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City of Cheyenne, Wyoming, A Municipal Corporation v. the Board of County Commissioners of the County of

December 13, 2012

CITY OF CHEYENNE, WYOMING, A MUNICIPAL CORPORATION, APPELLANT (PLAINTIFF),
v.
THE BOARD OF COUNTY COMMISSIONERS OF THE COUNTY OF LARAMIE, WYOMING, AND DEBORAH K. LATHROP, IN HER OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS THE COUNTY CLERK OF LARAMIE COUNTY, WYOMING, AND JOSEPH D. FENDER AND SHARI-SUE FENDER, HUSBAND AND WIFE, APPELLEES (DEFENDANTS).



Appeal from the District Court of Laramie County The Honorable Thomas T.C. Campbell, Judge

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

Before KITE, C.J., and GOLDEN,*fn1 HILL, VOIGT, and BURKE, JJ.

[¶1] Roundup Heights is a subdivision in Laramie County, located within one mile of the City of Cheyenne. The City claims that the partial vacation of the plat of this subdivision required joint approval by both the City and the County. The district court rejected the City's claim and granted summary judgment in favor of the County. The City challenges that decision. We will affirm.

ISSUE

[¶2] The issue as stated by the City is "Whether Title 34, Chapter 12 of the Wyoming Statutes requires joint City/County approval before a partial vacation of a plat may be recorded, when the affected plat of land is located within one (1) mile of a city boundary."

FACTS

[¶3] The facts were established by stipulation of the parties. Roundup Heights is a subdivision located in the County. It was platted in 1955. In 2010, the owners of certain lots applied for County approval of a partial vacation of the subdivision plat to eliminate some lot boundaries and rights-of-way. During the review process, the City submitted a comment stating that the affected property is within one mile of the City limits, and asserting on that basis that both City and County approval were required for the partial vacation. The County disagreed, and granted the partial vacation without City approval. The City filed suit, seeking declaratory judgment that joint City and County approval is required for partial vacation if the affected land is within one mile of the City. The district court issued summary judgment in favor of the County, and the City appealed.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

[¶4] Because summary judgment involves a purely legal determination, we undertake de novo review of a trial court's summary judgment decision. Glenn v. Union Pacific R.R. Co., 2008 WY 16, ¶ 6, 176 P.3d 640, 642 (Wyo. 2008). "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." Jacobs Ranch Coal Co. v. Thunder Basin Coal Co., LLC, 2008 WY 101, ¶ 8, 191 P.3d 125, 128 (Wyo. 2008), citing W.R.C.P. 56(c); Metz Beverage Co. v. Wyoming Beverages, Inc., 2002 WY 21, ¶ 9, 39 P.3d 1051, 1055 (Wyo. 2002). The parties' stipulation to all of the material facts in this case "forecloses any factual dispute." Farmers Ins. Exchange v. Dahlheimer, 3 P.3d 820, 821 (Wyo. 2000). The remaining question is whether the County was entitled to judgment as a matter of law. To answer that, we must interpret the pertinent statutes. Statutory interpretation also presents a question of law that we review de novo. Qwest Corp. v. State, 2006 WY 35, ¶ 8, 130 P.3d 507, 511 (Wyo. 2006).

DISCUSSION

[¶5] Subdivision of property is governed by Title 34, Chapter 12 of the Wyoming statutes. The task before us is to interpret these statutes and determine whether they require joint City and County approval for the partial vacation of a subdivision plat if the affected land is within one mile of the City.

When interpreting statutes, we follow an established set of guidelines. First, we determine if the statute is ambiguous or unambiguous. A statute is unambiguous if its wording is such that reasonable persons are able to agree as to its meaning with consistency and predictability. Unless another meaning is clearly intended, words and phrases shall be taken in their ordinary and usual sense. Conversely, a statute is ambiguous only if it is found to be vague or uncertain and subject to varying interpretations.

BP America Prod. Co. v. Department of Revenue, 2006 WY 27, ¶ 20, 130 P.3d 438, 464 (Wyo. 2006), quoting State Dept. of Revenue v. Powder River Coal Co., 2004 WY 54, ¶ 5, 90 P.3d 1158, 1160 (Wyo. 2004).

[¶6] Our first step, then, is to read the statutes. Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 34-12-102 (LexisNexis 2009) states that a property owner, to subdivide property, "shall cause a plat of such subdivision, with references to known or permanent monuments, to be made." The next statute, Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 34-12-103, deals ...


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