Justia Idaho Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Zoning, Planning & Land Use
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Nampa Highway District No. 1 (NHD) brought this action seeking to quiet title to a thirty-three-foot-wide strip of land constituting the south half of West Orchard Avenue in Canyon County, Idaho. NHD claimed that a 1941 deed conveyed the land to NHD. Appellants (defendants-below) argued that because the deed was not recorded until 1989, it did not affect their interests pursuant to the “Shelter Rule,” which protected a purchaser with notice if their predecessor in interest was an innocent purchaser. The district court granted summary judgment in NHD’s favor. After review, the Idaho Supreme Court reversed, finding the district court erred in granting summary judgment when there was a genuine issue of material fact as to what a reasonable investigation by Appellants' predecessors in interest would have revealed. The Supreme Court vacated the district court's declaration that NHD was the fee simple titleholder of the right-of-way, and the matter was remanded for further proceedings. View "Nampa Hwy Dist #1 v. Knight" on Justia Law

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The Board of County Commissioners for Bonner County, Idaho (“Board”) granted Stejer’s, Inc.’s request for three variances (“the Variances”) from applicable lot setbacks required by the Bonner County Revised Code. Neighboring land owners, Frank Hungate and Thomas Hungate, as trustees of the Hungate Trust, the A&E Family L.L.C., Anne Ashburn, Eleanor Jones, Frank Hungate, and John Hungate (collectively “the Hungates”) appealed the Board’s decision. The district court held that the Board erred in approving the Variances, but ultimately affirmed the Board’s decision after it determined that the Hungates failed to show that their substantial rights were prejudiced. The Hungates appealed to the Idaho Supreme Court. Finding no reversible error, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "Hungate v. Bonner County" on Justia Law

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The East Side Highway District (the District) and Gregory and Ellen Delavan (the Delavans) disputed the location of their common boundary relating to a portion of a road, Boothe Park Road, which included a boat ramp located on the shore of Lake Coeur d’Alene. The District asserted a claim to the disputed property under two theories: (1) a boundary by agreement that was established by the location of a fence that was erected by the Delavans’ predecessor in interest; and (2) Boothe Park Road and the boat ramp at its termination was a public highway pursuant to Idaho Code section 40-202(3). In response, the Delavans claimed the boat ramp was on their property, and its use by the public has always been, and remained, permissive. Further, the Delavans claimed the fence which was erected by their predecessor in interest was intended to act as a barrier, not a boundary. After two bench trials, the trial court ruled in favor of the Delavans, finding that the public’s use of the boat ramp had been permissive. As a result, the trial court ruled that the District did not have a right to a public easement based on Idaho Code section 40-202(3). Further, the trial court found that the fence had been erected as a barrier, not a boundary. Instead, the trial court found that the intention of the parties at the time the disputed property was conveyed to the Delavans demonstrated that the Delavans owned the property in dispute. The District appealed. After review, the Idaho Supreme Court held there was substantial and competent evidence to support the trial court’s findings that there was no boundary by agreement and that the Delavans owned the property in dispute. However, the Supreme Court vacated the trial court’s order granting summary judgment in favor of the Delavans because there was no hostility requirement in Idaho Code section 40-202(3). Accordingly, the case was remanded to determine whether the District had a public easement under Idaho Code section 40-202(3). View "Eastside Hwy Dist v. Delavan" on Justia Law

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Peter Nemeth and his wife Mary Nemeth (deceased), and Peter Nemeth acting as trustee of the Peter and Mary Nemeth Family Trust (collectively, “the Nemeths”), petitioned Shoshone County, Idaho, to validate a public right-of-way across federal land pursuant to Idaho Code section 40-204A and United States Revised Statute 2477 (“R.S. 2477”). The right-of-way followed a road which crossed federal land that Nemeths claimed historically provided access to their property and patented mining claims. When the County failed to act on the petition, the Nemeths filed a declaratory judgment action seeking validation of the right-of-way pursuant to Idaho Code section 40- 208(7). On a motion from the County, the district court dismissed the complaint pursuant to I.R.C.P. 12(b)(6) on grounds that because the Road traversed federal land, only a federal court had jurisdiction to hear the claim, which had to be brought under the federal Quiet Title Act (QTA), 28 U.S.C. section 2409a. The Nemeths appealed, arguing that state courts had jurisdiction to validate rights-of- way on federal land pursuant to R.S. 2477 and that the QTA did not preempt Idaho law that provided for such validation. After review, the Idaho Supreme Court reversed, because the district court erred in dismissing the Nemeths’ action on the basis it lacked subject matter jurisdiction. View "Nemeth v. Shoshone County" on Justia Law

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Three cases were consolidated by the Idaho Supreme Court for the purposes of appeal. The cases involved three separate actions: one brought by First Security Corporation and two others brought by Richard Fosbury to quiet title to their purported ownership of irrigation water rights to land owned by Belle Ranch, LLC. All parties agreed that partial decrees for the water rights were issued in the Snake River Basin Adjudication (SRBA) in the name of South County Estates, LLC. As South County’s successors in interest, First Security and Fosbury argued their interests in the water rights are senior and therefore superior to the interest of Belle Ranch, LLC. Notwithstanding these claims, the district court quieted title to the water rights in question to Belle Ranch, LLC. First Security and Fosbury appeal. The Idaho Supreme Court determined First Security and Fosbury’s claims were precluded by res judicata: the claims were the same claims that were adjudicated in the SRBA. The Supreme Court found it was appropriate for the district court to quiet title in favor of Belle Ranch, LLC, because Belle Ranch, LLC, filed a notice of a change in ownership during the pendency of the SRBA. Accordingly, the Court affirmed the district court’s judgment. View "First Security v. Belle Ranch" on Justia Law

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Four appeals arose from a consolidated subcase that was a part of the broader Coeur d’Alene-Spokane River Basin Adjudication (CSRBA). The United States Department of the Interior (the United States), as trustee for the Coeur d’Alene Tribe (the Tribe), filed 353 claims in Idaho state court seeking judicial recognition of federal reserved water rights to fulfill the purposes of the Coeur d’Alene Tribe’s Reservation (the Reservation). The Tribe joined the litigation. The State of Idaho (the State) and others objected to claims asserted by the United States and the Tribe. The district court bifurcated the proceedings to decide only the entitlement to water at this stage, with the quantification stage to follow. After cross-motions for summary judgment, the district court allowed certain claims to proceed and disallowed others. The district court specifically allowed reserved water rights for agriculture, fishing and hunting, and domestic purposes. The district court allowed reserved water rights for instream flows within the Reservation, but disallowed those for instream flows outside the Reservation. The district court determined priority dates for the various claims it found should proceed to quantification, holding generally the Tribe was entitled to a date-of-reservation priority date for the claims for consumptive uses, and a time immemorial priority date for nonconsumptive uses. However, in regard to lands homesteaded on the Reservation by non-Indians that had since been reacquired by the Tribe, the district court ruled the Tribe was entitled to a priority date of a perfected state water right, or if none had been perfected or it had been lost due to nonuse, the Tribe’s priority date would be the date-of-reacquisition. The Idaho Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part. The Supreme Court determined the district court improperly applied the controlling case law's rule of "primary-secondary" distinction and instead should have allowed aboriginal purposes of plant gathering and cultural uses under the homeland purpose theory. Furthermore, the Court determined the priority date associated with nonconsumptive water rights was time immemorial. The Court affirmed the remainder of the district court’s decisions and remanded for further proceedings. View "United States v. Idaho" on Justia Law

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This appeal stemmed from a disputed water right relating to the St. Joe River in Benewah County, Idaho, between a landowner and the tenants who put the water to beneficial use. The license at issue described the water right as “appurtenant to the described place of use.” The landowner argued the water right was appurtenant to his land, while the tenants contended the right was developed and owned by their predecessors in interest and now belonged to them by virtue of their having purchased the interest. The district court ultimately adopted the Special Master’s report and issued a partial decree, which listed the tenants as the owner of the license. Finding no reversible error in that decision, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed. View "McInturff v . Shippy" on Justia Law

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Eagle Creek Irrigation Company (“Eagle Creek”) appealed a district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of A.C. & C.E. Investments, Inc. The dispute centered on 15 shares of Eagle Creek stock which authorized the holder to divert 30 cfs of water (or 15 miner’s inches) of Eagle Creek’s water right. AC&CE Investments purchased 15 acres (“the Property”) located within Eagle Creek’s boundaries. The prior property owners also owned 15 shares in Eagle Creek stock. The question presented on appeal was whether the 15 shares passed as an appurtenance to the Property. The district court ruled that AC&CE Investments acquired 15 shares in Eagle Creek when it acquired title to the Property because the shares passed as an appurtenance to the Property. Eagle Creek appealed. The Idaho Supreme Court determined the district court erred in granting summary judgment to AC&CE Investments because the district court did not look to Eagle Creek’s governing documents. The Supreme Court therefore vacated the portion of the district court’s final judgment which stated that the 15 shares of the Eagle Creek stock were appurtenant to the Property. View "Eagle Creek Irrigation v. A.C & C.E Investments" on Justia Law

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Aspen Park, Inc., a nonprofit organization, sought a property tax exemption from Bonneville County, Idaho for its low-income apartments. The County’s Board of Equalization denied an exemption because some of the apartments were leased to tenants with incomes above 60 percent of the county’s median income level, a requirement set forth in Idaho Code section 63-602GG(3)(c). Aspen Park appealed to the Idaho Board of Tax Appeals, arguing that the statute allowed vacant apartments to be leased to higher-income earners. After the Board of Tax Appeals denied tax exempt status, Aspen Park filed a petition for judicial review with the district court. The district court granted Bonneville County summary judgment after deciding that to be eligible for a tax exemption under Idaho Code section 63-602GG, every apartment must be rented to low-income individuals or remain vacant. Aspen Park appealed, but finding no reversible error, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed. View "Aspen Park v. Bonneville County" on Justia Law

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This appeal centered on the distribution of water to water right 95-0734 in the Twin Lakes-Rathdrum Creek Drainage Basin. Sylte Ranch, LLC, was the current claimant on water right 95- 0734, which dated from 1875 and provided natural flow stockwater from Rathdrum Creek. In September 2016, Idaho Department of Water Resources (IDWR) issued a letter of instructions to the local watermaster in response to a complaint that he was releasing storage water from Twin Lakes contrary to a 1989 Final Decree that established all existing rights to Twin Lakes’ surface waters, tributaries, and outlets. These instructions led Sylte to file a Petition for Declaratory Ruling, arguing that IDWR should set aside and reverse the instructions because they improperly limited water right 95-0734 to Twin Lakes’ natural tributary inflow. Twin Lakes Improvement Association, et al., and Twin Lakes Flood Control District intervened in the case. Following cross motions for summary judgment, IDWR issued a Final Order, in which it upheld the instructions and granted intervenors’ motion for summary judgment. Sylte then sought judicial review and the district court affirmed IDWR’s Final Order. Sylte timely appealed to the Idaho Supreme Court. The Supreme Court affirmed the district court’s determination to uphold IDWR’s Final Order because the instructions complied with the plain language of the 1989 Final Decree. View "Sylte v. IDWR" on Justia Law