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Law School Case Brief

Little v. Bd. of Cty. Comm'rs - 193 Mont. 334, 631 P.2d 1282 (1981)

Rule:

Zoning has been held invalid as spot zoning when it is not in accordance with a comprehensive plan.

Facts:

The subject land, Cameron Tract, was on the north end of the City of Kalispell and was surrounded on three sides by the boundaries of the City. The City has never annexed the tract, nor has the land ever been zoned. In 1974, the City of Kalispell adopted a master plan for the area, which recommended that the tract be zoned medium-density residential. In 1978, Flathead County adopted a comprehensive development plan for the entire county, with the county commissioners accommodating the wishes of the developers by rezoning the area for commercial use. The landowners sought injunctive relief from the proposed rezoning, which the trial court granted. According to the trial court, the country commissioners had violated the law in several ways. Thereafter, the commissioners, the city, and the developers appealed.

Issue:

Was the grant of injunctive relief to enjoin the defendants from rezoning the area from residential to commercial proper?

Answer:

Yes.

Conclusion:

The Court affirmed, holding that injunctive relief was proper because the commissioners used illegal zoning procedures. Had they zoned the area as commercial, in addition to statutory violations, the commissioners would have committed a most flagrant act of illegal spot zoning. Moreover, zoning decisions had to be made in substantial compliance with the comprehensive plan (master plan). Furthermore, the landowners had standing to challenge the city's issuance of a building permit to the developers. In any event, the trial court had the right to stop the issuance of the building permit in order to preserve the status quo. Finally, the city had the right to refuse processing of a building permit application because the proposed use was in violation of the use recommended in the master plan.

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