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Village Road Coalition v. Teton County Housing Authority

April 2, 2013

VILLAGE ROAD COALITION, APPELLANT (PROPOSED INTERVENOR),
v.
TETON COUNTY HOUSING AUTHORITY, APPELLEE (DEFENDANT). DON GRONBERG, SUE GRONBERG, JIM FARMER, CHRISTY FOX, JENNY FOX, DENNIS CICHELLI, SUE CICHELLI, DEBORAH FOX, DON LANDIS, BEVERLY LANDIS, SCOTT AUSTIN, HOLLY AUSTIN, ROBIN MOYER, PETER MOYER, DOUG HANSON, ANNA MARIE HANSON, BARBARA SELLAS, DEBORAH D. WARD, PAUL PERRY, PAM ROMSA, LOU BREITENBACH, KEN JERN AND SHERRIE JERN,
APPELLANTS (PLAINTIFFS),
v.
TETON COUNTY HOUSING AUTHORITY, APPELLEE (DEFENDANT).



Appeals from the District Court of Teton County The Honorable Timothy C. Day, Judge Representing Appellant in Case No. S-12-0096: Phelps H. Swift, Jr. of Wilson, Wyoming. Representing Appellants in Case No. S-12-0104: Peter F. Moyer of Jackson, Wyoming. Representing Appellee in Case Nos. S-12-0096 and S-12-0104:

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

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

NOTICE: This opinion is subject to formal revision before publication in Pacific Reporter Third. Readers are requested to notify the Clerk of the Supreme Court, Supreme Court Building, Cheyenne, Wyoming 82002, of any typographical or other formal errors so that correction may be made before final publication in the permanent volume.

[¶1] This opinion represents the consolidation of two related appeals. The plaintiffs in the underlying dispute appeal the district court's decision to grant Teton County Housing Authority's (TCHA) motion to dismiss for lack of standing. Separately, Village Road Coalition (VRC) appeals the district court's decision to deny VRC's motion to intervene in the underlying dispute for failure to file its motion in a timely fashion. We affirm both decisions of the district court.

ISSUES

[¶2] 1. Did the district court abuse its discretion by denying VRC's motion to intervene?

2. Was the district court's decision to grant TCHA's motion to dismiss in accordance with the law?

FACTS

[¶3] The Board of Commissioners of Teton County, Wyoming, created TCHA in response to a shortage of safe and affordable housing accommodations in the vicinity. In 2006, the voters of Teton County approved a TCHA sponsored ballot initiative, enabling a specific purpose excise tax (SPET) to raise $5,000,000 for TCHA's Affordable Housing Program. The tax revenue was to be used for the acquisition, planning, improvement and financing of property for affordable housing. In 2007, TCHA contracted to purchase a five-acre property on Cheney Lane in Teton Village from Erving and Caryl Mantey for $2,100,000. To facilitate that purchase, TCHA borrowed $2,000,000, which has since been repaid.

[¶4] On June 21, 2007, the plaintiffs, self-described "Wyoming taxpayers" and "landowners and/or residents of the Cheney Lane neighborhood," initiated a declaratory judgment action against TCHA. In an amended complaint, the plaintiffs alleged violation of Wyoming public meeting "sunshine" laws, invalid approval by the Board of County Commissioners, violation of SPET limitations, breach of investment duties, violation of Wyoming constitutional public funding limitations, violation of Wyoming statutory limits on public financing, and violation of Wyoming constitutional limits on public subsidies for private individuals. In response, TCHA moved to dismiss some of those claims and for summary judgment on the remaining claims. The district court's decision to grant those motions was appealed to this Court, which, in Gronberg v. Teton County Housing Authority, 2011 WY 13, ¶ 56, 247 P.3d 35, 47 (Wyo. 2011), we affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded.

[¶5] Upon remand, plaintiffs amended their declaratory judgment action complaint, alleging violation of SPET limitations, breach of investment duties, and violation of Wyoming statutory limits on public financing. In response, TCHA filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that the district court lacked subject matter jurisdiction because plaintiffs failed to present a justiciable controversy and did not have standing to maintain the action. The hearing on the motion to dismiss took place on January 5, 2012.

[¶6] VRC incorporated January 19, 2012, two weeks after the district court heard arguments on the motion to dismiss. VRC is a nonprofit corporation comprised of residents and property owners in the Village Road neighborhood of Teton Park, near the Cheney Lane property. VRC filed its Motion to Intervene on January 26, 2012. VRC claimed that, in its acquisition of the Cheney Lane property, TCHA "violated its authority under the SPET ballot, breached its fiduciary and investment duties, and otherwise violated Wyoming law." The district court denied that motion, determining that VRC had not timely filed its motion to intervene and the basis upon which VRC sought intervention was a theoretical issue that may properly be addressed through other remedies prior to judicial intervention. The plaintiffs, on behalf of VRC, requested the district court to reconsider that decision.

[ΒΆ7] Following the request for reconsideration, the district court attempted to certify a number of questions to this Court regarding whether it was appropriate for the district court to consider standing on remand when the issue was not raised in the initial proceedings, if standing properly was before the district court, whether the plaintiffs in fact have standing, and if plaintiffs lack standing, whether there exists a "matter of great public importance" sufficient to relax the justiciable controversy requirement. This Court declined that request and the district court denied the ...


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