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Gap Farms L.L.C. v. Town of Arcadia

United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana, Shreveport Division

November 14, 2017

GAP FARMS, L.L.C.
v.
TOWN OF ARCADIA, ET AL.

          MEMORANDUM RULING

          S. MAURICE HICKS, JR., CHIEF JUDQE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT

         Before the Court are Defendants', Jesse Eugene Smith, Jr., in his capacity as mayor, Arcadia Town Council, and Town of Arcadia (collectively the “Defendants”), Motion to Dismiss (Record Document 7) Plaintiff Gap Farms, L.L.C.'s (“Plaintiff” or “Gap Farms”) Complaint (Record Document 1) pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) on the ground that this Court does not have subject matter jurisdiction. Plaintiff has opposed Defendants' Motion (Record Document 11). For the reasons set forth in the instant Memorandum Ruling, Defendants' Motion to Dismiss is hereby DENIED.

         FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         This suit arises out of certain actions taken by the Mayor of Arcadia, Jesse Eugene Smith, Jr. (the “Mayor”), on behalf of the Town of Arcadia (“Arcadia”) and as authorized by the Arcadia Town Council. The Mayor has refused to grant a permit to Gap Farms to erect a fence or barrier on its property. The property in question is located north of Interstate 20 and adjacent to Highway 151. See Record Document 1 at 3. In 2009, Gap Farms applied for and was granted permission by the Town of Arcadia to construct a road traversing its property; the plat and road dedication were approved by the Mayor and recorded in the conveyance records in late December that same year. See id. at 2-3. In 2010, Gap Farms constructed a road (“Gap Farms Road”) that runs parallel to Interstate 20 and intersected Highway 151. See id. at 3. There was a thirty foot road servitude from the center of the road. See id. Outside of the road servitude there was a ten foot utility servitude, it is this area that is at issue. See id. The utility servitude is at the center of the instant case.

         Recently, a tract of property located to the north of the Gap Farms property has been developed by Kiran of Monroe, L.L.C. (“Kiran”). See id. Sometime in 2015, Plaintiff alleges the Mayor, acting in his capacity as the chief executive officer of the Town of Arcadia, granted a “verbal permit” for Kiran to construct a large concrete driveway across the property of Gap Farms to connect to Gap Farms Road. See id. Significant efforts were undertaken to construct a driveway across the private property owned by Gap Farms. See id. When Gap Farms objected to this construction, the Mayor allegedly instructed the contractor to fill in the driveway. See id. at 4. Plaintiff also alleges employees of Arcadia performed work on its property at the direction of the Mayor. See id.

         Based on the dispute, expert surveyors were retained by the both Gap Farms and Kiran. See id. It was ultimately determined that neither the edge of the road nor the road servitude overlaps, encroaches, or abuts in any way the property of Kiran to the north. See id. Despite this fact, Plaintiff alleges the Mayor has continually denied a permit for Gap Farms to erect the fence or to place barriers to stop damaging trespass of customers of Kiran who are driving over Gap Farms' property to access nearby Gap Farms Road. See id. The Mayor has put Gap Farms on notice that any fence or barrier it places will be removed, and has since removed a fence built by Gap Farms and more recently removed curb stops on the property. See Record Document 11 at 5.

         On December 23, 2015, Gap Farms was sued by Kiran in state court who asked the court to issue a preliminary injunction and declaratory judgment allowing Kiran to construct a driveway connecting Kiran's property to the Gap Farms Road. See Record Document 7-2 at 7. Kiran asserted the Gap Farms Road utility servitude encroaches onto Kiran's land, and, accordingly, the public is entitled to access Kiran's property from the Gap Farms Road via the servitude. See id. (This is the area at issue in the present case.) In a consent judgment rendered on December 2, 2016, the Second Judicial District Court issued the following ruling:

FURTHER ORDERED, ADJUDGED, AND DECREED that the area described and shown in red on Exhibit "A" attached hereto as "Utility Servitude within Lot No. 5" is owned exclusively by Gap Farms, L.L.C., subject to a utility servitude pursuant to that Dedication made a pan of the Subdivision Plat recorded in the Conveyance Records of Bienville Parish, Louisiana on December 29, 2009, at Plat Book "A", Page 180, Registry Number 2009-5396.
FURTHER ORDERED, ADJUDGED, AND DECREED that the area described and shown in red on Exhibit 'A" attached hereto as "Utility Servitude within Lot No. 5" contains a minimum of .89 feet of immovable property, owned exclusively by Gap Farms, L.L.C., that is located in the area south of the Property Line but north of the Road Right of Way.

         Record Document 7-2 at 41.

         On June 15, 2017, Kiran submitted a supplemental petition in which it stated Arcadia executed a permit for the use of the utility servitude, which Arcadia then gave Kiran authority to build the driveway. See Record Document 7-1 at 7. Kiran argued Arcadia has possession of the utility servitude and Gap Farms has no right to control the use of the surface after dedicating it to the public for public use. See id. The state court has not yet rendered a decision regarding the legal and real rights to use the utility servitude in question. See id.

         Gap Farms filed this action on May 3, 2017. See Record Document 1. The original complaint included allegations that this Court had subject matter jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1331, 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and 42 U.S.C. § 1988, as well as supplemental jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1367. See id. In particular, Plaintiff alleged causes of action pursuant to federal law for abuse of the permitting process, including an unconstitutional granting of a building permit to a non-owner and withholding of permit issuance for Gap Farms to erect a fence or barrier on its property. See id. at 5. It submitted these actions constitute a violation of Plaintiff's substantive due process guarantees of the Fourteenth Amendment. See id. In the alternative, Plaintiff alleged that Defendants' actions in limiting Plaintiff's right to erect a fence or barrier and block trespassing traffic constituted a "taking" within the meaning of Article 1 § 4 of the Louisiana Constitution. See id. at 8. The complaint filed by Plaintiff then expressly denied asserting a taking under the Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution at the time of filing. See id.

         LAW AND ANALYSIS

         I. ...


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