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Town of Truckee v. Edgar Stratton et al

September 7, 2012

TOWN OF TRUCKEE, PLAINTIFF AND RESPONDENT,
v.
EDGAR STRATTON ET AL., DEFENDANTS AND APPELLANTS. EDGAR STRATTON ET AL., PLAINTIFFS AND APPELLANTS,
v.
TOWN OF TRUCKEE, DEFENDANT AND RESPONDENT.



(Super. Ct. No. T10/4190C) (Super. Ct. No. T08/2933C)

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Butz , J.

Town of Truckee v. Stratton

CA3

NOT TO BE PUBLISHED

California Rules of Court, rule 8.1115(a), prohibits courts and parties from citing or relying on opinions not certified for publication or ordered published, except as specified by rule 8.1115(b). This opinion has not been certified for publication or ordered published for purposes of rule 8.1115.

This pair of cases represents the right and left shoes of a land use dispute. The contestants are the incorporated Town of Truckee (the Town), and Edgar and Galeen Stratton, a husband and wife who own the real property at issue.*fn1

The Town brought an action in March 2008 to abate the Strattons' practice of storing vehicles and other materials outdoors on the property in connection with their towing business. The trial court (Judge Holmer) issued a permanent injunction against the nonconforming use in October 2010. The premature notice of appeal from the trial court's decision,*fn2 which we deem to have been filed immediately after the subsequently entered judgment (Cal. Rules of Court, rule 8.308(c); see discussion in In re Gray (2009) 179 Cal.App.4th 1189, 1197), is the subject of case No. C066281.

Meanwhile, in July 2010 the Strattons filed an action for damages against the Town under a theory of inverse condemnation and other counts. In March 2011, the trial court (Judge Dowling) sustained the Town's demurrer without leave to amend as to the count for inverse condemnation on the ground that it was untimely. The Strattons requested dismissal of the remaining counts without prejudice, and the parties stipulated to an entry of judgment to facilitate appellate review of the crucial issue of the claim for inverse condemnation. (Norgart v. Upjohn Co. (1999) 21 Cal.4th 383, 401-402.)*fn3 This appeal is the subject of case No. C068089.

At the joint request of the parties, we consolidated the appeals for purposes of argument and decision only. In their appeal from the abatement action in case No. C066281, the Strattons contend the evidence showed their use of their property for outside storage--incidental to the operation of their business--was a pre-existing legal use and thus should have been allowed to continue after the adoption of zoning that prohibited it (without an amortization period) in the absence of any proof that they discontinued it. In their appeal in the inverse condemnation action, the Strattons contend that if we affirm the abatement action we should reinstate "the inverse condemnation case . . . , as [the Strattons] have a strong claim that they could not have known that all economically beneficial use [would be] taken from them" until the ruling in the abatement case. On the other hand, a reversal of the abatement action means "their claim for inverse condemnation would not be ripe for consideration," though they do not offer even a suggestion as to what course we should take with respect to the judgment in that event. We shall affirm both judgments.

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

The Strattons present a manifestly inadequate statement of the entirety of the facts in their appeal in case No. C066281 that is premised on an unsupportable claim that review of this judgment after trial in the abatement action is de novo. In point of fact, on appeal we resolve all explicit evidentiary conflicts or inferences to be drawn from the facts in favor of the judgment. (People v. Mack (1992) 11 Cal.App.4th 1466, 1468.) "We include this reminder because [their] rendering of the facts highlights what [appellants deem] to be inconsistencies and credibility issue with respect to the . . . witnesses. . . . [However], the [court] resolved these credibility issues against [them] and we are bound by that resolution. Accordingly, we set forth the evidence without [the] extensive commentary regarding its reliability." (People v. Curl (2009) 46 Cal.4th 339, 342, fn. 3.)*fn4

The property at issue is an undeveloped lot on River Park Place in Truckee bordering the north bank of the Truckee River. In a Nevada County (the county) ordinance enacted before the Town's incorporation (apparently in December 1970), "open storage" was an otherwise permitted use in connection with industrial uses such as lumber sales, utilities, and yards for the storage of building materials or contractor equipment.*fn5 The trial court found that "[i]n primordial times zoning-wise" before 1977, property owners in the area in which the subject property is located regularly stored their excavation equipment outside either in conformance with the zoning or with the acquiescence of the county.

The county approved a tentative subdivision map that the then-owners (the Northrups) submitted in December 1977. Among the conditions of the approval was the removal of all abandoned vehicles, industrial equipment, or any other equipment not authorized to be stored on the property before recording of the final map.

However, it does not appear that the Northrups ever filed a final map. Eventually, they sold the undeveloped subdivision to the Truckee Business Park Company, which either transferred the property to Baywest Properties III or operated its business under that name. The latter filed a new tentative subdivision map. The county's approval required the recording of covenants with the final map that included a design guide. These covenants were eventually recorded in 1991, which included a requirement that "[a]ll sales, display, storage[,] or other uses shall be confined . . . ...


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