Western Land Co. v. Truskolaski
495 P.2d 624 (1972)

  • When the Southland Heights subdivision was created the neighborhood was residential.
    • When the subdivision was originally divided, there was a covenant that restricted all construction to single-family homes.
  • Twenty years later the area had changed and surrounding streets were filled with commercial businesses.
    • The main road next to the subdivision had become a major commercial thoroughfare, with a shopping mall across the street.
  • Western bought a plot of land in the subdivision with the intent of building shopping center. Truskolaski and the other residents of Southland Heights sued to enjoin the construction.
    • Western argued that the nature of the area had changed so significantly that the covenant was no longer relevant.
  • The Trial Court found for Truskolaski and issued an injunction barring construction. Western appealed.
    • The Trial Court found that the area had not changed sufficiently to make it inequitable or oppressive to restrict the property to only single-family residential use.
      • Although the land use surrounding the subdivision had changed, the subdivision itself hadn’t changed.
  • The Nevada Supreme Court affirmed.
    • The Nevada Supreme Court noted that, in cases where there were significant changes within a subdivision that made the property unsuitable for the original purpose of a covenant, then that covenant could possibly be unenforceable.
      • Possibly, not always! Even if the was evidence that the land could have more value if put to other uses.
    • Western argued that the Reno City Council was considering rezoning the subdivision from residential to commercial. But the Court found that wouldn’t override a privately-held covenant.
      • Restatement of Property states that changes to zoning laws do not invalidate private covenants unless they make terms of the covenant illegal. The general rule is that where zoning and restrictive covenants conflict, the more restrictive prevails.
      • However, Restatement of Property also says that, “if the purpose of the servitude can be accomplished but because of the changed conditions the servient estate is no longer suitable for the uses permitted by the servitude, a court may modify the servitude to permit other uses under conditions designed to preserve the benefit of the original servitude.”
        • Basically the court can step in and create a compromise, where the land can be used for something that isn’t technically allowed under the covenant, but wouldn’t be too much of a nuisance.
    • Western also unsuccessfully argued that, due to some minor violations of the covenant by other residents, the covenant should be considered to be abandoned. However, the Court found that a covenant is only abandoned when violations are so general as to frustrate the original purpose of the agreement.
  • The land that Western owned wasn’t really useful for single-family homes, since it was across the street from a shopping mall. Was it really fair to West to have an essentially useless property?
  • This case was eventually settled and Western agreed to put some offices on the land, which wasn’t as invasive as retail stores. This is similar to the suggestion made in the Restatement of Property.