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Burger Investments Family Limited Partnership v. City of Littleton

Court of Appeals of Colorado, Division A

August 22, 2019

Burger Investments Family Limited Partnership; A & S Burger Investments, LLC; 1241 LLC; 1221 LLC; and 1201 LLC, Plaintiffs-Appellants,
v.
City of Littleton; Littleton City Council; and Stone Creek Real Estate Partners, LLC, Defendants-Appellees.

          Arapahoe County District Court No. 17CV31948 Honorable Elizabeth Beebe Volz, Judge.

          Foster, Graham, Milstein & Calisher, LLP, Chip G. Schoneberger, Denver, Colorado, for Plaintiffs-Appellants

          The Law Office of Steven J. Dawes, LLC, Steven J. Dawes, Denver, Colorado, for Defendants-Appellees City of Littleton and Littleton City Council

          Fairfield and Woods, P.C., Karen V. Reutzel, Jessica Alizadeh, Denver, Colorado, for Defendant-Appellee Stone Creek Real Estate Partners, LLC

          OPINION

          TAUBMAN JUDGE.

         ¶ 1 This case presents the question whether the district court properly dismissed the complaint of plaintiffs - Burger Investments Family Limited Partnership and other entities[1] - for lack of subject matter jurisdiction where the City of Littleton's charter vests exclusive original jurisdiction in its municipal court over all violations of the charter and ordinances of the city. Because we conclude the charter provision at issue does not apply to civil cases, we reverse the district court's judgment and remand the case for the court to reinstate Burger's complaint.

         I. Background

         ¶ 2 Defendant, Stone Creek Real Estate Partners, LLC, applied to the City of Littleton[2] for approval of an amendment to a planned development plan that would allow for assisted living, memory care, and accessory uses commonly associated with assisted living and memory care facilities ("Application"). After a public hearing, the Littleton City Council found that the proposed amendment to the planned development plan conformed to the development standards of the Planned Development Amendment criteria specified in the city code; thus, it passed an ordinance approving the Application.

         ¶ 3 Burger owns property adjacent to the subject parcel and filed a complaint in the district court under C.R.C.P. 106(a)(4) to review the city council's decision. In its complaint, Burger alleged that the city council's decision violated specific provisions of the city's code and that its actions in approving the Application were "contrary to law [and] contrary to the Code."

         ¶ 4 Littleton moved to dismiss Burger's complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. It argued that pursuant to section 58 of Littleton's charter and Town of Frisco v. Baum, 90 P.3d 845 (Colo. 2004), the Littleton municipal courts have exclusive original jurisdiction to address the city council's decision.

         ¶ 5 In pertinent part, section 58 of the City of Littleton's Charter states, "There shall be a municipal court vested with exclusive original jurisdiction of all violations of the Charter and the ordinances of the City."

         ¶ 6 The district court concluded that Burger's complaint alleged violations of specific ordinances; thus, exclusive original jurisdiction lay with the municipal court. Accordingly, the district court dismissed Burger's Rule 106(a)(4) action for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, and this appeal followed.

         II. The City of Littleton's Charter and Burger's Complaint

         ¶ 7 Burger argues that the district court erred in its interpretation of the city's charter as vesting the municipal court with exclusive original jurisdiction over Burger's Rule 106(a)(4) appeal of the city council's decision to approve the Application. In support of this argument, Burger contends that, for the City of Littleton to divest the district court of jurisdiction over appeals pursuant to Rule 106(a)(4) and grant exclusive jurisdiction ...


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