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Rowley v. Ada County Highway Dist.

Supreme Court of Idaho

April 8, 2014

TERRIE H. ROWLEY, Plaintiff-Respondent,
v.
ADA COUNTY HIGHWAY DISTRICT, Defendant-Appellant, and CANUTA D. BOEREM, an unmarried individual; and CITY OF BOISE, Defendants

2014 Opinion No. 44

Appeal from the District Court of the Fourth Judicial District, State of Idaho, Ada County. Hon. Michael E. Wetherell, District Judge.

Holland & Hart, LLP, Boise, for appellant. A. Dean Bennett argued.

Givens Pursley LLP, Boise, for respondent. Thomas E. Dvorak argued.

BURDICK, Chief Justice. Justices EISMANN, J. JONES, HORTON and Justice Pro Tem KIDWELL CONCUR.

OPINION

Page 1009

[156 Idaho 276] BURDICK, Chief Justice

Ada County Highway District (" ACHD" ) appeals the district court's grant of summary judgment to Terrie Rowley. This case concerns the ownership of a ten-foot-wide walkway in a Boise subdivision and arose after Rowley sought an injunction to remove a shed her neighbor placed on that walkway. The district court held that (1) the subdivision plats showed the original developers clearly and unequivocally dedicated the walkway to the public and (2) ACHD owns the walkway. ACHD appeals, arguing no evidence in the record shows the original developers clearly and unequivocally intended a public dedication and no statutory provision authorizes ACHD to own the walkway. Rowley contends that the original developers clearly intended a public dedication as the walkway was a public street's corridor extension. We vacate and remand with directions to the district court to enter summary judgment in favor of ACHD.

Page 1010

[156 Idaho 277] I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

This dispute concerns the ownership of a ten-foot-wide walkway in the Cherry Lane Subdivision in Boise. Rowley purchased a lot adjacent to the walkway in 1992. In 2012, Rowley filed a complaint against Canuta Boerem, her neighbor to the west, seeking an injunction to remove a shed Boerem placed on that walkway. Darold and Minerva Smith were the original owners and developers of the subdivision, which they platted in two steps: the first in 1950 (" 1950 Plat" ) and the second in 1954 (" 1954 Plat" ).

The Smiths filed the 1950 Plat on July 14, 1950. That plat identified lots, streets, and utility easements on the subdivision's north half, which included Blocks 1, 2, and the northern half of Block 3. The plat shows an unlabeled strip of property running north-south through Block 3. This strip is the ten-foot-wide walkway in dispute. Taggert Street runs north from the walkway's north terminus. The 1950 Plat stated that " [t]he owners do hereby dedicate to the use of the public forever all streets, not heretofore dedicated, as shown on this plat." This dedication language does not mention easements or rights-of-way. The 1950 Plat has a dashed line running along the back of each lot labeled " easement for public utilities." The Smiths also recorded Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions (" CC& Rs" ).

The Smiths filed the 1954 Plat on March 22, 1954. The 1954 Plat identifies lots, streets, and utility easements on the subdivision's southern half, which included Blocks 4 and 5 and the southern half of Block 3. This plat also showed a strip of property that ran north-south through Block 3. However, in this plat the Smiths labeled the strip of land " Walk Way." The walkway ran perpendicular to and intersected the east-west streets of Dill Drive to the north and Kathryn Street to the south. Taggert Street runs north to the southern point of the walkway, stops at the walkway, and then continues north from the north end of the walkway. The 1954 Plat stated that " [t]he owners do hereby dedicate to the use of the public, forever, all streets and rights of way easements not heretofore dedicated as shown on this plat." The street and borders are marked with a solid line. The streets also have a center line that the walkway does not. The 1954 Plat's legend shows a dashed line symbol for public utility easements. Matching dashed lines appear on the plat and run along the back of each lot. The same day the Smiths recorded the 1954 Plat, they also recorded CC& Rs. These CC& Rs reserved easements for installing and maintaining utilities, irrigation, and drainage facilities. The CC& Rs do not reference the walkway.

Rowley's complaint sought (1) a declaration that the walkway was a public right-of-way; (2) a decree that ACHD holds title to the walkway; (3) alternatively, a decree that the City of Boise owns the walkway; (4) a declaration that Rowley is entitled to own the walkway if either entity abandons it; and (5) an injunction that orders Boerem to remove the shed from the walkway. In response, ACHD filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that the Smiths did not clearly and unequivocally dedicate the walkway to the public. The district court denied ACHD's motion and granted Rowley summary judgment on that issue. The district court also granted Rowley summary judgment on the issue of whether ACHD owned the walkway. ACHD then filed a motion to dismiss, or in the alternative a motion for rule 54(b) certification. After briefing, the district court certified its decision as final pursuant to I.R.C.P. 54(b). ACHD timely filed its notice of appeal.

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

We review a district court's conclusions of law de novo. Ponderosa Home Site Lot Owners v. Garfield Bay Resort, Inc. (Ponderosa I), 139 Idaho 699, 700, 85 P.3d 675, 676 (2004). Therefore, on summary judgment this Court affirms 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 a judgment as a matter of law." I.R.C.P. 56(c). District courts may grant summary judgment to a non-moving party because a " motion for summary judgment allows the court to rule on the issues placed before it as a matter of law; the moving party runs the risk that the court will find against it . . . ."

Page 1011

[156 Idaho 278] Harwood v. Talbert, 136 Idaho 672, 677, 39 P.3d 612, 617 (2001). When a court grants summary judgment to the non-moving party, this Court liberally construes the record in favor of the party who the trial court entered ...


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