HOUSTON LAKESHORE TRACT OWNERS AGAINST ANNEXATION INC., and STOCKING ADDITION OWNERS AGAINST ANNEXATION, INC., Plaintiffs and Appellants,
CITY OF WHITEFISH, Defendant and Appellee.
Submitted on Briefs: November 30, 2016
FROM: District Court of the Eleventh Judicial District, In
and For the County of Flathead, Cause No. DV-15-430(B)
Honorable Robert B Allison, Presiding Judge
Appellants: Bruce A. Fredrickson, Rocky Mountain Law
Partners, PLLP, Kalispell, Montana
Appellee: Angela Jacobs Persicke, Whitefish City Attorney,
Michael E Wheat Justice
Houston Lakeshore Tract Owners Against Annexation, Inc. and
Stocking Addition Owners Against Annexation, Inc.
(collectively Property Owners) appeal from the order of the
Eleventh Judicial District Court, Flathead County, granting
the City of Whitefish's (City) cross-motion for summary
judgment. We affirm.
We restate the issues on appeal as follows:
Issue one: Did the District Court err in determining that
the City may properly rely on Title 7, chapter 2, part 45,
MCA, to annex the Houston Lakeshore Area?
Issue two: Did the District Court err in finding that the
Houston Lakeshore Area is "wholly surrounded" by
AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
The Property Owners collectively own numerous properties on
or near Whitefish Lake in Whitefish, Montana (Houston
Lakeshore Area). The Houston Lakeshore Area is located north
of the City and consists of the Houston Lake Shore Tracts
subdivision, the Stocking Addition Tracts B and C, and five
parcels known as Tract 1AB, Tract 1ABA, Tract 1ABB, Tract
1ABC, and Tract 1G. The City has annexed ten tracts in the
Houston Lake Shore Tracts and three tracts in the Stocking
Addition Tracts C. The area is bounded by Whitefish Lake to
the west and south and by City territory to the north and
east. The Property Owners access the area via East Lakeshore
Drive, which borders the Houston Lakeshore Area to the east.
To access their individual properties, the Property Owners
turn off East Lakeshore Drive and onto Houston Drive.
In 1981, the City passed Resolution No. B-916, annexing a
section of East Lakeshore Drive between Reservoir Road and
the North boundary of Lot 1, Block 1 of the Houston Point
Subdivision. The City annexed this section of the road
without receiving a request for annexation from the state of
Montana. In 2005, upon petition by the State, the City passed
Resolution No. 05-25, annexing Whitefish Lake to its low
water mark. The resolution cited a 1987 Attorney General
Opinion, which ruled that the bounding of Whitefish Lake on
one or more sides of a tract or parcel does not preclude the
area from being annexed under the "wholly
surrounded" method of annexation.
Piecing together a survey of the area provided in the record
and the interactive parcel map maintained by the Flathead
County GIS Department, the Houston Lakeshore Area is situated
On October 6, 2014, the City passed Resolution No. 14-49,
which, in part, acknowledged the City's decision to
advance the Houston Lakeshore Area to the first priority area
for annexation. The City has not given or published a notice
of annexation, nor has it passed a resolution of annexation
for the area. On May 22, 2015, the Property Owners filed a
complaint seeking a declaratory judgment that, under that
Title 7, chapter 2, part 45, MCA: 1) the City has no
statutory authority to combine separate tracts for purposes
of annexation; and 2) the Houston Lakeshore Area is not
wholly surrounded for the purposes of annexation. The parties
filed cross-motions for summary judgment and, on March 14,
2016, the District Court granted the City's motion. The
Property Owners filed a timely appeal.
We review a district court's grant of summary judgment de
novo, applying the same criteria of M. R. Civ. P. 56 as the
district court. Pilgeram v. GreenPoint Mortg. Funding,
Inc., 2013 MT 354, ¶ 9, 373 Mont. 1, 313 P.3d 839.
We review a district court's conclusions of law to
determine whether they are correct and its findings of fact
to determine whether they are clearly erroneous.
Pilgeram, ¶ 9. Under Rule 56(c), summary
judgment will be granted if the moving party can show there
is no genuine issue as to any material fact and the moving
party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law. Roe
v. City of Missoula, 2009 MT 417, ¶ 14, 354 Mont.
1, 221 P.3d 1200.
Issue one: Did the District Court err in determining that
the City of Whitefish may properly rely on Title 7,
chapter 2, part 45, MCA, to annex the Houston Lakeshore
The Property Owners first appeal the District Court's
finding that Title 7, chapter 2, part 45, MCA, entitled
"Annexation of Wholly Surrounded Land, " does not
limit a city's annexation of wholly surrounded land to a
single tract or parcel of land. The court determined that the
statutory provisions allowing for annexation of wholly
surrounded areas are triggered, not by the number of parcels
a city seeks to annex, but instead by the geographic
characteristics the freehold territory exhibits in relation
to the city seeking to annex it. On appeal, the Property
Owners urge this court to hold that the wholly surrounded
annexation provisions be interpreted to limit a city's
annexation powers to single tracts or parcels of land.
"[W]hen interpreting a statute, we seek to implement the
objectives the Legislature sought to achieve, and if the
legislative intent can be determined from the plain language
of the statute, the plain language controls."
Montanans v. State, 2006 MT 277, ¶ 60, 334
Mont. 237, 146 P.3d 759. "Furthermore, a statute
'must be read as a whole, and its terms should not be
isolated from the context in which they were used by the
Legislature.'" Eldorado Coop Canal Co. v.
Hoge, 2016 MT 145, ¶ 18, 383 Mont. 523, 373 P.3d
836 (quoting Fellows v. Saylor, 2016 MT 45, ¶
21, 382 Mont. 298, 367 P.3d 732) (citation omitted).
Accordingly, we must interpret a statute "as a part of a
whole statutory scheme and construe it so as to forward the
purpose of that scheme" and "to avoid an absurd
result." Eldorado Coop Canal Co., ¶ 18
(quoting Stokes v. Mont. Thirteenth Judicial Dist.
Court, 2011 MT 182, ¶ 15, 361 Mont. 279, 259 P.3d
754) (citation omitted); In re Marriage of Shirilla,
2004 MT 28, ¶ 12, 319 Mont. 385, 89 P.3d 1. Further,
while our role is "not to ...