In re McDonald's Corporation

In In re McDonald's Corporation, 146 Vt. 380, 505 A.2d 1202 (1985), McDonald's was interested in purchasing certain real property. Before buying it, McDonald's obtained a governmental environmental advisory opinion that a certain commercial permit was not required on the land McDonald's was seeking to purchase for construction of a restaurant. After McDonald's purchased the property, the neighbors filed a petition for a declaratory judgment, contending the permit was, indeed, necessary. While the litigation regarding the necessity of the permit went forward, McDonald's built its restaurant and operated it. When the litigation completed, it was adjudged that McDonald's needed the permit. The Vermont Supreme Court rejected McDonald's estoppel argument because McDonald's knew the question of the permit was unsettled and in litigation when it decided to go forward and build the restaurant. The appellate court also rejected McDonald's vested rights argument, stating that McDonald's went forward at its own risk. Any "construction commenced by the developer prior to issuance of all the necessary permits and prior to a final judicial determination . . . is commenced at his peril." 33 The court further stated that "long ago Justice Holmes remarked: 'Men must turn square corners when they deal with the Government.'" Id.