Justia Nebraska Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Zoning, Planning & Land Use
by
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

by
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

by
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

by
Rodehorst Brothers, a partnership, applied for several building permits for its apartment building. A building inspector granted the first two permits but denied the third, concluding that Rodehorst had forfeited its right to continue its nonconforming use of a fourplex in an area zoned R-2 for one- and two-family use. On appeal, the city’s Board of Adjustment determined (1) Rodehorst had forfeited its right to continue its nonconforming use by not having more than two apartments occupied for more than one year, and (2) the Board lacked authority to grant a use variance to otherwise allow the use to continue. The district court affirmed, concluding that the Board did not err in its judgment and that the Board’s ruling was not an unconstitutional taking. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) because the record showed that Rodehorst discontinued the noncomforming use for one year, it forfeited its right to continue the use; (2) the Board lacked authority to grant a use variance; and (3) there was no taking of Rodehorst’s property. View "Rodehorst Bros. v. City of Norfolk Bd. of Adjustment" on Justia Law

by
This case involved a parcel of real estate previously owned by Four H Land Company Limited Partnership (Four H). Four H twice applied for a conditional use permit (CUP) to operate a sand and gravel pit on the property. James Tierney and Jeffrey Tierney objected to the applications. To resolve their dispute, the Tierneys, Four H, and Western Engineering Company (Western), the operator of the sand and gravel pit, entered into an agreement in 1998 in which the Tierneys agreed to waive their right to appeal the issuance of the CUP, and Four H and Western accepted various conditions regarding operation of the sand and gravel pit. In 2009, the Tierneys brought an action for specific performance, alleging that Four H and Western had not fulfilled the conditions of the agreement. The district court dismissed the Tierneys’ complaint for specific performance, concluding that Four H and Western had not met the requirements of the 1998 CUP and the agreement but that specific performance was not an appropriate remedy. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that specific performance was an appropriate remedy for Four H’s and Western’s breach, and the district court should have ordered it. Remanded. View "Tierney v. Four H Land Co. Ltd. P’ship" on Justia Law

by
SourceGas Distribution, LLC owned property located in an area that had been annexed by the City of Hastings. The City, on behalf of the board of public works, filed a petition in the county court under the general condemnation procedures found at Neb. Rev. Stat. 76-101 through 76-726, seeking to initiate condemnation proceedings against the property owned by SourceGas. In an effort to enjoin the county court proceedings, SourceGas Distribution filed a complaint in the district court for temporary and permanent injunction, primarily alleging that the City must utilize Nebraska’s Municipal Gas System Condemnation Act (the Act) rather than the procedures in chapter 76. The district court overruled the motion for temporary injunction and dismissed the complaint, concluding that Neb. Rev. Stat. 19-4626(2) exempted the City from being required to proceed under the Act and that the City could utilize chapter 76’s general condemnation procedures. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the district court correctly concluded that, pursuant to the exception set forth in section 19-4626(2), the Act does not apply in this case and, instead, the general condemnation procedures of chapter 76 apply. View "SourceGas Distrib., LLC v. City of Hastings" on Justia Law

by
Mike and Becky Carey applied for a building permit for an interior renovation of an apartment building. A municipal building inspector denied the application because the construction documents were not prepared by a registered design professional. The city's appeals board denied the Careys' appeal. The district court overruled the appeals board and ordered that the Careys be issued a building permit without the requirement that they retain a licensed architect, concluding (1) the appeals board did not act within its jurisdiction, and (2) the renovation fell into one of the exemptions to the Engineers and Architects Regulation Act. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the appeals board acted within its jurisdiction and that there was sufficient evidence to support a reasonable conclusion that the proposed renovation failed to qualify for statutory and regulatory exemptions to the Act. View "Carey v. City of Hastings" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiffs, several taxpayers who managed or owned land in the vicinity of a landfill, challenged the validity of an agreement for hosting of the landfill. The district court dismissed Plaintiffs' complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. The court further found that the complaint was frivolous and filed in bad faith and ordered Plaintiffs to pay the landfill parties' and counties' attorney fees and costs. The Supreme Court (1) reversed the portion of the district court's judgment imposing attorney fees because the court failed to resolve doubt over the merits of the complaint in Plaintiffs' favor; and (2) affirmed the dismissal of the complaint because the reason for dismissal was relevant only to the fee issue. View "White v. Kohout" on Justia Law

by
The City of Papillion condemned property owned by Appellant for a road project. The City built a new road on Appellant's new property along with an iron fence on the north side of the road, which abutted Appellant's remaining property. Appellant brought suit. The trial court concluded that the City had statutory authority to condemn the property for the fence and that the City's building of the fence was not a second taking that limited Appellant's access to the new road. Appellant appealed these issues. The City cross appealed, arguing that the district court erred in granting Appellant interest, fees, expenses, and costs. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Appellant failed to timely appeal its claims that the trial court erred in concluding the City had statutory authority to condemn the property for the fence and the City's building of the fence was not a second taking; and (2) the court's award of interest, fees, expenses, and costs was proper. View "Pinnacle Enters. v. City of Papillion" on Justia Law

by
The County Board of Equalization determined that land owned by Ladd Krings was not agricultural or horticultural land. On appeal, the Tax Equalization and Review Commission (TERC) upheld the Board's decision but further concluded that the value of Krings' property should be equalized with the value of agricultural and horticultural land. Determining that the assessor's assessments of agricultural and horticultural land to be impermissibly low, TERC subsequently equalized Krings' property by reducing its assessed value. The Supreme Court (1) affirmed the portion of TERC's order determining that Krings' land was nonagricultural and nonhoricultural; but (2) reversed the portion of the order in which TERC equalized the value of Krings' nonagricultural, nonhorticultural land with the value of agricultural and horticultural land in the county, as this decision did not conform to the law. Remanded. View "Krings v. Garfield County Bd. of Equalization" on Justia Law