Idaho Land Law

A Blog Discussing Current Issues of Land Use, Real Estate, and Construction Law in the State of Idaho.

Filtering by Category: Eminent Domain

Idaho Senate Says No Eminent Domain for Trails

We at the Idaho Land Law blog are busy this time of year monitoring all the proposed Idaho legislation concerning real property. There are numerous bills making their way through the House and Senate that touch on our favorite subject (land) but we find Senate Bill 1044 to be of particular interest.   As currently drafted, the bill would prohibit government agencies from using eminent domain for “trails, paths, greenways or other ways for walking, running, for hiking, bicycling or equestrian use, unless adjacent to a highway, road or street.”

Bill 1044 passed out of the Senate yesterday and is now headed to the House and if voted out of committee would be considered on the House floor.  Should Bill 1044 pass out of the House, it will then be presented to Governor Otter where it could be signed into law.  We have not seen any comments from the Governor’s office on the bill.

This particular piece of legislation has had some serious opposition by local governments and it will be interesting to see how this plays out.  We will keep you posted with further updates.   

New Eminent Domain Case from the Supreme Court of Idaho

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@depositphotos-londondeposit

The Idaho Supreme Court unanimously affirmed the Kootenai County district court’s compensation award to HJ Grathol (“Grathol”), vacated and remanded the district court’s denial of attorney fees to the Idaho Transportation Department (“ITD”), and affirmed the district court’s award of costs to ITD. The Court also unanimously awarded attorney fees and costs to ITD on appeal. 

A link to the full decision can be found here: Idaho Trans. Dep’t v. HJ Grathol, Docket No. 41068 (February 11, 2015) http://www.isc.idaho.gov/opinions/40168.pdf

This eminent domain case arose when ITD acted to condemn 16.314 acres of Grathol’s 56.8 acres in order to improve U.S. Highway 95. After a bench trial, the district court held that just compensation would be based on the 56.8-acre parcel’s value and that the property remaining suffered no severance damages. Grathol argued on appeal that the district court should have based just compensation on a 30-acre parcel. Grathol also argued that the district court ignored Grathol’s severance damage evidence and improperly excluded testimony about damages from a proposed frontage road. Grathol also appealed the district court’s award of costs to ITD, arguing that ITD was not entitled to costs. ITD cross-appealed, arguing that the district court should have awarded ITD reasonable attorney fees under Ada County Highway District v. Acarrequi, 105 Idaho 873, 673 P.2d 1067 (1983). 

Contrary to Grathol’s assertions that the district court ignored the law and evidence, the Idaho Supreme Court found substantial and competent evidence supporting the district court’s findings that Grathol’s parcel was valued at 56.8 acres and that the remainder suffered zero severance damages. The Court also found the district court did not err by excluding testimony about impacts from an alleged frontage road because this Court held in a prior decision that ITD had no intent to condemn land for that road. 

As to attorney fees, the Court vacated the district court’s denial of attorney fees based on Idaho Code section 12-117 because that statute is not the exclusive source of fees for state agencies. The Court reasserted that it held in Acarrequi that courts can award attorney fees to a condemnor in extreme and unlikely cases. The Court then adopted a three-part test to determine when a case is extreme and unlikely. The Court remanded for the district court to analyze attorney fees within the new “extreme and unlikely case” parameters. 

As to attorney fees on appeal, the Court found that this was in fact an “extreme and unlikely case” and awarded ITD its reasonable attorney fees to be paid by Grathol. The Court found Grathol’s arguments on appeal were unreasonable and frivolous because Grathol asked this Court to re-weigh the evidence and second guess the district court without any legal or factual basis to support its arguments.

One of the lessons from this case is that appealing decisions in condemnation cases is not without risk that the Court may award attorney’s fees to the condemnor.  Our suggestion would be to carefully balance this risk before proceeding with an appeal.

Land Use Legislative Update

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We here at the Idaho Land Law blog have been following the Idaho State legislature this session for bills that potentially impact land use decisions.  Our goal is provide links to relevant bills being worked in the legislature.  Below is a sampling of current bills we are following.  During the remainder of this legislative session we will continue to provide legislative updates and at the end of the session provide a full update of all land use related bills enacted into law.  

HOUSE BILL 435

Full Bill Information
Individual Links: 
Bill Text
Statement of Purpose / Fiscal Note

H0435 by JUDICIARY, RULES, AND ADMINISTRATION COMMITTEE

 LOCAL LAND USE PLANNING - Amends existing law to provide for an infraction, to provide for an enforcement action, to provide that where property has been made nonconforming by the exercise of eminent domain it shall not be a violation and no penalty or compliance enforcement action shall result, to revise provisions relating to a governing board; and to provide for the application of law.

 01/30

Introduced, read first time, referred to JRA for Printing

SENATE BILL 1235

Full Bill Information
Individual Links:
Bill Text
Statement of Purpose / Fiscal Note

S1235 by LOCAL GOVERNMENT AND TAXATION COMMITTEE

PLATS - Amends existing law to revise procedures relating to the vacation of plats, public streets and public rights of way.

01/22 Introduced; read first time; referred to JR for Printing
01/23 Reported Printed; referred to Local Government & Taxation
01/30 Reported out of Committee with Do Pass Recommendation; Filed for second reading

SENATE BILL 1255

Full Bill Information
Individual Links:
Bill Text
Statement of Purpose / Fiscal Note

S1255 by RESOURCES AND ENVIRONMENT COMMITTEE

 MINERAL RIGHTS - CONVEYANCE - Adds to existing law to provide that certain conveyances of mineral rights include rights to oil and gas, to provide that certain conveyances of mineral rights are presumed to include rights to oil and gas and to provide exceptions.

01/28 Introduced; read first time; referred to JR for Printing
01/29 Reported Printed; referred to Resources & Environment

SENATE BILL 1234

Full Bill Information
Individual Links:
Bill Text
Statement of Purpose / Fiscal Note

S1234 by LOCAL GOVERNMENT AND TAXATION COMMITTEE

 ZONING - Amends existing law to provide that political subdivisions have the power to adopt regulations; to revise terminology; to remove provisions relating to the method of adopting zoning regulations; to remove a provision relating to zoning aviation hazard areas adjacent to an airport; to provide that public airports are essential community facilities; to provide for public airport facilities in the planning duties of a planning and zoning commission; to provide that notice of intent to amend a zoning plan shall be sent to the manager of a local airport; to provide that a study of aviation hazards may be required for a special use permit; to provide for notice and hearing in the transfer of development rights and to provide that aviation hazards shall be avoided in the transfer of development rights; and to provide for notice and hearing in the consideration of variance permits.

 01/22 Introduced; read first time; referred to JR for Printing


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