Thursday, June 12, 2008

Summary 2008 WY 66

Summary of Decision issued June 12, 2008

Summaries are prepared by Law Librarians and are not official statements of the Wyoming Supreme Court.

Case Name: Brumbaugh v. Mikelson Land Co.

Citation: 2008 WY 66

Docket Number: S-07-0218

Appeal from the District Court of Park County, the Steven R. Cranfill, Judge.

Representing Appellants (Plaintiffs): S. Joseph Darrah of Darrah, Darrah & Brown, PC, Powell, Wyoming.

Representing Appellee (Defendant): Thomas P. Keegan of Keegan & Winslow, PC, Cody, Wyoming.

Facts/Discussion: The Brumbaughs filed a declaratory and injunctive relief action against MLC seeking to enforce the rights they claimed pursuant to the Skytel Country Estates restrictive covenants and plat. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of MLC holding the Brumbaughs were not entitled to any of their requests for relief. After the Brumbaughs predecessor in interest purchased two Skytel lots, Skytel partially vacated the plat, amended the restrictive covenants and sold the remaining property to Mikelson Land Company (MLC) which incorporated it into a larger subdivision.
Partial Vacation of Plat and Amendment to Restrictive Covenants of the Skytel Country Estates Subdivision:
Under the plain language of the amendment to the declaration of covenants, the vacation of the plat and § 34-12-108, the owners of Lots 77, 81 and 82 in the Skytel Country Estates subdivision continued to enjoy the rights and be bound by the obligations contained in the relevant subdivision documents. The amendment to the covenants and the vacation of the plat did not change those rights.
Brumbaughs’ Rights Concerning the Skytel Country Estates Subdivision:
The district court considered the language of paragraph 6 of the covenants and declared that the covenant reserved the right to such easements only to the title owner which was MLC. The Court stated that the district court’s interpretation was mistaken. When the entire declaration iwa considered, the rights conveyed were to inure to the benefit of Skytel lot owners. Therefore the Brumbaughs have a right to easements for utilities and access. The declaration does not define the location or scope of the easements. On remand the district court will have the responsibility of determining the location and scope. The Brumbaughs also claimed they were entitled to use all roads which have been developed in the original Skytel Country Estates. The Court concluded as a matter of law they were entitled to access to their lot across lands formerly within the Skytel Country Estates subdivision. They were not limited to the roads shown on the plat. On remand the district court will need to determine the status of the Heidi Drive access or whether other reasonably convenient or necessary access exists or may be developed. The express language of the covenants does not create an obligation for the developer to provide water nor does it convey a right to tap into any water system. The Brumbaugh’s interpretation of the language of the covenants would create a new right to connect to the Cody’s Country subdivision water system which the Court ruled they were not entitled to. The Court ruled that the property formerly included in the common area of the Skytel Country Estates subdivision was not burdened by the requirements that central livestock facilities be placed upon it.
MLC’s Rights in the Skytel Country Estates Subdivision:
Prior to the vacation of the plat, the owner of two-thirds of the land area in the Skytel Country Estates subdivision had the authority to modify the covenants. MLC is not an owner of land in the subdivision therefore it does not have the right to modify the Skytel Country Estates subdivision covenants. The Court stated the appointment of an architectural committee was invalid at the time the complaint was filed.

Holding: The Skytel Country Estates subdivision documents grant the Brumbaughs easements for power, sewer and access across lands originally in the Skytel Country Estate subdivision and the district court erred by ruling as a matter of law that they did not have those rights. Because the location and scope of the easements were not set out in the written documents, they are floating easements and the district court will have to consider the relevant facts to determine a reasonable and convenient location and scope for those easements.
The district court properly concluded that the covenants did not grant the Brumbaughs the right to connect to the water system developed by MLC or to central livestock facilities located in the common area of the original Skytel Country Estates subdivision.
MLC did not have the authority to modify the Skytel Country Estates subdivision covenants and the appointment of MLC as architectural committee was not valid.

Affirmed in part, reversed in part, remanded.

J. Kite delivered the decision.

Link: .

[SPECIAL NOTE: This opinion uses the "Universal Citation." It was given an "official" citation when it was issued. You should use this citation whenever you cite the opinion, with a P.3d parallel citation. Please note when you look at the opinion that all of the paragraphs are numbered. When you pinpoint cite to a quote, you should cite to this paragraph number rather than to any page number. If you need assistance in putting together a citation using the Universal Citation form, please contact the Wyoming State Law Library.]

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