausted before allowing judicial review.”  The court found that there was not an adequate administrative remedy available, because the City Development Board’s review of annexations within the extraterritorial area of another city does not include review to ensure compliance with the landowner notification requirements.  The CDB would not have had information about the extent to which landowners were notified before the city acted, and therefore concluded that, “a resort to the Board to rectify a failure by the city to give notice is permissive only, not exclusive of the judicial remedy.”

In response to the city’s claim that the plaintiffs lacked standing because they did not own property within the territory of the proposed annexation, the court noted that Iowa Code section 368.7 provides that, “Any approval must occur at a public hearing.  At least fourteen days before that hearing, the city must provide written notice to certain entities and landowners, including any non-consenting owners of property in the territory to be annexed and any owners of property adjoining the territory to be annexed.”   The court concluded that plaintiffs were entitled to notice, and thus had standing as owners of land adjacent to the road.  The district court’s decision was affirmed.

Although house not yet built, landowner had standing to claim injury from CAFO approval

by Allison Arends

Hagerott v. Morton County Board of Commissioners
(North Dakota Supreme Court, February 22, 2010)

In 2008 Fred Berger applied to the Morton County Commission for a conditional use permit that would relocate an existing feed operation to a proposed site that was zoned for agricultural use.  The Morton County Feeding Operation ordinance requires a minimum separation of one mile between feedlots and residences.  Berger’s application indicated that there were no existing residences within one mile of his proposed feed lot; however, Donald Hagerott had also applied for a building permit in 2008 in order to build a house for his son, Mark Hagerott. The house would sit within one mile of the proposed feedlot. The Morton County Building Department issued him a building permit, noting that it was null and void if construction was delayed or suspended for a period of 180 days. Although the Hagerott’s placed a mobile home on the property they did, in fact, delay construction for over 180 days.  Hagerott maintained that the delay was a result of Berger’s pending application for the feedlot.

The commission approved Berger’s application for a 8,000 animal feeding operation and Hagerott appealed. The district court found that Hagerott did not have standing to challenge the commission’s approval.  Hagerott then appealed to the North Dakota Supreme Court.

The North Dakota Supreme Court first noted that for an individual to have standing, he must have some legal interest that may be enlarged or diminished by the decision to be appealed from, and such party must be injuriously affected by the decision. In regards to Hagerott’s standing the court found that, “the commission’s decision to grant a conditional use permit for a feedlot within the one mile odor setback of the proposed house has the effect of diminishing and injuriously affecting his personal and individual interest in his land in a manner different than that suffered by the public generally,” therefore making him factually aggrieved by the issuance of Berger’s conditional use permit and providing him with standing to appeal the commission’s decision.

In response to Hagerott’s second claim, the court first made clear that a county commission’s decision to issue a conditional use permit must be affirmed unless the commission acted arbitrarily, capriciously, or unreasonably, or if there is not substantial evidence supporting the decision. The court went on to find that the commission correctly concluded that the Hagerotts did not have an “existing residence”  within one mile of Berger’s proposed feedlot after extensive consideration of what constitutes an existing residence.  The court also found that there was no evidence that the Hagerott’s made substantial expenditures in reliance on the zoning ordinance and therefore had no protection against zoning changes prohibiting that use. The court found that the commission issued the conditional use permit through a “reasoned discussion and mental process for the purposes of achieving a reasoned and reasonable interpretation,” and therefore did not act arbitrarily, capriciously or unreasonably.  The North Dakota Supreme Court therefore affirmed the district court’s decision.

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