Penobscot Area Housing Development Corp. v. City of Brewer, 434 A.2d 14 (1981)

Facts: The Penobscot Area Housing Development Corp. is a nonprofit organization that provides housing for retarded citizens. The Penobscot Housing Corp. was denied an occupancy certificate for a house it purchased because the home was to be used as a “group home for six adults or older minors” which did “not meet the terms of the City of Brewer’s zoning ordinance as a single family.” Procedural History: The Superior Court affirmed the Board’s affirmation of the Brewer City enforcement officer. Issue: Whether the requirement of a domestic bond would have been met by the relationship forged among the residents themselves as they lived and worked together. Holding: Rejected the Penobscot Area Housing Corp’s position because the concept of “domestic bond” within the context of the ordinance implies the existence of a traditional family-like structure of household authority. Reasoning: The reviewing court’s function is only to determine whether the decision of the Board of Appeals was unlawful, arbitrary, capricious, or unreasonable. Relationships other than those based on blood or law satisfy the ordinance. The domestic bond requirement is not met because most residents would only reside in the home for one to one and a half...

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Village of Belle Terre v. Boraas, 416 US 1 (1974)

Facts: The Village of Belle Terre is located on Long Island’s north shore and is inhabited by 700 people. Belle Terre restricts land use to one-family dwellings and Boraas became a colessee with five other college students. The Village of Belle Terre  defines “family” as “One or more persons related by blood, adoption, or marriage, living and cooking together as a single housekeeping unit, exclusive of household servants. A number of persons but not exceeding two (2) living and cooking together as a single housekeeping unit though not related by blood, adoption, or marriage shall be deemed to constitute a family.” Issue: Whether the zoning ordinance interferes with certain fundamental rights such as the right to travel, immigrate to and settle within a State, barring people who are uncongenial to the present residents…and that the ordinance is antithetical to the Nation’s experience, ideology and self-perception as an open, egalitarian, and integrated society. Holding: The zoning ordinance is upheld. Reasoning: Zoning ordinances are legitimate police powers of the state, there is no fundamental right involved, and therefore, the zoning ordinance only needs to be “reasonable, not arbitrary” and bear a “rational relationship to a permissible state objective.” Dissent (Justice Marshall): The classification burdens the students’ fundamental rights of association and privacy guaranteed by the First and Fourteenth Amendments. Therefore, the ordinance should not just be subjected to a rational basis review. Also, the Village of Belle Terre is free to limit the density of occupancy but cannot limit the density only in homes occupied by unrelated persons – the Village is then regulating the way people choose to associate with each other within the privacy of their own...

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Somerville v. Jacobs – 170 S.E.2d 806 (W. Va. 1969)

Case Name: Somerville v. Jacobs Plaintiffs: W.J. Somerville and Hazel M. Somerville Defendants: William L. Jacobs and Marjorie S. Jacobs Citation: 170 S.E.2d 806 (W. Va. 1969)   Issue: Whether the plaintiff, Somerville, can be awarded just compensation for improvements which he made on land which he did not own, but had reason to believe he owned and made a reasonable mistake of fact in good faith. Key Facts: The  Somervilles owned three lots and wished to erect a warehouse building on one of their lots. They got a surveyor’s report and then mistakenly constructed the warehouse on a lot that was owned by the Jacobs, the defendants. The Jacobs learned that the building was on their property and claimed ownership on the theory of annexation – the improvements passed to them as part of their land. The Somervilles concede this but assert that the Jacbos cannot keep and retain the building without compensating them for the value of the improvements. Rule: An individual who improves land of another through a reasonable mistake of fact and in good faith is entitled to recover the value of the improvements from the landowner or to purchase the land which was improved for the value of the land less the improvements. Dissent: The majority’s opinion has giving the errant party equitable treatment while not providing equitable treatment for the party which was not at fault and did not make a...

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Romero v. Garcia – 546 P.2d 66 (N.M. 1976)

Case Name: Romero v. Garcia Plaintiff/Appellee: Ida Romero Defendant/Appellant: Mr. and Mrs. Antonio Garcia (former father/mother-in-law of Romero) Citation: 546 P.2d 66 (N.M. 1976) Issue: Whether the plaintiff could claim the land under adverse possession when the deed failed to describe a specific piece of property. Key Facts: 1947 – Plaintiff purchased the 13 acres in dispute from defendant father but defendant mother failed to join in the conveyance. (The 13 acres were part of the 165 acres that defendant father had purchased in 1923). A home was built on the land and the deed was recorded in 1950. The plaintiff and deceased husband lived in the home until 1962, when he died, and the plaintiff moved out to Colorado and remarried. The defendants argued that: The void deed was inadequate for color of title. This is erroneous because a deed is sufficient for color of even though it is void because it lacks the signature of a community member. The deed’s description was inadequate for adverse possession because it failed to describe a specific piece of property. A deed is not void for want of proper description if, with the deed and with extrinsic evidence on the ground, a surveyor can ascertain the boundaries. An indefinite and uncertain description may be clarified by subsequent acts of the parties Procedural History: The court found for the plaintiff. Holding: The subsequent acts of the parties in erecting a house and pointing to the land were sufficient to ascertain the boundaries. Judgment:...

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Nome 2000 v. Fagerstrom – 799 P.2d 304 (Alaska 1990)

Case Name: Nome 2000 v. Fagerstrom Plaintiff: Nome 2000 Defendant: Charles and Peggy Fagerstrom Citation: 799 P.2d 304 (Alaska 1990) Issue: Whether the defendants acquired the southern portion of the land in dispute when their only activities included the use of the pre-existing trails and picking up litter. Key Facts: 7 ½ acres in dispute. Record title which includes the disputed parcel is held by Nome 2000. In 1978 the defendants built a cabin on the north end of the disputed parcel. The plaintiff admits that from the time the cabin was place until it filed this suit (1987), the defendants adversely possessed the north end of the disputed parcel. Procedural History: Nome 2000 filed suit to eject defendants. The defendant’s counterclaimed that through their use of the parcel they had acquired title by adverse possession. Holding: The defendant did not acquire the property through adverse possession on the southern portion of the land because absent color of title, only property actually possessed may be acquired by adverse possession. Judgment: The plaintiffs did not adversely possess the southern portion of the land in dispute. The case was remanded to the trial court in order to determine the extent of the defendant’s acquisition (northern portion). Alaska adverse possession: 1. Ten year period 2.  Continuous 3. Open and notorious 4. Exclusive and hostile to the true...

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Community Feed Store v. Northeastern Culvert Corp.

Case Name: Community Feed Store, Inc. v. Northeastern Culvert Corp. Key Facts: Community Feed Store operates a small wholesale and retail animal feed business. Defendant, Northeastern Culvert Corp. is a neighboring business. At issue is a parcel of land to the north of the plaintiff’s principal building (approximately 60 x 90 feet), covered with gravel. 28 feet of this is owned by the plaintiff, the rest is owned by the defendant. The plaintiff’s suppliers and customers used this area for loading and unloading. Defendant purchased its land in 1956 but was not until 1984, after a new survey, that it was established that the bulk of the gravel area actually belonged to the defendant. The defendant then erected a barrier to prevent cars and trucks to use this area for loading and unloading. Plaintiff filed for declaration of a prescriptive easement. The trial court concluded that the plaintiff’s claim of a prescriptive easement failed for two reasons: 1. Plaintiff failed to prove with sufficient particularity the width and length of the easement 2. Any use of the area in question by the plaintiff or its customers was made with the permission of the fee owner. (through public use) Procedural History: The trial court rejected the claim and entered judgment for the defendant on its counterclaim for ejectment. Plaintiff appealed. Appellate Court found that the trial court erred in making two findings of fact. Plaintiff met its burden by establishing the general outlines of the easement with reasonable certainty. The plaintiff did not need to establish the minute details of the interest. The plaintiff established that adverse use began no later than 1929 and lasted until at least 1956. There was no showing that the defendant had opened his land to public...

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