Sweet Grass Farms, Ltd. v. Board of County Com'rs, No. 99-544.

Docket NºNo. 99-544.
Citation2000 MT 147, 2 P.3d 825, 300 Mont. 66
Case DateJune 01, 2000
CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Montana

2 P.3d 825
2000 MT 147
300 Mont. 66

SWEET GRASS FARMS, LTD., Plaintiff and Appellant, and
Hunter's Hot Springs Canal Co., a Montana corporation, Intervenor Plaintiff and Appellant,
v.
BOARD OF COUNTY COMMISSIONERS OF SWEET GRASS COUNTY, Defendant and Respondent, and
J & W Enterprises, a Partnership, Intervenor Defendant and Respondent

No. 99-544.

Supreme Court of Montana.

Submitted on Briefs December 16, 1999.

Decided June 1, 2000.


2 P.3d 826
James H. Goetz and Brian M. Morris, Goetz, Gallik, Baldwin & Dolan, P.C., Bozeman, (Sweet Grass Farms, LTD.), Joseph T. Swindlehurst, Huppert & Swindlehurst, P.C., Livingston, (Hunter's Hot Springs Canal Co.), For Appellants

Myra L. Shults, Missoula, (Board of County Commissioners of Sweet Grass County), Kenneth D. Peterson, Peterson & Schofield, Billings, (J & W Enterprises), For Respondents.

Michael S. Kakuk, Helena, (Montana Association of Realtors), For Amicus.

Justice JIM REGNIER delivered the opinion of the Court.

¶ 1 Sweet Grass Farms, Ltd., appeals from the Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law and Order Denying Preliminary Injunction entered by the Sixth Judicial District Court, Sweet Grass County. We reverse and remand.

¶ 2 We restate the issues presented on appeal as follows:

¶ 3 1. Whether the District Court abused its discretion in denying Sweet Grass Farms' motion for preliminary injunction?

¶ 4 2. Whether Sweet Grass Farms is likely to prevail on the issues of subdivision review due to the Board's failure to consider several factors required by the Master Plan; the conflicts between the subdivision and the Master Plan; and the Board's failure to require an environmental assessment?

¶ 5 3. Whether the District Court erred by combining the standing requirement for an appeal under § 76-3-625, MCA, with the irreparable injury requirement under the preliminary injunction statute, § 27-19-201, MCA?

BACKGROUND

¶ 6 In January 1995 Norman K. and Ellen Lorraine Starr purchased a large ranch near Big Timber, Montana, which included the area of the subdivision at issue in this case. In August 1996 the Starrs submitted an application for a two-lot subdivision on the eastern portion of the property (referred to as the Trail West Minor Subdivision), which was approved. A Nevada real estate developer, Jerald R. Jackson, subsequently purchased the easternmost lot from the Starrs for his trust.

¶ 7 At about the same time as the subdivision application, Norman K. Starr had the westernmost portion of the property surveyed. In June 1996 the Starrs conveyed the westernmost portion of the property depicted in the certificate of survey (COS 124907) to Raymond C. and Eva J. Suiter. In February 1997 the Suiters quitclaimed the property to Sweet Grass Farms. Raymond C. Suiter is the president of Sweet Grass Farms, which is a family-owned farming operation.

¶ 8 Also in 1997, Jackson submitted a subdivision application for the lot he had purchased from the Starrs' Trail West Minor Subdivision. Jackson proposed subdividing the approximately 33.5-acre parcel into five lots. The Board of County Commissioners of Sweet Grass County (Board) rejected Jackson's subdivision application. As a result, Jackson filed suit in the Sixth Judicial District Court, Sweet Grass County.

¶ 9 Following these transactions, Norman K. Starr had the remainder of the property

2 P.3d 827
the Starrs purchased in January 1995 surveyed. In December 1998 J & W Enterprises (J & W), a California partnership, purchased the remainder of the property depicted in the certificate of survey (COS 125390)

¶ 10 In April 1999 Jerald R. Jackson, as managing general partner of J & W, submitted an application on behalf of J & W to subdivide the property depicted in COS 125390. The proposed subdivision (referred to as the J & W Minor Subdivision) included five, 22- to 30-acre lots along the north bank of the Yellowstone River, leaving a remaining parcel of approximately 163 acres. J & W's proposed subdivision is contiguous to the property owned by Sweet Grass Farms.

¶ 11 Following submission of J & W's subdivision application, the county planning board held several meetings, solicited input from various state and local entities regarding the potential impact of the subdivision, and received written public comment. In addition, as part of the preliminary plat review the planning staff issued a Staff Report on May 4, 1999, and the planning board issued its Recommended Findings of Fact that Weigh Review Criteria on May 5, 1999.

¶ 12 The Staff Report indicated that the subdivision was recommended for approval on the condition that it be brought into conformance with the subdivision regulations and the Sweet Grass County Growth Policy Plan (Master Plan) and that it minimize identified significant adverse impacts. The Staff Report specifically listed the areas where the subdivision, as proposed, did not comply with the Master Plan. In addition, the recommended findings of the planning board indicated the areas where the proposed subdivision did not comply with the subdivision regulations and the Master Plan.

¶ 13 At its June 2, 1999, meeting, the Board conditionally approved the J & W Minor Subdivision. The Board notified J & W of its approval and the corresponding conditions by letter dated June 4, 1999. On June 14, 1999, Sweet Grass Farms brought an action against the Board for declaratory relief and a writ of review seeking to nullify the Board's approval of the J & W Minor Subdivision. In addition, Sweet Grass Farms requested injunctive relief under Title 27, Chapter 19 of the Montana Code Annotated and included a petition of appeal pursuant to § 76-3-625, MCA.

¶ 14 Subsequently, Hunter's Hot Springs Canal Co. (Hunter's Hot Springs) made a motion to intervene in the action as a plaintiff and J & W made a motion to intervene in the action as a defendant. Hunter's Hot Springs is a Montana nonprofit corporation which owns and operates a water use facility in Sweet Grass County, consisting of an irrigation canal.

¶ 15 At the same time, the Board filed a motion to dismiss the writ of review issued by the District Court and Sweet Grass Farms' entire action for failure to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. On August 19, 1999, the District Court issued an order granting the Board's motion to dismiss the writ of review, denying the Board's motion to dismiss the entire action, striking the equitable remedies of declaratory judgment and writ of review from Sweet Grass Farms' prayer for relief, and allowing Hunter's Hot Springs and J & W to intervene as parties.

¶ 16 In late August 1999 Sweet Grass Farms received notice that J & W had submitted its final plat to the Board for approval. Sweet Grass Farms immediately sought and obtained a Temporary Restraining Order, which was issued September 1, 1999, enjoining the Board from taking any steps to issue final approval of the J & W Minor Subdivision pending a ruling on Sweet Grass Farms' motion for preliminary injunction.

¶ 17 On September 7, 1999, Sweet Grass Farms filed a motion for partial summary judgment regarding the Board's alleged failure to consider all the criteria set forth in the Master Plan in evaluating the J & W Minor Subdivision. Both the...

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25 practice notes
  • Driscoll v. Stapleton, DA 20-0295
    • United States
    • Montana United States State Supreme Court of Montana
    • September 29, 2020
    ...or not" great or irreparable injury will result absent enjoinder of the subject act. Sweet Grass Farms, Ltd. v. Board of County Comm'rs , 2000 MT 147, ¶ 28, 300 Mont. 66, 2 P.3d 825 (quoting Porter , 192 Mont. at 181, 627 P.2d at 839 ). Here, once again and as previously analyzed, Plaintiff......
  • Davis v. Westphal, DA 17-0003
    • United States
    • Montana United States State Supreme Court of Montana
    • November 8, 2017
    ...27-19-201, MCA. Sandrock v. DeTienne, 2010 MT 237, ¶ 16, 358 Mont. 175, 243 P.3d 1123 ; Sweet Grass Farms, Ltd. v. Bd. of County Comm'rs, 2000 MT 147, ¶ 27, 300 Mont. 66, 2 P.3d 825. On evidence or competent affidavit9 considered upon hearing, a court may issue a preliminary injunction at a......
  • Mont. Cannabis Indus. Ass'n v. State, DA 11-0460
    • United States
    • Montana United States State Supreme Court of Montana
    • September 11, 2012
    ...meaning that findings that satisfy one subsection are sufficient. Sweet Grass Farms, Ltd. v. Bd. of County Commrs. of Sweet Grass County, 2000 MT 147, ¶ 27, 300 Mont. 66, 2 P.3d 825.¶15 In granting the preliminary injunction in this case, the District Court limited its analysis to the quest......
  • Mont. Cannabis Indus. Ass'n v. State, No. DA 11–0460.
    • United States
    • October 23, 2012
    ...meaning that findings that satisfy one subsection are sufficient. Sweet Grass Farms, Ltd. v. Bd. of County Commrs. of Sweet Grass County, 2000 MT 147, ¶ 27, 300 Mont. 66, 2 P.3d 825. ¶ 15 In granting the preliminary injunction in this case, the District Court limited its analysis to the que......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
26 cases
  • Driscoll v. Stapleton, DA 20-0295
    • United States
    • Montana United States State Supreme Court of Montana
    • September 29, 2020
    ...or not" great or irreparable injury will result absent enjoinder of the subject act. Sweet Grass Farms, Ltd. v. Board of County Comm'rs , 2000 MT 147, ¶ 28, 300 Mont. 66, 2 P.3d 825 (quoting Porter , 192 Mont. at 181, 627 P.2d at 839 ). Here, once again and as previously analyzed, Plaintiff......
  • Davis v. Westphal, DA 17-0003
    • United States
    • Montana United States State Supreme Court of Montana
    • November 8, 2017
    ...27-19-201, MCA. Sandrock v. DeTienne, 2010 MT 237, ¶ 16, 358 Mont. 175, 243 P.3d 1123 ; Sweet Grass Farms, Ltd. v. Bd. of County Comm'rs, 2000 MT 147, ¶ 27, 300 Mont. 66, 2 P.3d 825. On evidence or competent affidavit9 considered upon hearing, a court may issue a preliminary injunction at a......
  • Mont. Cannabis Indus. Ass'n v. State, DA 11-0460
    • United States
    • Montana United States State Supreme Court of Montana
    • September 11, 2012
    ...meaning that findings that satisfy one subsection are sufficient. Sweet Grass Farms, Ltd. v. Bd. of County Commrs. of Sweet Grass County, 2000 MT 147, ¶ 27, 300 Mont. 66, 2 P.3d 825.¶15 In granting the preliminary injunction in this case, the District Court limited its analysis to the quest......
  • Mont. Cannabis Indus. Ass'n v. State, No. DA 11–0460.
    • United States
    • October 23, 2012
    ...meaning that findings that satisfy one subsection are sufficient. Sweet Grass Farms, Ltd. v. Bd. of County Commrs. of Sweet Grass County, 2000 MT 147, ¶ 27, 300 Mont. 66, 2 P.3d 825. ¶ 15 In granting the preliminary injunction in this case, the District Court limited its analysis to the que......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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