Articles Posted in Zoning, Planning & Land Use

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Philip Hudson appealed a district court’s grant of partial summary judgment in favor of the State of Idaho, the Idaho State Board of Land Commissioners and the Idaho Department of Lands (collectively, the “State”). The district court found that Hudson violated the Idaho Lake Protection Act (the “LPA”) when he placed fill in the bed of Priest Lake without a permit. Hudson disputed the location of the Ordinary High Water Mark (the “OHWM”) and argued the fill was placed on his own property to protect it from erosion. Hudson argued that there was an issue of material fact regarding the location of the OHWM, which made summary judgment improper. Finding the dispute regarding the OHWM was not a material fact in determining whether Hudson violated the LPA, the Idaho Supreme Court affirmed summary judgment. View "Idaho Board of Land v. Hudson" on Justia Law

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At issue in this matter was landowners’ recourse against an irrigation district for diverting a portion of their water source to other landowners within the district. The appellants-landowners owned farms in Jerome County; A&B Irrigation District (the “District”) distributed water to these farms and others throughout its service area in Jerome and Minidoka Counties. The District serves two distinct sub-areas in its district: Unit A and Unit B. The water the District distributes comes from two sources: (1) surface water from the Snake River and associated reservoirs, and (2) groundwater from the Eastern Snake Plain Aquifer. These two water sources were historically what separated Units A and B, and many owners based their land choices in the 1950s on the water source. Unit A farms have received surface water exclusively since the District’s inception. For decades Unit B farms received only groundwater, but the District converted approximately 1400 Unit B acres to surface water in the 1990s in response to decreasing groundwater supply. Appellants claimed the Project primarily benefited Unit B landowners at the expense of Unit A by diverting a portion of Unit A’s sole water source (surface water) onto Unit B land and “diluting” their annual water supply. Additionally, the District divided Project costs equally among all landowners despite what Appellants claim was the Project’s primary purpose: to help sustain Unit B farms as their groundwater supply continues to decline. The landowners brought an action for a declaratory judgment regarding their constitutional water and property rights. They also sought injunctive relief against the irrigation district for a breach of fiduciary duty. The district court granted the irrigation district’s motion to dismiss on all three of the landowners’ claims. The landowners’ appeal centered on two issues with respect to their three claims against the District: the legal standard under which the district court dismissed Appellants’ claims, and the court’s substantive determinations under that standard. Appellants contend the district court erred both procedurally and substantively in dismissing all three counts in its amended complaint. Procedurally, they claimed the district court improperly considered matters outside the pleadings in dismissing all three claims under Rule 12(b)(6), rather than converting to the Rule 56 summary judgment standard. Substantively, Appellants contended that Counts I and III were justiciable as presented on the face of their amended complaint, and that res judicata did not bar relief under Count II. The Idaho Supreme Court found after review that the landowners failed to demonstrate justiciable claims in their Counts I and III, and that the district court erred in dismissing their property rights claim in Count II by considering matters outside the pleadings under Rule 12(b)(6). View "Paslay v. A&B Irrigation District" on Justia Law

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Schweitzer Fire District (the District) appealed a district court’s grant of a writ of prohibition on behalf of Schweitzer Basin Water Company (the Company) that prevented the District from taking proposed enforcement action against the Company related to perceived flow-rate deficiencies of fire hydrants owned by third-party homeowners and installed on the Company’s private water system. The district court granted the writ of prohibition after concluding that the District did not have jurisdiction over the Company under Idaho Code section 41-259. The district court awarded attorney fees and costs to the Company after determining that the District’s position was without a reasonable basis in fact or law. The District timely appealed. After review, the Idaho Supreme Court found the district court correctly concluded the District did not have jurisdiction over the Company’s water system under 41-259. Finding no other grounds for reversal, the Supreme Court affirmed the district court’s judgment. View "Schweitzer Basin Water Co. v. Schweitzer Fire Dist." on Justia Law

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This appeal originated from a claim for attorney fees under Idaho Code section 12-117. The district court held that Hauser Lake Rod and Gun Club, Inc. was not entitled to attorney fees under section 12-117 because, even though it had prevailed against the City of Hauser in a code violation dispute, the administrative tribunal that reviewed the dispute was staffed with both County and City officials. According to the district court, section 12-117’s definition of “political subdivision” does not include administrative review tribunals staffed with officials from multiple governmental entities. The Idaho Supreme Court concluded the district court erroneously interpreted Idaho Code section 12-117 by concluding the Joint Board was not a “political subdivision:” the decision of the Board of County Commissioners was the act of a political subdivision. The statutory definition of a political subdivision expressly included counties. "As with any corporate body, a county may only act through its human agents. Under Idaho law, those agents are the Board because a county’s 'powers can only be exercised by the board of county commissioners, or by agents and officers acting under their authority, or authority of law.'" View "Hauser Lake Rod & Gun Club v. City of Hauser" on Justia Law

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The Ada County Highway District (“ACHD”) appealed a district court judgment awarding $148,390.21 plus prejudgment interest and attorney’s fees to Brooke View, Inc. d/b/a The Senator (“Brooke View”) as just compensation for a parcel of property that ACHD condemned and took possession of under the State’s eminent domain powers. ACHD argued on appeal that the district court misconstrued the law when it allowed Brooke View to recover the cost to repair damage to a wall on Brooke View’s property, which the jury found had been caused by the construction of improvements on the taken parcel. After review, the Idaho Supreme Court found the district court erred in instructing the jury on "just compensation," and those instructions prejudiced ACHD. Furthermore, the Court found the district court erred in admitting certain evidence on events, activities and damages that occurred during construction of improvements on the property. The Court vacated the award of attorney fees, and remanded this case for further proceedings. View "Ada Co Hwy Dist v. Brooke View, Inc." on Justia Law

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Appellants appealed the district court's denial of their motion for summary judgment and the grant of summary judgment in favor of the Board of the Local Improvement District No. 1101 and the Ada County Board of Commissioners (the Boards) in a case regarding assessments levied on properties within the Sage Acres Local Improvement District. Appellants also appealed the district court’s award of attorney fees to the Boards. Ada County Ordinance No. 780 established the Ada County Local Improvement District No. 1101, known as Sage Acres Local Improvement District (LID). The ordinance was adopted in 2011. The purpose of the LID was to construct a water delivery system for residential and irrigation use by properties within the Sage Acres Subdivision (Sage Acres) in Boise. water system was completed in 2014. Appellants challenged the creation of the LID and Ada County Ordinance No. 809, which confirmed the assessments levied on properties affected by the LID. In 2013, Appellants filed a Notice of Appeal from Assessments; the district court set the matter for trial in 2014, and ordered the parties to mediate no later than 90 days prior to trial. Prior to mediation, the Boards moved for summary judgment, arguing that Appellants’ claims were not legally or factually supported. Finding no reversible error in the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of the Boards, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "Hoffman v. Bd of Local Improvement Dist No. 1101" on Justia Law

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This case arose out of a permit application to obtain a water right filed by the respondents, North Snake Ground Water District, Magic Valley Ground Water District and Southwest Irrigation District (“the Districts”), to appropriate water from Billingsley Creek on real property owned by appellant Rangen, Inc. After the Director of the Idaho Department of Water Resources denied the application in a final order, the Districts petitioned for judicial review. The district court set aside the Director’s final order. Rangen appealed. Rangen historically diverted water from Billingsley Creek. Before the Department ruled on the Districts’ April 2013 application, Rangen filed a competing application on February 3, 2014. Rangen’s application sought to divert 59 cfs from Billingsley Creek for fish propagation, with the same source and point of diversion elements as the Districts had requested. On January 2, 2015, Rangen’s application was approved for 28.1 cfs for fish propagation with a priority date of February 3, 2014. This permit had apparently not been challenged. Department employee James Cefalo presided over a hearing on the Districts’ application and subsequently issued a Preliminary Order Issuing Permit in which he found that the application was made in good faith, did not conflict with the local public interest, and otherwise satisfied the necessary requirements. Therefore, he approved a conditional permit authorizing the Districts to appropriate 12 cfs from Billingsley Creek for mitigation purposes with a priority date of April 3, 2013. Rangen filed a protest of the hearing officer’s preliminary order with the Director. After the parties briefed the issues, the Director subsequently issued a final order overturning the hearing officer’s decision and denying the application. The Director concluded that the Districts’ application was made in bad faith and that the application was not in the local public interest. The Districts petitioned for judicial review, asserting that the Director abused his discretion and exceeded his authority in denying their application. On judicial review, the district court set aside the Director’s final order, concluding that the application was neither made in bad faith nor counter to the local public interest. The district court also rejected Rangen’s arguments that the Districts’ application was incomplete or speculative and that mitigation is not a recognized beneficial use of water under Idaho law. Rangen appealed again. After review of the district court record, the Supreme Court concluded the district court did not err in its judgment and affirmed. View "Rangen, Inc v. North Snake Ground Water Dist." on Justia Law

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At issue before the Supreme Court in this matter was an action for declaratory relief related to planning and zoning in Canyon County. Appellant Coalition for Agriculture’s Future sued respondents Canyon County and the Canyon County Board of Commissioners (collectively “Canyon County”) under the Uniform Declaratory Judgment Act, seeking to invalidate Canyon County’s 2011 comprehensive plan and amendments thereto for noncompliance with Idaho’s Local Land Use Planning Act (LLUPA). The district court granted Canyon County’s motion to dismiss the action for lack of standing. The Coalition appealed. Finding no reversible error in the district court's judgment, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "Coalition for Agricultures's Future v. Canyon County" on Justia Law

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The Payette County Board of Commissioners approved a conditional rezone of a parcel of land from agricultural to industrial, subject to a development agreement, in connection with a project to build a nuclear power plant. Various parties appealed the approval to the district court. The district court upheld the Commissioners’ actions. H-Hook, LLC, a neighboring landowner, appealed the district court’s decision. Finding no reversible error, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "Burlile v. Bd of Co Commissioners, Payette" on Justia Law

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The issue this case presented for the Supreme Court's review stemmed from attempts by the Water Users’ Association of the Broadford Slough and Rockwell Bypass Lateral Ditches, Inc. (Association) to collect assessments from Big Wood Ranch, LLC (BWR) for maintenance performed by the Association on the Broadford Slough (Slough) and Rockwell Bypass (Bypass), which were conduits for the delivery of surface water to property owned by BWR and some of its neighbors. The Association claimed it has a statutory right to collect assessments for its maintenance of this water delivery system. BWR disputed that claim. On summary judgment, the district court determined that the Association was validly formed pursuant to Idaho Code section 42-1301, and, after a bench trial, found BWR owed payment for these outstanding assessments. BWR appealed, challenging the validity of the Association’s formation under the statute, as well as the court’s alternative contract and equity-based theories for granting judgment in favor of the Association. Upon review, the Supreme Court found: (1) the Association was not qualified to operate pursuant to Idaho Code section 42-1301; (2)the district court erred by alternatively granting judgment to the Association on unpled contract and equity-based theories; and (3) BWR was entitled to attorney fees and costs on appeal. View "Big Wood Ranch v. Water Users' Assn. of the Broadford Slough & Rockwell Bypass Lateral Ditches, Inc." on Justia Law