Articles Posted in Zoning, Planning & Land Use

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Royal filed a quiet title action against his predecessors in interest and against Omaha Public Power District (OPPD) alleging fee title ownership of land along the railroad right-of-way passing through his Otoe County property by adverse possession. OPPD counterclaimed, alleging that it had acquired fee simple title to that same land, also by adverse possession. The district court granted Royal default judgment as to his predecessors, but following a trial, denied both Royal’s and OPPD’s claims of title. The Nebraska Supreme Court vacated the entry of default as “leading to an illogical result” in extinguishing the rights of the former owners. The court affirmed as to OPPD, which owns an easement over the right-of-way and not a fee simple. That easement was obtained in 1869; its uses are permissive and a direct or incidental use associated with the operation of a rail line. Under Nebraska law, a permissive use is not adverse and cannot ripen into ownership by adverse possession. The court also affirmed as to Royal. While expert testimony indicated that some of the land had been used for farming, it did not support the conclusion that it was done for a continuous period sufficient to prove adverse possession. Royal acknowledged that he had not continuously lived on the property and had not continuously assisted with its farming. View "Royal v. McKee" on Justia Law

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In 1998, the Laus bought land from Walters, who financed the purchase. An attorney, chosen by Walters, drafted the documents. The deed of trust included a right of first refusal that ended once the financing was paid. At closing, the warranty deed stated: “No sale ... shall be consummated without giving at least 30 days written notice of the terms to Grantor. Grantor shall have the right to buy the lot on the same terms.” In 2007, the Laus finished paying on the note. Walters executed a deed of reconveyance. Around 2013, the Laus decided to sell the land with their trailer home and contacted a real estate agent, who told Walters about the listing. Walters did not mention his right of first refusal. The Laus entered a purchase agreement with Sporer. Neither that agreement nor the Laus’ affidavit regarding debts, liens, and adverse claims mentioned the right of first refusal. The Laus conveyed the property to the Sporers by warranty deed, which was recorded. Walters sued. The court granted the Laus and the Sporers summary judgment, holding that the deed, which was not signed by the Laus, did not satisfy the statute of frauds, Neb. Rev. Stat. 36-105. The Nebraska Supreme Court reversed, holding that a right of first refusal in a deed is an enforceable agreement under the statute of frauds upon the acceptance of the deed. View "Walters v. Sporer" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed in part and in part vacated and dismissed a district court order that dismissed Homeowners’ amended petition in order challenging a conditional use permit issued by the Omaha Planning Board and a special use permit and rezoning granted by the Omaha City Council. The appeal arose from a conditional use permit, special use permit, and rezoning granted to Developers for a proposed convenience storage and warehouse facility. Homeowners filed an amended petition in error with the district court seeking to challenge the permits and rezoning. The district court dismissed the amended petition in error and affirmed the determinations of the city council and planning board. The Supreme Court (1) dismissed for lack of jurisdiction the portion of Homeowners’ appeal addressing the rezoning and special use permit and vacated the district court’s order in that regard for lack of jurisdiction; and (2) affirmed the district court’s order in regard to the conditional use permit. View "Landrum v. City of Omaha Planning Board" on Justia Law

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The Tax Equalization and Review Commission (TERC) adjusted upward by eight percent the value of the “land use grass” subclass of the agricultural and horticultural land class of real property in Franklin County not receiving special valuation. Franklin County appealed. The Supreme Court affirmed TERC’s order adjusting the Franklin County grassland value upward by eight percent, holding (1) TERC did not err in relying on the statistics prepared by the Property Tax Administrator; (2) there was no merit to Franklin County’s argument that TERC violated Neb. Const. art. VIII by failing to uniformly and proportionally value grasslands in the state; and (3) Franklin County’s remaining assignments of error were without merit. View "County of Franklin v. Tax Equalization & Review Commission" on Justia Law

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Randy and Helen Strode owned real property in the City of Ashland, Saunders County. Since the time of the purchase, the Strodes operated a business for the manufacture of agricultural fencing and the storage of salvage on the property. In 2003, the district court held that Randy’s use of the property to store salvage was in violation of the zoning ordinance but found that the manufacture of agricultural fencing was permitted. In 2013, the Strodes filed suit against the City and the County for inverse condemnation based on the zoning ordinance and the load limit regulation of a bridge used by the Strodes for transporting commercial goods. The district court concluded (1) Randy’s zoning takings claim was barred by claim preclusion because the matter was litigated in the 2003 case, (2) determined that Helen’s regulatory taking lain was barred by the statute of limitations because she was aware of the effect of the zoning ordinance after 2003; (3) found that the regulation of the bridge structure was not a regulatory taking, and (4) the City and County were entitled to summary judgment. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court did not err in finding in favor of the City and the County. View "Strode v. City of Ashland" on Justia Law

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The City of Springfield filed suit against the City of Papillion, and Sarpy County, seeking to enjoin Papillion from annexing land which had been indicated as Springfield’s area of future growth in a map adopted by the County in 1995. The district court for Sarpy County found that Springfield lacked standing; Springfield appealed. After review, the Nebraska Supreme Court found that Springfield asserted an infringement of its statutory governmental functions and rights under the County Industrial Sewer Construction Act. That infringement was sufficient to grant standing. The Court reversed the district court and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "City of Springfield v. City of Papillion" on Justia Law

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Appellant, a farmer, owned Dunaway Farm and Rehfeld Farm, both of which were located within the jurisdiction of the Lower Elkhorn Natural Resources District. Beginning in 2010, Appellant used the well on Rehfeld Farm to irrigate Dunaway Farm, which was previously not irrigated. In 2013, the District ordered Appellant to cease and desist irrigating Dunaway Farm because the District’s rules prohibited use of ground water for new irrigated acres within the District’s management area without a variance. Appellant appealed using the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) and also filed a declaratory judgment action challenging the constitutionality of several of the District’s rules related to irrigation. The district court affirmed the District’s decision. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) on the APA appeal, there were no errors in the district court’s judicial review of the District’s order; and (2) because the District’s rules are constitutional, the district court did not err in granting summary judgment as to Appellant’s request for a declaratory judgment. View "Lingenfelter v. Lower Elkhorn Natural Res. Dist." on Justia Law

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The County of Sarpy Board of Commissioners adopted a resolution amending an overlay district zoning ordinance. The revised ordinance exempted properties platted before the effective date of the original ordinance. The owner of nonexempt property brought a declaratory judgment action against the county claiming that the exemption was unconstitutional. The district court entered judgment in favor of the county. The owner appealed, arguing that the court erred in determining that the exemption did not constitute special legislation. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the exemption was not unconstitutional special legislation because it did not create a closed class and its application was not arbitrary or unreasonable. View "Dowd Grain Co. v. County of Sarpy" on Justia Law

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Ordinance No. 611 of the City of Valley, Nebraska authorized the annexation of land near Valley’s corporate border, some of which included Sanitary and Improvement District No. 196 (SID 196). SID 196 filed a complaint seeking to declare the ordinance invalid and seeking to enjoin Valley from enforcing the ordinance. Valley filed a motion for summary judgment, and both parties presented evidence from expert witnesses. The district court ultimately granted summary judgment for Valley and declared the ordinance valid. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the trial court did not err in concluding that ordinance No. 611 is valid and in therefore granting summary judgment. View "Sanitary & Improvement Dist. No. 196 v. City of Valley" on Justia Law

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The City of Fremont paved on block of a street and assessed the paving costs against abutting property owners. The City relied on Nebraska’s “gap and extend” law, which permits a city to “pave any unpaved street…which intersects a paved street for a distance of not to exceed one block on either side of such paved street” to authorize the paving. Appellees, legal titleholders of property that abutted upon and was adjacent to the street, filed a petition on appeal, alleging that the levy of special assessments was invalid. The district court sustained Appellees’ motion for summary judgment, concluding that the City did not comport with the limitations and restrictions required by the gap and extend law. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the plan language of the statute authorized the paving. Remanded with direction to enter judgment in favor of the City.View "Johnson v. City of Fremont" on Justia Law