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Hoffman v. The Board of Local Improvement District No. 1101

Supreme Court of Idaho

December 21, 2016

JEANETTE HOFFMAN, DON THOMAS, MARI THOMAS, BRIAN NELSON, LOUISE LUSTER, LYNDA SNODGRASS, LANCE HALE, MONIQUE HALE, ROXANNE METZ, AL THORNTON, TONI THORNTON, BLAIR HAGERMAN, DARRIN HENDRICKS, LESLIE CURFMAN, MIKE ZEHNER, JOSE FRANCA, KAREN CROSBY, CHUCK BOYER, and KIM BLOUGH, individuals, Plaintiffs-Appellants,
v.
THE BOARD OF THE LOCAL IMPROVEMENT DISTRICT NO. 1101, an Idaho Local Improvement District; and BOARD OF ADA COUNTY COMMISSIONERS, Defendants-Respondents.

         2016 Opinion No. 153

         Appeal from the District Court of the Fourth Judicial District of the State of Idaho, Ada County. Hon. Timothy Hansen, District Judge.

         The judgment of the district court is affirmed.

          Runft & Steele Law Offices, PLLC, Boise, for appellants.

          Hawley Troxell Ennis & Hawley LLP, Boise, for respondents.

          ON THE BRIEFS

          HORTON, Justice.

         Jeanette Hoffman, Don Thomas, Mari Thomas, Brian Nelson, Louise Luster, Lynda Snodgrass, Lance Hale, Monique Hale, Roxanne Metz, Al Thornton, Toni Thornton, Blair Hagerman, Darrin Hendricks, Leslie Curfman, Mike Zehner, Jose Franca, Karen Crosby, Chuck Boyer, and Kim Blough (collectively "Appellants") appeal from the district court's denial of their motion for summary judgment and grant of summary judgment in favor of the Board of the Local Improvement District No. 1101 and the Ada County Board of Commissioners (the Boards) in a case regarding assessments levied on properties within the Sage Acres Local Improvement District. Appellants also appeal from the district court's award of attorney fees to the Boards. We affirm.

         I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         Ada County Ordinance No. 780 established the Ada County Local Improvement District No. 1101, commonly known as Sage Acres Local Improvement District (LID). The ordinance was adopted on May 10, 2011. The purpose of the LID was to construct a water delivery system for residential and irrigation use by properties within the Sage Acres Subdivision (Sage Acres), located off of Old Horseshoe Bend Road in Boise, Idaho. The water system was completed in 2014. Appellants challenged the creation of the LID and Ada County Ordinance No. 809, which confirmed the assessments levied on properties affected by the LID.

         On September 18, 2013, Appellants filed a Notice of Appeal from Assessments in Ada County district court. The district court entered its Order Governing Proceedings and Setting Trial. The district court set the matter for trial on March 9, 2014, and ordered the parties to mediate no later than 90 days prior to trial. Prior to mediation, on December 11, 2014, the Boards filed a motion for summary judgment which asserted that Appellants' claims were not legally or factually supported. The district court scheduled the summary judgment motion for hearing on January 27, 2015.

         On December 22, 2014, Appellants and the Boards engaged in mediation before Senior Judge D. Duff McKee. At the conclusion of the mediation, Judge McKee prepared a handwritten Memorandum of Settlement:

County & LID will pay its own litigation costs & fees, and waive any claim against Appellants for costs & fees.
All parties to stipulate to dismissal of all claims, with prejudice and without fees and costs.
Appellant property owners to be responsible for LID assessment fees as originally billed, plus accrued interest.* Appellants to pay their own legal costs & fees including their ½ of mediation fee.
*Property owner to be provided w/current statement of amounts due as of 10/1/14 including interest; Owner to have 30 days from date of close on this agreement to pay off the LID plus interest, or to pay the annual installment, plus annual interest, (plus security fund deposit if required.)

         Counsel and representatives for Appellants and the Boards signed the Memorandum of Settlement.

         Following the mediation, counsel for the parties exchanged drafts of proposed formal settlement agreements. No formal settlement agreement was signed because the Boards insisted that the agreement include a release of Appellants' claims against the Boards and their agents and employees and Appellants were unwilling to execute such a release.

         On January 14, 2015, Appellants filed a Notice of Settlement of Appeal and Appellants' Motion to Dismiss Appeal with Prejudice. Appellants argued that the district court should enforce the terms of the Memorandum of Settlement. On January 26, 2015, the day before the hearing on the Boards' motion for summary judgment, Appellants filed a Motion for Order Shortening Time on Appellants' Motion to Dismiss Appeal. Appellants argued that the settlement rendered the Boards' motion for summary judgment moot and the district court should instead take up their motion to dismiss their appeal. The following day, the district court held a hearing on the various motions.

         During the hearing, the district court determined that Appellants' Motion to Dismiss Appeal with Prejudice would be treated as a motion for summary judgment to enforce the settlement agreement. The district court set a new hearing date of March 12, 2015, and instructed the parties to provide briefing regarding Appellants' motion. The district court further instructed Appellants to submit arguments in response to the Boards' motion for summary judgment.

         On March 11, 2015, Appellants filed a Notice of Non-Opposition to Respondent's [sic] Motion for Summary Judgment, stating:

The Appellants hereby notify the Court and opposing counsel that, consistent with the Appellants' contention that this matter settled at mediation on December 22, 2014, and in furtherance of their desire to not incur the significant expenses associated with a trial on this matter, they do not oppose Respondent's [sic] request that this appeal be dismissed.
Appellants' decision to decline to oppose the Respondent's [sic] request for dismissal does not, however, have any bearing on the reasonableness of the legal or factual grounds for the appeal itself, and Appellants will outline those grounds in the event that their own motion for summary judgment is not granted and/or if Respondent [sic] moves for an award of attorney's fee or costs beyond the costs specifically allowed by I.C. § 50-1718.

         On March 12, 2015, the district court held a hearing on the parties' motions for summary judgment. During the hearing, the district court clarified the effect of ...


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