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Statewide Construction, Inc. v. Pietri

February 7, 2011

STATEWIDE CONSTRUCTION, INC., PLAINTIFFS-RESPONDENTS,
v.
SEQUOIA PIETRI, LUKE CRAWFORD, JIM CRAWFORD AND MAGGIE CRAWFORD, LONNIE R. KING AND CHARLENE KING, HUSBAND AND WIFE, LARRY MONKARSH, DEFENDANTS-APPELLANTS.
AND
M&T MORTGAGE, FIRST HORIZON HOME LOANS, ESTATE OF RAYMOND PIATT, ANTHONY F. FRONTINO, GERRY LEE IKOLA AND ELLEN I. IKOLA, DEFENDANTS.



Appeal from the District Court of the Fourth Judicial District, State of Idaho, Valley County. Hon. Michael R. McLaughlin, District Judge.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Burdick, Justice

2011 Opinion No. 18

District court decision granting summary judgment, affirmed.

This case involves the interpretation and application of I.C. § 55-313 to the relocation of a private roadway/easement used for vehicular travel. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of Statewide Construction, Inc. ("Statewide") in a declaratory judgment proceeding, finding that Statewide, as the owner of the servient estate on which an express easement for vehicular travel was situated, could unilaterally relocate that easement, as that relocation did not injure the dominant estate holders. The dominant estate holders--Sequoia Pietri, Luke Crawford, Jim Crawford, Maggie Crawford, Charlene King and Larry Monkarsh (collectively "Appellants")--appeal, arguing that: (1) Idaho Code § 55-313 does not grant a servient estate holder the right to unilaterally relocate an express easement, and such relocation constitutes a per se injury; (2) the Statement of Legislative Intent for I.C. § 55-313 makes it clear that the legislature meant to exclude access roads that enter onto a public highway from unilateral relocation under I.C. § 55-313; (3) if I.C. § 55-313 does allow unilateral relocation of an express easement it is in violation of the "takings clause" of the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution, and its equivalent under Article I, section 14 of the Idaho Constitution, as it amounts to a taking of Appellants' property right for a private rather than public purpose; (4) even if the relocation were considered a permissible taking under the United States and Idaho Constitutions, I.C. § 55-313 is in violation of due process requirements, as it provides no mechanism for providing Appellants with just compensation for their loss; and (5) even if the foregoing arguments fail, the district court erred in granting summary judgment as there remains a genuine issue of material fact as to whether Appellants were injured by the relocation of their easement. We affirm.

I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

Statewide owns a parcel ("Parcel 1") consisting of approximately 15.18 acres, located in Valley County, Idaho. There are seven parcels of land located adjacent to Parcel 1, which hold express easements by deed over Parcel 1, allowing ingress and egress.

On May 31, 2005, Statewide applied for a Conditional Use Permit to develop a subdivision on Parcel 1, and that permit was subsequently issued. The permit required Statewide to construct a new roadway to provide access to the lots in the proposed subdivision. Statewide dedicated a seventy foot easement ("New Easement") and constructed a road, which is over three hundred feet away from the original easement ("Original Easement") being used by Appellants. Statewide intended for Appellants to use the New Easement, eliminating the Original Easement location, but Appellants did not consent to such relocation.

Statewide filed a declaratory judgment action on October 31, 2008, and a summary judgment motion on April 16, 2009, requesting that the district court declare that Statewide could relocate the easement under I.C. § 55-313 without Appellants' consent. Appellants filed a crossmotion for summary judgment on May 26, 2009.

The district court issued a memorandum decision on July 15, 2009, granting Statewide's motion for summary judgment and denying Appellants' cross-motion. A final judgment was entered on September 2, 2009, and Appellants timely appealed on September 23, 2009.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

As this Court wrote in Mutual of Enumclaw Insurance, Co. v. Pedersen:

On appeal from the grant of a motion for summary judgment from a declaratory judgment proceeding, this Court employs the same standard as used by the district court originally ruling on the motion. On review, summary judgment is proper "if 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 a judgment as a matter of law."

I.R.C.P. 56(c). This Court liberally construes all disputed facts in favor of the non-moving party, and draws all reasonable inferences and conclusions supported by the record in favor of the party opposing the motion. If reasonable people could reach different conclusions or draw conflicting inferences from the evidence, the motion must be denied. However, if the evidence reveals no disputed issues of material fact, the trial court should grant the motion for summary judgment.

133 Idaho 135, 138, 983 P.2d 208, 211 (1999) (internal citations omitted).

III. ANALYSIS

The crux of this action is the interpretation of I.C. ยง 55-313, which is titled "Relocation of ...


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