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In re Certified Question of Law White

Supreme Court of Idaho

March 18, 2014

IN THE MATTER OF THE CERTIFIED QUESTION OF LAW. KAREN WHITE, an individual, and ELKHORN, LLC., a Florida limited liability company, Plaintiffs/Appellants,
VALLEY COUNTY, a political subdivision of the State of Idaho, Defendant/Respondent

2014 Opinion No. 26

On order certifying question to the Idaho Supreme Court from the U.S. District Court for the District of Idaho, Hon. Edward J. Lodge, U.S. District Judge.

In response to the certified question, the Court held that, " The limitations period for statutory remedies made available under Idaho law to obtain a refund of an illegal county tax commences upon payment of the tax."

Borton Lakey Law Offices, Meridian, for appellants. Victor S. Villegas argued.

Givens Pursley LLP, Boise, for respondent. Christopher H. Meyer argued.

J. JONES, Justice. Chief Justice BURDICK, and Justices EISMANN, W. JONES, and HORTON CONCUR.


Page 1237

[156 Idaho 78] J. JONES, Justice.

This case comes to the Court as a certified question from the U.S. District Court for the District of Idaho, the Honorable Edward J. Lodge, U.S. District Judge, presiding. Karen White and her development company, Elkhorn, LLC, seek to recover $166,496 paid to Valley County for " capital investments for roads in the vicinity of [their] White Cloud development." Pursuant to I.A.R. 12.3(c), this Court accepted the certified question and we hereby answer the same.



When considering a certified question of law, this Court will consider " only those facts contained in the [certification] order." Kunz v. Utah Power & Light Co., 117 Idaho 901, 902 n.1, 792 P.2d 926, 927 n.1 (1990). Thus, the following facts are drawn and recited verbatim from the U.S. District Court's certification order (Order).

In 2005, Valley County (the " County" ) initiated a Capital Improvements Program (" CIP" ) in response to an increase in development within the County and in an attempt to mitigate the impacts of the developments on the County's roads and bridges. The CIP is described in the County's Master Transportation Plan as follows:

Capital Improvement Program Process and Purpose
. . .
In 2005, the Valley County Commissioners initiated a Road Development Agreement (RDA) process to require new developments to pay a fee to mitigate the impacts of their developments on the roads and bridges in Valley County. The RDA process replaced the Capital Contribution Agreements that were used by Valley County for larger developments that needed infrastructure improvements. The RDA requires all developers to pay a fee based on the number of trips their developments generate. Developers are, in effect, required to pay for the roadway capacity their developments use. The fee must be paid at time of final plat. Credit is given for [right of way] required from the development and any in-lieu-of contributions, such as construction materials or developer sponsored construction of portions of roads and bridges.

(bolding and underlining provided by Plaintiffs).

During the same year the County initiated the CIP, Karen White (Plaintiff) and her father, E.T. Usher,[1] were in the process of developing a residential subdivision in Valley County known as White Cloud. The subdivision included a preliminary plat for 80 lots on 210 acres and was approved on May 12, 2005. Phase I of the development included 44 lots. All land within Valley County's jurisdiction is zoned multiple use, pursuant to Valley County's Land Use Development Ordinance. Within the district, various uses are listed as " allowed," while others are listed as " conditional" necessitating a conditional use permit (" CUP" ).

The CUP for Phase I of White Cloud was approved by the County on May 24, 2005. The CUP included as a condition that Plaintiff enter into a Development Agreement

Page 1238

[156 Idaho 79] with the Board of County Commissioners. To satisfy this requirement, White entered into a Road Development Agreement (" RDA" ) with the County in June of 2006.

Negotiations on the RDA began sometime in the late spring or summer of 2005 and the County has provided evidence that a draft RDA was sent to the engineering firm working on the White Cloud development in August of 2005. The final RDA was provided to Scott Findlay, project manager for White Cloud, on or about June 24, 2006. The final RDA differed from the draft RDA in that it covered only the 44 lots being developed in Phase I and eliminated an offset for a dedicated roadway right of way. The RDA contained the following provision: " The developer agrees to pay Valley County their proportionate share of roadway costs for a total cash payment of $166,496 due at the time of Final Plat approval." Plaintiff signed the RDA on June 26, 2006, and paid the required fees under the RDA on July 21, 2006. The County executed the RDA on July 24, 2006, and the RDA was recorded on July 26, 2006.

Phase I of White Cloud has been completed and it appears undisputed by the parties that the RDA monies paid for Phase I were used by the County to complete capital investments for roads in the vicinity of the White Cloud development.

The County concedes that it did not adopt an impact fee ordinance or administrative procedures for the impact fee process as required by the Idaho Development Impact Fees Act (" IDIFA" ). Idaho Code § 67-8201 et seq. IDIFA prohibits certain impact fees unless they are imposed pursuant to an ordinance in compliance with the statute. The County concedes it did not enact an IDIFA-compliant ...

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