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Lodestar Co. v. County of Mono

filed: October 9, 1991.

LODESTAR COMPANY; HENRY P. ACUFF, AND JOANN D. ACUFF, AS TRUSTEES OF THE ACUFF TRUST; ALLEN V. DAVIS, AND LENABELLE DAVIS, AS TRUSTEES OF THE JONATHAN A. ACUFF TRUST; AS TRUSTEES OF THE JUSTIN M. ACUFF TRUST, AND ALLEN V.C. DAVIS AS TRUSTEE OF THE DAVIS TRUST NO. 1; LODE STAR COMPANY, PLAINTIFFS-APPELLANTS,
v.
COUNTY OF MONO; MICHAEL JENCKS, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS A MEMBER OF THE MONO COUNTY BOARD OF SUPERVISORS; WILLIAM REID, ET AL.; MAMMOTH UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT, DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES



Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of California; D.C. No. CV-83-0364-LKK; Lawrence K. Karlton, Chief Judge, Presiding.

D.w. Nelson, Hall and Fernandez, Circuit Judges.

MEMORANDUM

Lodestar Co., et al. ("Appellants"), appeal the district court's dismissal of their constitutional claims against the County of Mono ("County") and the Mammoth Unified School District ("School District") as unripe.*fn1 Appellants also appeal the district court's dismissal of their pendent state law claims, and the procedure by which the district court determined that the federal claims were unripe. We affirm.

BACKGROUND

This dispute concerns efforts by appellants to develop approximately 200 acres of land in the Mammoth Lakes area of Mono County, California. In 1977, appellants submitted a plan for development aimed at being consistent with the County's ordinances controlling the growth and development of the Mammoth Lakes area. The County conditionally approved the plan in 1979.

Appellants failed to meet the conditions required for final approval. Negotiation obstacles included appellants' promise to dedicate a right-of-way for a public road through its property, and the School District's need for a school on the property. In June, 1981, appellants met with the County and the School District and entered into a Memorandum of Understanding ("MOU"). The MOU defined each party's obligations with a view toward final approval of appellants' development plan after all obligations had been met.

Appellants submitted several proposed development agreements, but no final or complete version was ever submitted for processing, public hearing or final adoption by the Board. Negotiations fell through in May, 1982, and appellants announced they would file a suit for declaratory relief. Instead, appellants continued negotiations with the School District and the County, but submitted no new plans or agreements.

Appellants filed a civil rights action against the County, the School District and the Town of Mammoth Lakes on April 13, 1983. After several years of vigorous litigation, all of the defendants filed a motion for summary judgment or partial summary judgment, alleging in part that appellants' constitutional claims were not ripe for adjudication. The district court dismissed the constitutional claims on ripeness grounds and dismissed all pendent state law claims as well on May 11, 1990. On May 24, 1990, the district court amended its order to dismiss all remaining federal claims.

Appellants then appealed. Since the filing of this appeal, however, appellants have settled with the Town of Mammoth Lakes. The remaining appellees are the County and the School District.

Discussion

A. Constitutional Claims

The district court found that, as a matter of undisputed fact, appellants never submitted a final development application. Therefore, appellants' constitutional claims are unripe according to the test stated in Southern Pac. Transp. Co. v. City of Los Angeles, 922 F.2d 498, 502-03 (9th Cir. 1990) (citing MacDonald, Sommer & Frates v. County of Yolo, 477 U.S. 340, 348, 106 S. Ct. 2561, 2566, 91 L. Ed. 2d 285 (1986); Williamson County Regional Planning Comm'n v. Hamilton Bank, 473 U.S. 172, 195, 105 S. Ct. 3108, 3121, 87 L. Ed. 2d 126 (1985)). This test applies to all of appellants' constitutional challenges, whether framed as a taking without just compensation, a denial of due process, or a violation of equal protection rights.*fn2 Sinaloa Lake, 882 F.2d at 1404; Hoehne v. County of San Benito, 870 F.2d 529, 532 (9th Cir. 1989).

The MOU does not take the place of a final decision by the county. On its face, it contemplates further action by the parties before any final determination is made. See Lake Nacimiento Ranch Co. v. County of San Luis Obispo, 841 F.2d 872, 876 (9th Cir. 1987), cert. denied, 488 U.S. 827, 109 S. Ct. 79, 102 L. Ed. 2d 55 (1988). Moreover, appellants' argument that the existence of the MOU removes this case from the ripeness test altogether lacks merit. The County had no authority to bypass the requirements of California law by entering into a final agreement for development without notice and a public hearing, and any attempt to do so through the MOU would have been null and void. See Cal. Gov. Code § 65867; Mono County Code § 19.80.090.*fn3 However dispiriting appellants might have ...


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