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Goodwin v. City of Mandeville

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, First Circuit

May 31, 2019

B. CHARLES GOODWIN AND CLAUDIA SELIGMAN
v.
CITY OF MANDEVILLE AND STATE OF LOUISIANA

          Appealed from the 22nd Judicial District Court In and for the Parish of St. Tammany State of Louisiana Docket No. 2017-11975 The Honorable August J. Hand, Judge Presiding

          Ernest A. Burguieres Counsel for Plaintiff -Appellant B. Charles Goodwin and Claudia Seligman

          Jeff Landry Attorney General Christopher J. Lento Ryan M. Seidemann Assistant Attorneys General Counsel for Defendant -Appellee The State of Louisiana

          Paul E. Harrison C. deShea Richardson Counsel for Defendant -Appellee City of Mandeville

          BEFORE: WELCH, CHUTZ, AND LANIER, JJ.

          LANIER, J.

         In the instant case, plaintiffs challenge the trial court's judgment sustaining various exceptions pled by defendants in response to plaintiffs' petition for declaratory judgment. For the reasons that follow, we affirm.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Plaintiffs, B. Charles Goodwin, Claudia Seligman, and Alvin Burstein, in their capacity as taxpaying residents of the City of Mandeville ("the City"), filed a petition for declaratory judgment against the City and the State of Louisiana, through the Office of State Lands ("State of Louisiana"). Pursuant to La. Code Civ. P. art. 1871, plaintiffs sought declaratory judgment as to several issues concerning a proposed development on the shores of Lake Pontchartrain known as the Port Marigny development.

         The issues addressed by plaintiffs in their original petition and two subsequent amending and supplemental petitions were summarized by plaintiffs in their brief to this court as follows:

The first issue alleged for declaratory judgment concerns a portion of a former street and right of way, Kleber Street, and its relationship with the former Pre-Stressed Construction site on Lake Pontchartrain, which is sought and proposed for development by the Port Marigny Project. Kleber Street was a dedicated right of way that originally reached Lake Pontchartrain. On August 8, 1967, the City of Mandeville through an unrecorded action purported to relinquish the right of way. 1.4 acres of reclaimed land currently sits at what would be the former terminus of Kleber Street. Plaintiffs seek declaratory judgment against defendants to determine whether a donation of the right of way without compensation is Constitutional and whether the Office of State Lands should seek to provide public access to the waterfront land owned by the State.
The second issue alleged for declaratory judgment concerns a lease the City of Mandeville holds over 11.4 acres of reclaimed water bottoms owned by the State. The City of Mandeville pays the Office of State Lands a sum of $100 per year to lease the acreage. Contained in the 11.4 acres is the 1.4 acres at the terminus of the Kleber Street right of way. Port Marigny has proposed the City donate its leasehold interest in the property to the Port Marigny interests. Plaintiffs seek declaratory judgment concerning whether such a donation is Constitutional, whether the Office of State Lands has an obligation to oppose such a transfer, and whether the Office of State Lands has an obligation to re-establish access to the waterfront acreage owned by the State.[1]
The final issue alleged for declaratory judgment concerns the coastal restoration of private land on the shore of Lake Pontchartrain. The City of Mandeville has already spent close to $300, 000 on a study of the feasibility of restoring the coastline owned by a private nonprofit corporation, The Green Fund, Inc., which is controlled by the Mandeville City Attorney, Edward Deano and his family. It is estimated close to $3 million would be spent to complete the project. Plaintiffs seek declaratory judgment as to whether such an expenditure of public funds on a project to improve private lands is prohibited by the Louisiana Constitution.

         In response, the City filed exceptions raising the objections of no cause of action, no right of action, and lack of subject matter jurisdiction. The City asserted plaintiffs failed to state a right or cause of action against the City, arguing that there was no justiciable controversy between the parties and that plaintiffs were merely requesting answers to theoretical, moot questions. The City further argued that ...


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