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KGF Development, LLC v. City of Ketchum

July 28, 2010


Appeal from the District Court of the Fifth Judicial District of the State of Idaho, Blaine County. Honorable Robert J. Elgee, District Judge.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: J. Jones, Justice.

2010 Opinion No. 92

The judgment of the district court is reversed.

KGF Development, LLC, appeals the district court‟s judgment in favor of the City of Ketchum. We reverse.

I. Factual and Procedural History

KGF owns units C1 through C12, 2, 4, 6, and 7 of the Copper Ridge Condominiums, which are located in the City of Ketchum (the City). Copper Ridge was built and developed with west-facing windows in its penthouse units in order to provide views of Mount Baldy. The maximum height for a building in the area where Copper Ridge was constructed was 40 feet. The penthouse units were expected to sell for around $3 million. KGF alleges that one of the major selling points of the penthouses was the view of Mount Baldy.

On February 18, 2008, the City passed Ordinance No. 1034 (the Ordinance).*fn1 One of the goals of the Ordinance was to preserve various properties in the City based on factors including size, historic character, and neighborhood cohesiveness. The Ordinance allowed for the transfer of development rights*fn2 (TDR) pursuant to Idaho Code section 67-6515A, a provision of the Local Land Use Planning Act (LLUPA).*fn3 This was based on the city attorney‟s opinion that language in section 67-6515A, listing conditions for allowing the transfer of development rights, was not meant to be exhaustive. Under the Ordinance, development rights could be transferred from designated sending sites to the owners of receiving sites willing to purchase those rights in exchange for restrictions on future development of the sending site. I.C. § 67-6515A; Ketchum City Code § 17.64.010.J. The Ordinance designated twenty-two sites that the City deemed eligible sending sites. Ketchum City Code § 17.64.010.J.12. The purchase of development rights by a receiving site allows the construction of a fourth floor on a structure because the purchased rights allow for an increased floor area ratio, meaning that a building on a receiving site can exceed the existing height limitation of 40 feet. Ketchum City Code § 17.64.010.J.7. Under the Ordinance, 260 First obtained approval to construct a four-story building, 50 feet in height, on its property located to the west of Copper Ridge. The proposed building, if constructed, will obstruct the view of Mount Baldy from KGF‟s penthouses, which has allegedly caused it to lose sales and forced it to lower sale prices.

KGF filed suit against the City, seeking a declaratory judgment that the Ordinance was void because it was not properly enacted under either Idaho Code section 67-6515A or the Preservation of Historic Sites Act (Preservation Act) and because it violated the uniformity requirement of Idaho Code section 67-6511. The City filed an answer and the parties subsequently stipulated that 260 First be allowed to intervene. KGF then moved for summary judgment. After extensive briefing and oral argument, the district court denied KGF‟s motion in an oral ruling, finding that the City was authorized to enact the Ordinance under its police power even if it was not explicitly authorized to do so by statute and that it did not violate the uniformity requirement. The district court, unsure of whether it had disposed of all the issues before it, issued a judgment dismissing the declaratory judgment action together with an I.R.C.P. 54(b) certificate.*fn4 KGF then appealed to this Court.

II. Issues Presented on Appeal

The following issues are presented on appeal: (1) whether the Ordinance is valid under Idaho Code section 67-6515A; (2) whether the Ordinance is violative of LLUPA‟s uniformity requirement; and (3) whether either party is entitled to attorney fees on appeal.


A. Standard of Review

When reviewing the grant of a motion for summary judgment,*fn5 we apply the same standard used by the district court in ruling on the motion. Van v. Portneuf Med. Ctr., 147 Idaho 552, 556, 212 P.3d 982, 986 (2009). "Summary judgment is properly granted when "the pleadings, depositions, 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 judgment as a matter of law."‟ Id. (quoting Idaho R. Civ. P. 56(c)). The burden of demonstrating the absence of a genuine issue of material fact is on the moving party. Id.

We exercise free review over matters of statutory interpretation. State v. Doe, 147 Idaho 326, 327, 208 P.3d 730, 731 (2009). The purpose of statutory interpretation is to ascertain and "give effect to legislative intent." Id. at 328, 208 P.3d at 732. Statutory interpretation begins with the literal words of a statute, which are the best guide to determining legislative intent. Id. The words of a statute should be given their plain meaning, unless a contrary legislative purpose is expressed or the plain meaning creates an absurd result. Id. If the words of the statute are subject to more than one meaning, it is ambiguous and we must construe the statute "to mean what the legislature intended it to mean. To determine that intent, we examine not only the literal words of the statute, but also the ...

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