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Sandpoint v. Bonner County

United States District Court, D. Idaho

November 21, 2014

SILVERWING AT SANDPOINT, LLC., an Idaho limited liability company, Plaintiff,
v.
BONNER COUNTY, an Idaho municipal corporation, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER

EDWARD J. LODGE, District Judge.

INTRODUCTION

Pending before the Court in the above-entitled matter is Defendant Bonner County's Motion for Summary Judgment or Partial Summary Judgment and Motion to Bifurcate. The parties have filed their responsive briefing and the matters are ripe for the Court's consideration. Having fully reviewed the record, the Court finds that the facts and legal arguments are adequately presented in the briefs and record. Accordingly, in the interest of avoiding further delay, and because the Court conclusively finds that the decisional process would not be significantly aided by oral argument, this matter shall be decided on the record before this Court without oral argument.

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

The subject matter of the dispute in this case concerns certain real property abutting the Sandpoint Airport (the "Airport") in Sandpoint, Idaho. (Dkt. 77.)[1] In April of 2006, Plaintiff SilverWing at Sandpoint, LLC ("SilverWing") purchased 18.1 acres of land on the west side of the Airport upon which it intended to design and construct a 45-unit Planned Unit Development ("PUD") of hangars for airplanes with optional second-floor residences. SilverWing claims that included with the purchase of land was a perpetual Taxi Way Easement allowing it, and the residents of the proposed development, to access the Airport's runway from its property. (Dkt. 77 at ¶ 6.)

In 2007, SilverWing requested the current Airport Layout Plan ("ALP") on file with the Federal Aviation Administration ("FAA"). Copies of an ALP were provided to SilverWing by the Airport Manager, Jorge O'Leary, as well as Mark Napier.[2] SilverWing relied upon that APL in making the plans it submitted for the proposed PUD to the Defendant Bonner County (the "County").[2] Those plans called for construction of a 1, 098 foot taxiway that paralleled the Airport to the west (the "West Taxiway"). This West Taxiway was plotted to be located so as to ensure there would be the FAA required 240 feet between the centerlines for the taxiway and the existing Airport runway based upon the ALP provided to SilverWing. The County forwarded SilverWing's proposal on to the FAA. On February 20, 2007, the Sandpoint Planning Commission approved SilverWing's PUD. The following month the City of Sandpoint also approved the PUD. In April of 2007, the FAA stated it had "no objection" to the construction of the proposed West Taxiway provided that the taxiway design standards meet FAA design requirements. (Dkt. 85-7 at 53.)

On April 1, 2007, SilverWing and the County entered into a through-the-fence agreement ("TTF") granting SilverWing a perpetual right of access to the Airport in private aircraft from the PUD property for a yearly access fee. (Dkt. 80-4, Ex. B at 7.)[3] The TTF was recommended to the County by a majority vote of the Sandpoint Airport Advisory Board. (Dkt. 77 at ¶ 23.) On May 3, 2007, the FAA indicated to the County that it had no objection to SilverWing's proposed development so long as the TTF was approved by the FAA. (Dkt. 85-7 at 54.)

SilverWing alleges that the County was aware that it had to receive FAA approval of the TTF but failed to do so and further failed to inform SilverWing that it had not obtained the FAA approval. (Dkt. 77 at ¶¶ 13, 14.) Furthermore, SilverWing claims it did not know the approval had not been received from the FAA and by September of 2007 it had conducted significant work on the PUD development spending over $6, 100, 000. (Dkt. 77 at 15.) SilverWing also claims it constructed the West Taxiway at a cost of more than $500, 000. (Dkt. 77 at ¶ 19.) In late 2008, SilverWing states that it began investing significant money into marketing the PUD development worldwide through print ads, on-line media, and trade shows. (Dkt. 77 at ¶ 25.)

In December of 2008, the FAA placed the Airport in "non-compliance" status for three years or until the Airport achieved compliance with respect to: 1) the County entering into the TTF with SilverWing without FAA approval and 2) the existence of mid-field runway access points throughout the Airport. (Dkt. 77 at 7) (Dkt. 80-2 at ¶ 19.) To bring the Airport back into compliance, in January of 2009, the County implemented a Corrective Action Plan ("CAP").

On March 25, 2009, the FAA expressed concerns regarding the proposed changes intended to bring the Airport up to B-II design. (Dkt. 85-8 at 27.) In particular as to the proposal to move the Airport runway 60 feet to the west, towards the newly constructed West Taxiway, which would result in there no longer being the required 240 foot runway-taxiway separation between the runway and West Taxiway. SilverWing alleges it became aware of the FAA's concerns but that it justifiably relied upon the County's representations that it would not have to relocate the West taxiway. (Dkt. 77 at ¶¶ 33-34.) From March to December of 2009, SilverWing began construction on the PUD and was giving tours of model duplex and spec units. During this same time, representatives from SilverWing and the County met with the FAA to try to resolve the Airport's compliance issues.

In 2011, SilverWing alleges the County, contrary to its prior representations, notified SilverWing that it would be required to remove the West taxiway and relocate it 60 feet to the west in order for the County to upgrade the Airport to a B-II design. SilverWing objected arguing it placed the West Taxiway in compliance with the ALP.

In December 2011, the County submitted an Amended Corrective Action Plan ("Amended CAP") to the FAA depicting the relocation of the Airport's runway and SilverWing's taxiway to the west. (Dkt. 85-8 at 32.) The Amended CAP further states that the County will "acquire" SilverWing's real property. The FAA and the County approved the Amended CAP in October of 2011. In February 2012, the FAA tentatively placed the Airport back into compliance based on the Amended CAP which included extinguishing SilverWing's perpetual easement rights and modifying its TTF.

As a result, SilverWing filed this action against the County alleging claims for:

Count 1: Breach of the Covenant of Good Faith and Fair Dealing
Count 2: Taking Without Compensation - Inverse Condemnation (42 U.S.C. § 1983)
Count 3: Violation of Equal Protection (42 U.S.C. § 1983)
Count 4: Promissory Estoppel

(Dkt. 77.) The County has filed this Motion for Summary Judgment arguing SilverWing's claims should be dismissed as a matter of law and a Motion to Bifurcate. (Dkt. 80, 81.) The Court finds as follows.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

Motions for summary judgment are governed by Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Rule 56 provides, in pertinent part, that judgment "shall be rendered forthwith if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, 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." Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c).

The Supreme Court has made it clear that under Rule 56 summary judgment is mandated if the non-moving party fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element which is essential to the non-moving party's case and upon which the non-moving party will bear the burden of proof at trial. See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986). If the non-moving party fails to make such a showing on any essential element, "there can be no genuine issue of material fact, ' since a completely failure of proof concerning an essential element of the nonmoving party's case necessarily renders all other facts immaterial." Id. at 323.[4]

Moreover, under Rule 56, it is clear that an issue, in order to preclude entry of summary judgment, must be both "material" and "genuine." An issue is "material" if it affects the outcome of the litigation. An issue, before it may be considered "genuine, " must be established by "sufficient evidence supporting the claimed factual dispute... to require a jury or judge to resolve the parties' differing versions of the truth at trial." Hahn v. Sargent, 523 F.3d 461, 464 (1st Cir. 1975) (quoting First Nat'l Bank v. Cities Serv. Co. Inc., 391 U.S. 253, 289 (1968)). The ...


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