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Riverview Heights Homeowners' Association v. Rislov

April 21, 2009

RIVERVIEW HEIGHTS HOMEOWNERS' ASSOCIATION, & RIVERVIEW HEIGHTS HOMEOWNERS, INC., A WYOMING CORPORATION, APPELLANTS (PLAINTIFFS),
v.
CHRISTOPHER L. RISLOV, AN INDIVIDUAL, WYOMING RENOVATIONS, INC., D/B/A FAIRGROUND HOMES, A WYOMING CORPORATION, APPELLEES (DEFENDANTS).



Appeal from the District Court of Fremont County The Honorable Norman E. Young, Judge.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Burke, Justice.

Before VOIGT, C.J., and GOLDEN, HILL, KITE, and BURKE, JJ.

[¶1] The Riverview Heights Homeowners' Association filed suit against Christopher Rislov, seeking to enforce an amendment to the subdivision's restrictive covenants. Mr. Rislov contended that the amendment was invalid. The district court granted Mr. Rislov's motion for summary judgment, and the Association appealed. We affirm.

ISSUE

[¶2] The Association presents one issue: Did the district court err in ruling that the 2004 Amended Covenants are invalid as a matter of law?

FACTS

[¶3] Riverview Heights is a residential subdivision located northwest of Riverton, Wyoming. In 1977, the developer filed and recorded restrictive covenants for the subdivision. In 1979, the developer again filed and recorded restrictive covenants.*fn1 The 1979 Covenants are nearly identical to the earlier ones, except for a provision for creating a homeowners' association, under which the Riverview Heights Homeowners' Association was formed. The two sets of restrictive covenants contain a provision, set forth in Paragraph 14 of each document, establishing how the covenants may be amended:

The rights, duties, obligations and restrictions herein created are for the benefit of all of the land in said tract and they are and shall be irrevocable and perpetual until and unless revoked, obligated, modified or amended by instruments executed and acknowledged in the form prescribed for the execution of deeds by seventy-five (75) percent of the owners of the total acreage contained in this tract.

[¶4] In 2004, the Association filed and recorded an "Amendment to Restrictive Covenants on Use of Land in Riverview Heights Subdivision." The 2004 Amendment prohibited manufactured homes in the subdivision,*fn2 and provided that all construction in the subdivision must be approved by the newly-created architectural control committee. The document was executed by the Association's officers, whose signatures were notarized. The document recited that at least 75% of the subdivision's landowners had approved of the amendment. Attached were thirty-four pages containing signatures of lot owners. Additional details about these signature pages will be reviewed in the discussion section.

[¶5] In 2007, Mr. Rislov purchased Lot 69 in the Riverview Heights Subdivision.*fn3 He began preparing the lot for a manufactured home. The Association contacted Mr. Rislov to inform him that the 2004 Amendment to the covenants prohibited manufactured homes and required approval of an architectural control committee before development. Mr. Rislov disagreed. Litigation ensued.

[¶6] The Association and Mr. Rislov presented their dispute to the district court in cross-motions for summary judgment. The district court ruled that the amendment was invalid because it had not been executed and acknowledged as required by the 1977 and 1979 Covenants. It granted summary judgment in favor of Mr. Rislov, and the Association appealed.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

[¶7] We employ a familiar standard of review when considering a district court's summary judgment decision:

Summary judgment is appropriate when there are no genuine issues of material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. W.R.C.P. 56(c); Metz Beverage Co. v. Wyoming Beverages, Inc., 2002 WY 21, ¶ 9, 39 P.3d 1051, 1055 (Wyo. 2002). "A genuine issue of material fact exists when a disputed fact, if it were proven, would establish or refute an essential element of a cause of action or a defense that the parties have asserted." Id. Because summary judgment involves a purely legal determination, we undertake de novo ...


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