Reardon v. Magic Valley Sand and Gravel, 29120.

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Idaho
Citation90 P.3d 340,140 Idaho 115
Docket NumberNo. 29120.,29120.
PartiesG. David REARDON, a married man, Plaintiff, and MAGIC VALLEY SAND AND GRAVEL, INC., Plaintiff-Appellant, v. City of Burley, a municipal corporation and the County of Cassia, Defendants-Respondents.
Decision Date29 April 2004

Marcus, Merrick, Christian & Hardee, L.L.P., Boise, for appellant. Michael R. Christian argued.

Parsons, Smith & Stone, Burley, for respondent, City of Burley. Randolph C. Stone argued.

Alfred E. Barrus, Cassia County Prosecutor, Burley, for respondent, County of Cassia. Did not participate in the appeal.

SUBSTITUTE OPINION

KIDWELL, Justice.

This is an appeal by Magic Valley Sand and Gravel, Inc. (Magic Valley) from an order of the district court denying a claim for attorney fees pursuant to Idaho Code § 12-117 against the City of Burley (City) and Cassia County (County). Magic Valley argues they are entitled to attorney fees pursuant to Idaho Code § 12-117. Because the County acted without a reasonable basis in fact or law, the Order of the district court is vacated and remanded.

I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

Magic Valley owns three parcels of land (parcels A, B, & C) that are located in Cassia County. Since 1984, Magic Valley has conducted sand and gravel operations on parcel A and B. Other gravel pits have been operating near the vicinity of the Magic Valley properties since the early 1960's.

On November 2, 1998, the City enacted Zoning Ordinance No. 1112. This ordinance extended the City's Area of Impact (i.e., the area the city's ordinances will affect) to include all three Magic Valley parcels. It also applied the City's Zoning Ordinance to the Area of Impact.

On November 16, 1998, the County adopted ordinance No. 98-11-1. Ordinance No. 98-11-1 stated that Ordinance No. 1112 and the City's Zoning Map applied to the City's Area of Impact. These ordinances were adopted pursuant to I.C. § 67-6526. The ordinances did not state which, if any, of the City's zoning classifications applied to the Area of Impact. However, Ordinance Nos. 1112 and 98-11-1 did provide for the City to act on all applications regarding property within the Area of Impact. Both the City and County mutually agreed upon the Area of Impact and upon a Plan and Ordinance to that area.

On March 17, 1999, the City adopted ordinance No. 1123. This ordinance imposed the City's residential R-1 zone on Parcels A, B, and C for 120 days. The zone change was classified as "an emergency zoning based upon a finding of imminent peril to public health and welfare." The City followed up with "findings" and adoption of Ordinance No. 1129 on September 7, 1999. When read together, Ordinance No. 1129 and the "findings" expressed the City's intent to incorporate parcels A, B, and C within the City's R-1 zone until "permanent zoning is enacted or September 1, 2000, whichever comes first." The ordinance selectively imposed the R-1 zone on all three Magic Valley parcels without purporting to affect the use of other adjoining property.

On May 31, 2000, Magic Valley applied for a County Special Use Permit to mine sand and gravel on Parcel C. Parcel C is located in unincorporated Cassia County but within the City's Area of Impact. The County returned the application on August 2, 2000, unprocessed, because Parcel C was located within the City's Impact Zone. The County told Magic Valley it needed to apply through the City for this permit. Magic Valley subsequently submitted an application to the City. The City refused to accept the application because the City had zoned parcel C for residential use.

On February 8, 2001, Magic Valley sued to have City and County Ordinance Nos. 1112, 1123, 1129, 1152, City Resolution No. 3-01, and County Ordinance No. 98-11-1 overturned. Magic Valley argued the ordinances violated Article XII, § 2 of the Idaho Constitution and the Local Land Use Planning Act (LLUPA), I.C. § 67-6526(d) and (e). Magic Valley moved for, and was granted, Summary Judgment.

By Memorandum Opinion dated October 16, 2001, the district court voided City Ordinance Nos. 1112, 1123, 1129, 1152, City Resolution No. 3-01, and County Ordinance No. 98-11-1, and directed the County to process Magic Valley's gravel application for a special use permit pursuant to the County zoning ordinance in effect at the time the application was originally filed in May 2000. Ordinance Nos. 1112, 1123, 1129, 1152, City Resolution No. 3-01, and County Ordinance No. 98-11-1 were voided because they allowed the City to take over the present and future zoning of the Area of Impact without timely, parallel action by the County.

The City moved the district court for reconsideration of its opinion. The City argued the district court failed to address or take into account Cassia County Ordinance No.2001-801. The district court granted the City's motion to reconsider and on December 18, 2001, the district court modified its October 16, 2001, opinion.

The district court concluded County Ordinance No.2001-801 "ratified" the City zoning ordinances when it was passed in August 2001. However, the ratification did not apply to Magic Valley. The district court inferred a timely ratification requirement in Ordinance Nos. 98-11-1 and 1112. The passage of County Ordinance No.2001-801 satisfied this requirement. The district court considered voiding the ordinances as too harsh for the City and County because they would require the City and County to unnecessarily go through the burdensome zoning process a second time.

Ordinance No.2001-801 applied prospectively to the City and County and complied with the applicable statutes and constitutional provisions. The district court, again, directed the County to process Magic Valley's application for a special use permit by applying County zoning ordinances that were in place at the time of the application. Additionally, the district court directed Magic Valley's counsel to prepare a Judgment consistent with the October 16, 2001, ruling as modified by the December 18, 2001, ruling.

Magic Valley's counsel drafted the Judgment and the district court signed it on April 24, 2002. The Judgment stated, inter alia:

As a matter of law, [Ordinance Nos. 1112, 1123, 1129, and 1152, City Resolution No. 3-01, and County Ordinance No. 98-11-1] violated Article XII, § 2 of the Idaho Constitution and the Local Land Use Planning Act, Idaho Code § 67-6526(d) and (e) and lacked any reasonable factual or legal basis at the time they were enacted, because they purported to allow the City to unilaterally impose its power on land outside the City's sovereign limits without timely parallel action by the County, and such Ordinances and Resolution are hereby declared unenforceable as against [Magic Valley's] property.

The Judgment also specified Magic Valley would submit a memorandum of costs pursuant to I.R.C.P. 54. The City appealed the judgment, but later withdrew the appeal. The County did not appeal the Judgment.

After entry of the Judgment, Magic Valley moved for an award of attorney fees pursuant to I.C. § 12-117. Magic Valley argued they were entitled to attorney fees because they met the requirements of I.C. § 12-117; specifically, because the district court ruled in Magic Valley's favor and because the Judgment stated the City and County acted without a reasonable basis in fact or law. The City objected to the language of the Judgment and moved the district court for relief and a disallowance of costs. On July 26, 2002, the district court entered an Opinion granting the City relief from the Judgment. The district court concluded the Judgment, as drafted by Magic Valley, misstated the findings of the district court. To clarify its earlier conclusions the district court stated,

while this [c]ourt believes the actions of the City and County were wrong and against the case and statutory law, this [c]ourt made no express or implied finding that the [City or County] acted without a reasonable basis in fact or law. Nor does this [c]ourt make such a finding now. The Judgment goes beyond any finding made by this [c]ourt and was signed in error.

The district court then denied Magic Valley's request for costs and attorney fees pursuant to I.C. § 12-117.

On August 28, 2002, the district court entered a Supplemental Opinion. The Supplemental Opinion resolved the issue of whether the City and County acted without a reasonable basis in fact or law, and whether Magic Valley was entitled to attorney fees pursuant to I.C. § 12-117. Although the district court ruled in favor of Magic Valley, it did not find the actions of the City and County lacked a reasonable basis in fact or law. The district court found the County's agreement to adopt the City's plan, ordinances, and future amendments for the City's Area of Impact, while reserving for itself the power and the right to renegotiate at any time it disagreed with the City's actions, reasonable. The district court stated, "[t]he law on this point is not clear, and is subject to differing interpretations. No case was found directly on all fours." Based on this reasoning, the district court denied Magic Valley attorney fees pursuant to I.C. § 12-117. Magic Valley appeals to this Court.

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