BD. OF CTY. COM'RS OF LARAMIE v. Cheyenne, No. 03-50 to 03-56.

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
Writing for the CourtVOIGT, Justice.
Citation85 P.3d 999,2004 WY 16
Decision Date03 March 2004
Docket Number No. 03-50 to 03-56.
PartiesThe BOARD OF COUNTY COMMISSIONERS OF the COUNTY OF LARAMIE, Appellant (Intervenor/Plaintiff), v. The CITY OF CHEYENNE, A Wyoming Municipal Corporation; East Whitney Limited Partnership, a Wyoming Limited Partnership; and West Whitney Limited Partnership, a Wyoming Limited Partnership, Appellees (Defendants). Jean Cotton; Kathryne Cotton and Ruth Cotton, individually and as owners of Cotton Holdings, LLC, a Wyoming Limited Liability Company, Appellants (Plaintiffs), v. The City of Cheyenne, A Wyoming Municipal Corporation; East Whitney Limited Partnership, A Wyoming Limited Partnership; and West Whitney Limited Partnership, a Wyoming Limited Partnership, Appellees (Defendants). The City of Cheyenne, A Wyoming Municipal Corporation, Appellant (Defendant), v. The Board of County Commissioners of the County of Laramie, Appellee (Intervenor/Plaintiff). The Board of County Commissioners of the County of Laramie, Appellant (Intervenor/Plaintiff), v. The City of Cheyenne, A Wyoming Municipal Corporation, Appellee (Defendant). The City of Cheyenne, A Wyoming Municipal Corporation, Appellant (Defendant), v. The Board of County Commissioners of the County of Laramie, Appellee (Intervenor/Plaintiff). Jean Cotton; Kathryne Cotton and Ruth Cotton, individually and as owners of Cotton Holdings, LLC, a Wyoming Limited Liability Company, Appellants (Plaintiffs), v. The City of Cheyenne, A Wyoming Municipal Corporation, Appellee (Defendants). The City of Cheyenne, A Wyoming Municipal Corporation, Appellant (Defendant), v. Jean Cotton; Kathryne Cotton and Ruth Cotton, individually and as owners of Cotton Holdings, LLC, a Wyoming Limited Liability Company, Appellees (Plaintiffs).

85 P.3d 999
2004 WY 16

The BOARD OF COUNTY COMMISSIONERS OF the COUNTY OF LARAMIE, Appellant (Intervenor/Plaintiff),
v.
The CITY OF CHEYENNE, A Wyoming Municipal Corporation; East Whitney Limited Partnership, a Wyoming Limited Partnership; and West Whitney Limited Partnership, a Wyoming Limited Partnership, Appellees (Defendants).
Jean Cotton; Kathryne Cotton and Ruth Cotton, individually and as owners of Cotton Holdings, LLC, a Wyoming Limited Liability Company, Appellants (Plaintiffs),
v.
The City of Cheyenne, A Wyoming Municipal Corporation; East Whitney Limited Partnership, A Wyoming Limited Partnership; and West Whitney Limited Partnership, a Wyoming Limited Partnership, Appellees (Defendants).
The City of Cheyenne, A Wyoming Municipal Corporation, Appellant (Defendant),
v.
The Board of County Commissioners of the County of Laramie, Appellee (Intervenor/Plaintiff).
The Board of County Commissioners of the County of Laramie, Appellant (Intervenor/Plaintiff),
v.
The City of Cheyenne, A Wyoming Municipal Corporation, Appellee (Defendant).
The City of Cheyenne, A Wyoming Municipal Corporation, Appellant (Defendant),
v.
The Board of County Commissioners of the County of Laramie, Appellee (Intervenor/Plaintiff).
Jean Cotton; Kathryne Cotton and Ruth Cotton, individually and as owners of Cotton Holdings, LLC, a Wyoming Limited Liability Company, Appellants (Plaintiffs),
v.
The City of Cheyenne, A Wyoming Municipal Corporation, Appellee (Defendants).
The City of Cheyenne, A Wyoming Municipal Corporation, Appellant (Defendant),
v.
Jean Cotton; Kathryne Cotton and Ruth Cotton, individually and as owners of Cotton Holdings, LLC, a Wyoming Limited Liability Company, Appellees (Plaintiffs)

Nos. 03--56.

Supreme Court of Wyoming.

March 3, 2004.


85 P.3d 1001
Representing Board of County Commissioners of the County of Laramie: Peter H. Froelicher, Laramie County Attorney, Cheyenne, Wyoming

Representing City of Cheyenne: W. Perry Dray and Nicholas G.J. Healey of Dray, Thomson & Dyekman, P.C., Cheyenne, Wyoming.

Representing Jean Cotton; Kathryne Cotton, Ruth Cotton and Cotton Holdings, LLC: John M. Walker of Hickey, Mackey, Evans & Walker, Cheyenne, Wyoming.

Representing East Whitney Limited Partnership and West Whitney Limited Partnership: Raymond W. Martin of Sundahl, Powers, Kapp & Martin, Cheyenne, Wyoming.

Before HILL, C.J., and LEHMAN, KITE, and VOIGT, JJ., and JAMES, D.J.

VOIGT, Justice.

[¶ 1] These combined appeals concern an annexation ordinance of the City of Cheyenne. The district court determined that both Laramie County and certain private parties had standing to challenge the ordinance, but found in favor of the City of Cheyenne as to the annexation, itself. We affirm in part, reverse in part, and remand.

NATURE OF THE CASE

[¶ 2] East Whitney Limited Partnership and West Whitney Limited Partnership (the Whitney partnerships) petitioned the City of Cheyenne (the City) to annex property owned by them known as the Saddle Ridge Subdivision (Saddle Ridge). After conducting public hearings, the City passed an annexation ordinance. Prior to third reading of the ordinance, however, Jean Cotton, Kathryne Cotton and Ruth Cotton, individually and as members of Cotton Holdings, LLC (the Cottons), filed a declaratory judgment action in the district court seeking a declaration that the ordinance was void because Saddle Ridge was separated from the City's nearest boundary by approximately one-quarter of a mile and was not, therefore, eligible for annexation.1 By stipulation of the parties, the Board of County Commissioners of Laramie County (the County) was allowed to intervene in the action as a plaintiff.

[¶ 3] After the annexation ordinance was adopted, both the Cottons and the County filed appeals in the district court pursuant to Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 15-1-409 (LexisNexis 2003) in which they contended that the City had abused its discretion, acted arbitrarily and capriciously, and acted not in accordance with law in finding Saddle Ridge eligible for annexation.2 Eventually, all parties sought

85 P.3d 1002
summary judgment in all three cases (the single declaratory judgment action and the two statutory appeals).3

[¶ 4] The district court declined to consolidate the three cases, but did join them for hearing purposes. By a single order entered on February 6, 2003, the district court denied summary judgment to the County and to the Cottons, and granted summary judgment to the City, finding, however, that both the County and the Cottons did have standing to challenge the annexation ordinance in both the declaratory judgment action and in the statutory appeals.

[¶ 5] These three district court cases have resulted in seven docketed appeals in this Court. The County separately appealed in both the declaratory judgment action and the statutory appeal, as did the Cottons. The City cross-appealed the standing issue in all three cases. The two appeals in which the County was appellant were consolidated, as were the two appeals in which the Cottons were appellant. All seven appeals were joined for oral argument and all will be addressed in this opinion.

ISSUES

[¶ 6] We will summarize and restate the various issues presented by the parties as follows:

1. Did the Cottons and the County have standing to challenge the City's annexation of Saddle Ridge?

2. Was Saddle Ridge "contiguous with or adjacent to" the City and, therefore, eligible for annexation pursuant to Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 15-1-402(a)(iv) (LexisNexis 2001)?4

STANDARD OF REVIEW

[¶ 7] Summary judgment motions are governed generally by W.R.C.P. 56, and specifically by the following language found in subsection (c) of the rule:

The judgment sought shall be rendered forthwith if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.

W.R.C.P. 56(a) and (b) provide that summary judgment may be appropriate for either the plaintiff or the defendant in a declaratory judgment action. A summary judgment entered in a declaratory judgment action is subject to our usual standard for review of summary judgments. Wyoming Community College Com'n v. Casper Community College Dist., 2001 WY 86, ¶ 11, 31 P.3d 1242, 1247 (Wyo.2001); Fontaine v. Board of County Com'rs of Park County, 4 P.3d 890, 892 (Wyo.2000).

[¶ 8] "This Court reviews a summary judgment in the same light as the district court, using the same materials and following the same standards." Markstein v. Countryside I, L.L.C., 2003 WY 122, ¶ 11, 77 P.3d 389, 393 (Wyo.2003). Where, as here, there are no contentions that genuine issues of material fact exist, our concern is strictly with application of the law. Wyoming Community College Com'n, 2001 WY 86, ¶ 11, 31 P.3d at 1247. We accord no deference to the district court's conclusions on questions of law. Yeager v. Forbes, 2003 WY 134, ¶ 12, 78 P.3d 241, 246 (Wyo.2003).

"An issue of statutory interpretation presents a question of law. Butts v. Wyoming State Bd. of Architects, 911 P.2d

85 P.3d 1003
1062, 1065 (Wyo.1996); Parker Land & Cattle Co. v. Wyo. Game and Fish Comm'n, 845 P.2d 1040, 1042 (Wyo.1993). In interpreting statutes, we primarily determine the legislature's intent. State ex rel. Motor Vehicle Div. v. Holtz, 674 P.2d 732, 736 (Wyo.1983). If the language is sufficiently clear, we do not resort to rules of construction. Id. We apply our general rule that we look to the ordinary and obvious meaning of a statute when the language is unambiguous. Parker Land, 845 P.2d at 1042."

Fontaine, 4 P.3d at 894 (quoting Kirbens v. Wyoming State Bd. of Medicine, 992 P.2d 1056, 1060 (Wyo.1999)).

"`If the language is sufficiently clear, there is no need to resort to rules of construction. When the language is not clear or is ambiguous, the court must look to the mischief the statute was intended to cure, the historical setting surrounding its enactment, the public policy of the state, the conclusions of law, and other prior and contemporaneous facts and circumstances, making use of the accepted rules of construction to ascertain a legislative intent that is reasonable and consistent.'"

Fontaine, 4 P.3d at 894-95 (quoting State ex rel. Motor Vehicle Div. v. Holtz, 674 P.2d 732, 736 (Wyo.1983) and Peterson v. Wyoming Game and Fish Com'n, 989 P.2d 113, 118 (Wyo.1999)).

DISCUSSION

STANDING

[¶ 9] Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 15-1-409, set out in detail in a footnote earlier herein, allows "any landowner in the territory proposed to be annexed or any owner of real property in the annexing city or town, or utility [who] is aggrieved by the acts of the governing body" to appeal an annexation to the district court. The statute further provides that the court is to void the annexation if it "determines that the action taken was capricious or arbitrary, or if it appears from the evidence that the landowner's right in his property is being unwarrantedly invaded, or that the governing body abused its discretion[.]" Wyo. Stat. Ann § 15-1-409(b). Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 1-37-103 (LexisNexis 2003), also set out in detail in a footnote earlier herein, allows "[a]ny person ... whose rights, status or other legal relations are affected by ... a... municipal ordinance" to file a declaratory judgment action. The statutory purpose for such an action is to "have any question of construction or validity arising under the instrument determined and obtain a declaration of rights, status or other legal relations." Id. The district court found that the Cottons had standing under both statutes to challenge the City's annexation of Saddle Ridge, but it did not enunciate the bases of its findings.

[¶ 10] One must meet two conditions to have standing to appeal an annexation ordinance pursuant to Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 15-1-409. First, one must be a landowner in the territory being annexed, or a real property owner...

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12 practice notes
  • Hede v. Gilstrap, No. 04-22.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • February 28, 2005
    ...of law. Yeager v. Forbes, 2003 WY 134, ¶ 12, 78 P.3d 241, 246 (Wyo.2003). Board of County Com'rs of County of Laramie v. City of Cheyenne, 2004 WY 16, ¶¶ 7-8, 85 P.3d 999, 1002 [¶ 6] Because both adoption and grandparent visitation are purely statutory, our task will be one of statutory con......
  • In re Atws, S-20-0184
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • May 5, 2021
    ...refer either to qualitative importance or to quantitatively large size"); Bd. of Cty. Comm'rs of the Cty. of Laramie v. City of Cheyenne , 2004 WY 16, ¶¶ 20–21, 85 P.3d 999, 1005–06 (Wyo. 2004) (determining that use of words without defining them rendered a statute ambiguous when dictionary......
  • Chevron U.S.A. v. Department of Revenue, No. 06-50.
    • United States
    • Wyoming Supreme Court
    • March 14, 2007
    ...stamps to have the same effect as post office cancellation marks. See, Bd. of County Comm'rs of the County of Laramie v. City of Cheyenne, 2004 WY 16, ¶ 20, 85 P.3d 999, 1005-06 (Wyo.2004) (holding that use of words without defining them rendered statute ambiguous when dictionary definition......
  • Gumpel v. Copperleaf Homeowners Ass'n, Inc., S-16-0167
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • May 2, 2017
    ...Webster's Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary 56 (1991). See also Board of County Commissioners of the County of Laramie v. City of Cheyenne , 2004 WY 16, ¶¶ 20–31, 85 P.3d 999, 1005–09 (Wyo.2004) (interpreting the terms "adjacent" and "contiguous" in annexation statutes). We conclude that the ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
12 cases
  • Hede v. Gilstrap, No. 04-22.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • February 28, 2005
    ...of law. Yeager v. Forbes, 2003 WY 134, ¶ 12, 78 P.3d 241, 246 (Wyo.2003). Board of County Com'rs of County of Laramie v. City of Cheyenne, 2004 WY 16, ¶¶ 7-8, 85 P.3d 999, 1002 [¶ 6] Because both adoption and grandparent visitation are purely statutory, our task will be one of statutory con......
  • In re Atws, S-20-0184
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • May 5, 2021
    ...refer either to qualitative importance or to quantitatively large size"); Bd. of Cty. Comm'rs of the Cty. of Laramie v. City of Cheyenne , 2004 WY 16, ¶¶ 20–21, 85 P.3d 999, 1005–06 (Wyo. 2004) (determining that use of words without defining them rendered a statute ambiguous when dictionary......
  • Chevron U.S.A. v. Department of Revenue, No. 06-50.
    • United States
    • Wyoming Supreme Court
    • March 14, 2007
    ...stamps to have the same effect as post office cancellation marks. See, Bd. of County Comm'rs of the County of Laramie v. City of Cheyenne, 2004 WY 16, ¶ 20, 85 P.3d 999, 1005-06 (Wyo.2004) (holding that use of words without defining them rendered statute ambiguous when dictionary definition......
  • Gumpel v. Copperleaf Homeowners Ass'n, Inc., S-16-0167
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wyoming
    • May 2, 2017
    ...Webster's Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary 56 (1991). See also Board of County Commissioners of the County of Laramie v. City of Cheyenne , 2004 WY 16, ¶¶ 20–31, 85 P.3d 999, 1005–09 (Wyo.2004) (interpreting the terms "adjacent" and "contiguous" in annexation statutes). We conclude that the ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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