Justia Election Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Real Estate & Property Law
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A recall petition was filed against the Mayor and three Cathlamet council members; charges stemmed from Cathlamet’s purchase of a parcel of property at 20 Butler street. The petition alleged a violation of the Washington Constitution as a gift of public funds to the seller of the Butler Street property, Bernadette Goodroe. One additional charge against one town counselor alleged violation of RCW 42.23.070(2), prohibiting municipal officials from giving or receiving gifts related to their official capacities. The Washington Supreme Court determined the charges in the recall petition was legally insufficient, because acquisition of real property is a fundamental government purpose and discretionary act that was not manifestly unreasonable under the circumstances of this case. Accordingly, the Supreme Court affirmed the superior court. View "In re Recall of Burnham" on Justia Law

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In this case involving two resolutions that would enable Ivory Development, LLC to develop land on which the old Cottonwood Mall once stood the Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the district court that Resolution 2018-16 was referable and Resolution 2018-17 was not referable, holding that the district court did not err in finding that the City of Holladay was exercising its legislative powers when it approved Resolution 2018-16 and was exercising its administrative powers when it approved Resolution 2018-17.In May 2018, the City approved the two resolutions at issue. Thereafter, a group of citizens from Holladay petitioned to subject the Resolutions to a public vote by referendum. The district court ordered that the City place only the referendum petition on Resolution 2018-16 on the ballot. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Resolution 2018-16 is legislative in nature and therefore referable; and (2) Resolution 2018-17 is administrative in nature and therefore not referable. View "Baker v. Carlson" on Justia Law

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Parcel 27 (22 acres) was proposed for development with 44 single-family homes, 7.9 acres of public parkland, a bike path, and dog park. The planning commission recommended and the city council adopted an amendment to Parcel 27's general plan designation from Administrative Professional Office (APO) to Low-Density Single Family Residential, R-20. After the amendment could no longer be challenged, the council changed Parcel 27's zoning designation from APO to R-20. Opponents filed a referendum challenging the rezoning. The city clerk notified them that the referendum met the requirements of the Elections Code. The city attorney prepared a staff report, indicating that once a referendum petition is certified, the ordinance is suspended and the city council must reconsider the ordinance, but advised that “a referendum seeking to repeal a zoning amendment which would result in a zoning ordinance that is inconsistent with a general plan is a legally invalid referendum.” The council voted to refuse to repeal the ordinance or to place the issue on the ballot because repeal would result in reversion to APO zoning and create an inconsistency between the zoning and the general plan. The court of appeal held that the referendum was not invalid and the issue must be placed on the ballot. View "Save Lafayette v. City of Lafayette" on Justia Law

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Parcel 27 (22 acres) was proposed for development with 44 single-family homes, 7.9 acres of public parkland, a bike path, and dog park. The planning commission recommended and the city council adopted an amendment to Parcel 27's general plan designation from Administrative Professional Office (APO) to Low-Density Single Family Residential, R-20. After the amendment could no longer be challenged, the council changed Parcel 27's zoning designation from APO to R-20. Opponents filed a referendum challenging the rezoning. The city clerk notified them that the referendum met the requirements of the Elections Code. The city attorney prepared a staff report, indicating that once a referendum petition is certified, the ordinance is suspended and the city council must reconsider the ordinance, but advised that “a referendum seeking to repeal a zoning amendment which would result in a zoning ordinance that is inconsistent with a general plan is a legally invalid referendum.” The council voted to refuse to repeal the ordinance or to place the issue on the ballot because repeal would result in reversion to APO zoning and create an inconsistency between the zoning and the general plan. The court of appeal held that the referendum was not invalid and the issue must be placed on the ballot. View "Save Lafayette v. City of Lafayette" on Justia Law

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In November 2009, County of Alameda voters approved Measures I and J levying special parcel taxes by the Albany Unified School District. Plaintiff-appellant Golden Gate Hill Development Company, Inc. was the owner of a parcel of real property in the City of Albany subject to the tax. In February 2014, appellant filed suit against the County and District seeking a refund of taxes paid under the Measures. Golden Gage Hill alleged the tax rates in the Measures were improper because different rates are imposed on residential and nonresidential properties, as well as nonresidential properties of different sizes. The complaint referenced a recent decision in this district, “Borikas v. Alameda Unified School Dist.” (214 Cal.App.4th 135 (2013)), which declared invalid a different parcel tax with similar rate classifications. Respondents moved to dismiss, contending the complaint failed to state a claim because, under Code of Civil Procedure section 860, et seq. (“the validation statutes”), appellant was required to present its claims in a “reverse validation action” within 60 days of passage of the Measures. The trial court sustained the demurrer without leave to amend. Because appellant has not shown there was a basis for its refund claim independent of the alleged invalidity of the Measures, the Court of Appeal affirmed. View "Golden Gate Hill Development Co. v. County of Alameda" on Justia Law

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Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. sought to expand its store in the City of Sonora. The City Council postponed its vote on the project while a voter-sponsored initiative was circulated, which proposed to adopt a plan for the contemplated expansion. The Council subsequently adopted the ordinance. The Tuoloumne Jobs & Small Business Alliance sought a writ of mandate based on four causes of action, the first of which asserted that the Council violated the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) by adopting the ordinance without first conducting a complete environmental review. The Court of Appeals granted the writ as to the first cause of action, concluding that when a land use ordinance is proposed in a voter initiative petition, full CEQA review is required if the city adopts the ordinance rather than submitting it to an election. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that CEQA review is not required before direct adoption of an initiative, just as it is not required before voters adopt an initiative at an election. View "Tuolumne Jobs & Small Bus. Alliance v. Superior Court" on Justia Law

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The City of West Memphis passed an ordinance providing for a special election to vote for the annexation of 5700 acres to West Memphis. Meanwhile, property owners of 2340 acres within the same 5700 acres petitioned the county court for annexation to the City of Marion. The county court granted the petition for annexation to Marion, and Marion accepted the 2340 acres. Marion subsequently sought a writ of mandamus against West Memphis to remove the 2340 acres from the legal description of the special-election ballot. The circuit court denied the writ but issued a declaratory judgment finding that the 2340 acres belonged to Marion. West Marion held its scheduled election, and the 5700-acre legal description, including the 2340 acres that had been annexed to Marion, appeared on the ballot. The West Memphis voters approved the annexation measure. Litigation followed. Ultimately, the circuit court found (1) West Memphis was not required to amend the 5700-acre legal description, and (2) the Marion annexation frustrated only the 2340 acres annexed by Marion, and the remaining 3360 acres became part of West Memphis. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court reached the right result in finding the 3360 acres became a part of West Memphis. View "City of Marion v. City of West Memphis" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Mazdabrook Commons Homeowner's Association, Inc. manages a common-interest community in which individual owners agree to certain common rules and restrictions for the benefit of the entire group. The Rules and Regulations of the community bar signs except as provided in a "Declaration." Defendant Wasim Khan lived in a planned townhouse community managed by Mazdabrook Commons. In 2005, Defendant ran for Parsippany Town Council and posted two signs in support of his candidacy at his private residence: one inside the window of his townhouse and another inside the door. Mazdabrook notified Defendant that the signs violated the association's rules and ordered their removal. Mazdabrook's regulations banned all residential signs except "For Sale" signs. Upon review, the Supreme Court "balance[ed] the minimal interference with Mazdabrook's private property interest against [Defendant's] free speech right to post political signs on his own property" and found that the sign policy in question violated the free speech clause of the State Constitution. View "Mazdabrook Commons Homeowners' Ass'n v. Khan" on Justia Law

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The Liberty Township board of trustees approved a zoning amendment that rezoned three parcels of township land. Subsequently, a group of petitioners filed a referendum petition seeking to submit the board's action approving the rezoning of the property to the electors of the township. Relators, the owner of the property at issue, the developer of the property, and the developer company's president, submitted a protest to the county board of elections against the referendum petition. The board certified the referendum petition and placed the rezoning issue on the general-election ballot and rejected Relators' protest grounds. Relators then filed this action for a writ of prohibition and a writ of mandamus to compel the board to sustain their protest. The Supreme Court granted the writ of prohibition, holding that the board of elections abused its discretion by denying Relators' protest, certifying the referendum petition, and submitting the zoning amendment to the electorate because the petitioners did not timely file their referendum petition pursuant to statute. View "State ex rel. Edwards Land Co., Ltd. v. Delaware County Bd. of Elections" on Justia Law