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In 1994, Victoria Zalewski purchased a 60 foot by 90 foot rectangle of land, Lot 8A. Just south of Lot 8A was a parking lot. Although the parking lot was recorded as being part of a larger adjacent lot known as Lot 9A, no boundary line was apparent between Lot 8A and the parking lot. Zalewski never had her lot surveyed and mistakenly assumed when she purchased Lot 8A that it included the parking lot. Prospector Outfitters obtained Lot 9A (including the parking lot) in 1994, and in 2007 conveyed the lot to Glenn Prax, Phillip Prax, and Marianne Kittridge (the Praxes). Various members of the Prax family shared in the ownership and management of Prospector Outfitters and its properties before and after the 2007 transfer of Lot 9A. Zalewski had a duplex on her property. She and tenants consistently used the parking lot for parking, entry, and exit. Zalewski and her husband maintained the parking lot, keeping it graveled and clear of snow and plants. They installed electrical outlets on the lot for headbolt heaters and paid for the electricity. Zalewski built a shed on the lot in 2008; she used the shed and other parts of the lot for storage. The duplex occupants received mail at a mailbox placed within the parking lot. Zalewski consistently used the parking lot on Lot 9A, but her exclusive use ended during the summer of 2002, when the owners of neighboring Lots 10B and 11B excavated their property to prepare it for construction, and they stored their equipment and materials on the parking lot. This use of the property ended in autumn of 2002. Glenn Prax knew that Zalewski was using the parking lot and repeatedly attempted to talk to her about his family’s ownership of the lot. Between 2001 and 2003 he left two notes at the duplex explaining his family’s claim to the property and suggesting some discussion about the boundary. Around 2005 he spoke to a tenant of the building about the issue, and in 2009 or 2011 he spoke to Zalewski herself about the boundary. In 2012 and 2013 he sent letters to Zalewski outlining the Praxes’ claim to the property, but he received no response. After his last attempt in 2013 he set up sawhorses barring Zalewski from the parking lot. Zalewski removed them and filed suit in July 2013. The trial court ruled that from 2002 to 2012 the neighbor had perfected an adverse possession claim to the lot and held that amendments made to the relevant law in 2003 did not apply to the neighbor’s claim because her period of possession began in 2002. The family appealed, arguing that 2003 statutory changes should have been applied to this case. The Alaska Supreme Court agreed, reversed the trial court, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Prax v. Zalewski" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the district court’s summary judgment orders that determined Mutual of Omaha Bank held a valid and enforceable deed of trust against Robert Watson’s homestead property. The court concluded that the primary deed of trust had first priority as an encumbrance on the property, ordered an execution sale, and foreclosed Watson from asserting any interest in the property. On appeal, Defendant argued that the district court erred in concluding that Watson and his then-spouse intended to encumber their homestead through the primary deed of trust. The Supreme Court held that, although its reasoning differed from the district court, the court did not err in finding that the primary deed of trust was valid and enforceable. View "Mutual of Omaha Bank v. Watson" on Justia Law

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Before appellants purchased Martins Beach, the public was permitted to access the coast by driving down Martins Beach Road and parking along the coast, usually upon payment of a fee. Because it is sheltered by high cliffs, Martins Beach lacks lateral land access. In 2008, appellants purchased Martins Beach and adjacent land including Martins Beach Road. A year or two later, appellants closed the only public access to the coast at that site. Surfrider, a non-profit organization dedicated to the preservation of access for recreation, brought suit. The trial court held the California Coastal Act (Pub. Res. Code, 30000–30900) applied and the appellants were required to apply for a coastal development permit (CDP) before closing public access. The court issued an injunction that requires appellants to allow public coastal access at the same level that existed when appellants bought the Martins Beach property. The court of appeal affirmed. Appellants‘ conduct is “development” requiring a CDP under section 30106 of the Coastal Act. Appellants‘ constitutional challenge to the Coastal Act‘s permitting requirement under the state and federal takings clauses is not ripe, The injunction is not a per se taking. The court affirmed an award of attorney fees to Surfrider. View "Surfrider Foundation v. Martins Beach 1, LLC" on Justia Law

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To obtain an area variance, an applicant must show that strictly applying a zoning ordinance will cause “peculiar and exceptional practical difficulties” that deprive a property of privileges enjoyed by other similarly zoned properties. This dispute arose from the City of Phoenix Board of Adjustment’s grant of a variance on a parcel of land in Phoenix. The superior court upheld the variance, finding that the variance was an area variance and not a use variance, that the Board was authorized to consider area variances, and that sufficient evidence supported the Board’s decision. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that the Board did not act within its authority in granting the variance. The Supreme Court vacated the court of appeals’ opinion and affirmed the judgment of the superior court, holding (1) the Board acted within its discretion in finding that special circumstances applied to the property; (2) the property owner did not create the special circumstances; (3) the variance required was an area variance that was necessary for the preservation and enjoyment of substantial property rights; and (4) the variance would not be materially detrimental to the surrounding area. View "Pawn 1st, LLC v. City of Phoenix" on Justia Law

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Under 42 U.S.C. 1485, the USDA's Rural Housing Service (RHS) makes loans for construction of affordable rental housing. From 1972-1982, each of 10 limited partnerships (with a common general partner, Olsen) entered into a 50-year loan agreement that stated that each borrower could pay off the loan and convert its properties to conventional housing after 15 or 20 years. The 1987 Emergency Low Income Housing Preservation Act, 42 U.S.C. 1472(c)), provided that before accepting prepayment, the USDA must attempt to enter into an agreement with the borrower. In 2002, Olsen was negotiating to sell to a nonprofit organization. He notified the RHS of “intent . . . to convert [some] units into conventional housing” and sought approval to pay off the mortgages. RHS responded with a checklist. Olsen did not proceed; the potential acquirer decided against purchasing the properties. In 2011, Olsen submitted more definite prepayment requests. RHS responded with an incentive offer concerning four properties, which Olsen accepted, remaining in the program. For three other properties, RHS informed Olsen that prepayment was not an option. Olsen purportedly believed that pursuing prepayment on any properties was futile. He did not submit additional applications. In 2013, the partnerships sued, alleging that the government, through the 1987 enactment or the 2011 correspondence, violated their prepayment rights. The Federal Circuit reversed the Claims Court's dismissal. The 2002 correspondence did not trigger the RHS’s duty to accept prepayment; RHS did not take any steps inconsistent with prepayment. The government did not breach its contractual obligation in 2002. Because the alleged breaches occurred no earlier than 2011, the contract claims are not barred by the six-year limitations period. The Claims Court implicitly premised the dismissal of takings claims on the same erroneous rationale. View "Airport Road Associates, Ltd. v. United States" on Justia Law

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This case concerned the Douglas County Planning and Zoning Administrator’s grant of a building permit for a hog confinement unit. Landowners applied for a writ of mandamus compelling the Administrator and the Douglas County Planning and Zoning Commission to comply with the county’s zoning ordinance revoking the permit. After a trial, the circuit court denied Landowners’ request, concluding (1) the hog barn did not fall under any of the permitted uses of land for which a building permit could be granted; but (2) a writ of mandamus could not be used to undo an already completed act, and principles of equity would not entitle Landowners to relief. The Supreme Court ultimately affirmed the circuit court’s decision denying Landowners a writ of mandamus, holding (1) the circuit court erred in determining that the facility was not a permitted use under the ordinances; but (2) because construction of the facility had already been completed at the time of trial, issuing a writ a mandamus to revoke the permit now would be ineffective. View "Hoffman v. Van Wyk" on Justia Law

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The case involved drainage issues between adjoining landowners. Robert and Nancy Rumpza and Zubke Brothers LLC (Brothers) brought this action against David and Marilyn Zubke seeking an injunction and damages. They alleged that the Zubkes changed the natural flow characteristics of water draining from the Zubkes’ property to the Rumpzas’ and Brothers’ properties. The circuit court granted an injunction against the Zubkes and awarded damages to the Rumpzas and Brothers. The Supreme Court affirmed the injunction and Brothers’ damages award but reversed the Rumpzas’ damages award, holding (1) the circuit court did not abuse its discretion in granting the injunction; (2) the circuit court’s factual findings regarding Brothers’ measure of damages were not clearly erroneous; but (3) there was no support in the record for the court’s findings regarding the Rumpzas’ measure of damages. View "Rumpza v. Zubke" on Justia Law

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PGA West Residential Association, Inc. (PGA West) alleged defendant Dempsey Mork tried to fraudulently insulate the equity in his condominium from creditors by naming Hulven International, Inc. (Hulven), a sham corporation entirely owned and controlled by Mork, as the beneficiary of a deed of trust and note, and by later directing Hulven to foreclose on the condominium. Hulven demurred to the complaint, arguing PGA West's lawsuit was barred by a seven-year limitations period for actions under the former Uniform Fraudulent Transfer Act. The superior court overruled the demurrer and, after conducting a bench trial, entered judgment for PGA West. In this appeal, Hulven argued the superior court erred by overruling its demurrer. According to Hulven, the allegedly fraudulent activities by Mork and Hulven were a “transfer” for purposes of the UFTA and, therefore, this lawsuit was governed by that act and its seven-year limitations period. Because PGA West filed its lawsuit more than seven years after the alleged fraudulent transfer, Hulven contends PGA West's claims were completely extinguished. The Court of Appeal agreed with Hulven that Mork's alleged fraudulent attempt to insulate the equity in his condominium from creditors by naming a sham corporation as the beneficiary on the deed of trust constituted a “transfer” for purposes of the UFTA and that the act's limitations period applied here: "the seven-year limitations period for actions under the UFTA is not simply a procedural statute of limitations that bars a remedy and is forfeited if not properly raised by a defendant. Rather, the UFTA's seven-year limitations period is a substantive statute of repose that completely extinguishes a right or obligation and, under the majority view that we adopt, a statute of repose is not subject to forfeiture." Because PGA West filed its lawsuit after the UFTA's statute of repose had run, its rights under the act were completely extinguished. Therefore, the Court concluded the superior court erred as a matter of law by overruling Hulven's demurrer. View "PGA West Residential Assn. v. Hulven International" on Justia Law

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As unclaimed property has become Delaware’s third-largest source of revenue, companies have filed lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of Delaware’s escheat regime. Plains All American Pipeline attacked the constitutionality of several provisions of the Delaware Escheats Law, which provides that a holder of “property presumed abandoned” must file a yearly report with the State Escheator in which it provides information about the property and its possible owner (Del. Code tit. 12, sects. 1142, 1143) and Delaware’s demand that it submit to an abandoned property audit. Because Plains brought suit before Delaware assessed liability based on its audit or sought a subpoena to make its audit-related document requests enforceable, the district court dismissed the suit, finding that the claims were unripe except for an equal protection claim that it dismissed for failure to state a claim. The Third Circuit reversed in part, finding an as-applied, procedural due process claim ripe, but otherwise affirmed. To establish a due process violation, all Plains must show is that it was required to submit a dispute to a self-interested party. No further factual development is needed to address the merits of the claim. View "Plains All American Pipeline LLP v. Cook" on Justia Law

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The First Circuit summarily affirmed the district court’s dismissal of Plaintiffs’ claims that HSBC could not foreclose on their property under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 244, 14 and that the mortgage encumbering their property was obsolete by operation of Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 260, 33. Plaintiffs borrowed money from a lender to purchase property. Plaintiffs executed a promissory note and mortgage identifying Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems, Inc. (MERS) as the mortgagee. MERS later assigned the mortgage to HSBC Bank USA, N.A. After Plaintiffs defaulted on their loan HSBC provided notice of a foreclosure sale. Plaintiffs sued HSBC and Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., the mortgage servicer, to enjoin the sale. The district court denied Plaintiffs’ request for a preliminary injunction and granted Defendants’ motion to dismiss under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). The First Circuit agreed that Plaintiffs failed to state a claim, substantially for the reasons articulated by the district court. View "Hayden v. HSBC Bank USA, N.A." on Justia Law