Justia Zoning, Planning & Land Use Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Constitutional Law
Barlow v. United States
In 1882-1883, the Railway acquired property and constructed the now-abandoned railroad line. In 2008, the Railway filed a notice of exemption from formal abandonment proceedings with the Surface Transportation Board (STB). The Illinois Department of Natural Resources showed interest in railbanking and interim trail use under the 1983 National Trails System Act Amendments, 16 U.S.C. 1247(d). The STB issued a Notice of Interim Trail Use (NITU). The owners of property adjoining the railroad line sued, alleging takings by operation of the Trails Act with respect to 51 parcels; 22 parcels were conveyed by instruments including the words “right of way” (ROW Agreements); three were conveyed by instruments including the words “for railroad purposes” (Purpose Agreements); and three are those for which no instruments were produced.The Claims Court granted the government summary judgment, finding that the Railway held the ROW Agreement and Purpose Agreement parcels in fee simple and that the owners failed to show that they had cognizable property interests in the non-instrument parcels. The Federal Circuit reversed. The court rejected the government’s argument that using the term “right of way” in the ROW Agreements referred to the land conveyed, not a limitation on the interest conveyed. For the Purpose Agreements, the Claims Court mistakenly relied on cases discussing deeds that did not include an expression of purpose in the granting clause. Illinois law indicates that the Railway obtained, at most, an easement over the non-instrument parcels. View "Barlow v. United States" on Justia Law
Van Sant & Co. v. Town of Calhan, et al.
Plaintiff Van Sant & Co. (Van Sant) owned and operated a mobile home park in Calhan, Colorado, for a number of years. In 2018, Van Sant began to publicly explore the possibility of converting its mobile home park to an RV park. In October 2018, Calhan adopted an ordinance that imposed regulations on the development of new RV parks, but also included a grandfather clause that effectively exempted the two existing RV parks in Calhan, one of which was connected to the grandparents of two members of Calhan’s Board of Trustees (Board) who voted in favor of the new RV park regulations. Van Sant subsequently filed suit against Calhan, several members of its Board, the owners of one of the existing RV parks, and other related individuals. asserting antitrust claims under the Sherman Act, as well as substantive due process and equal protection claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The defendants successfully moved for summary judgment. Van Sant appealed, but finding no reversible error, the Tenth Circuit affirmed. View "Van Sant & Co. v. Town of Calhan, et al." on Justia Law
Willow Way, LLC v. Village of Lyons, Illinois
Willow purchased a house that needed repairs. Bids for the work exceeded $100,000. Renovations began in 2017 but soon halted. After several years passed, with the house remaining empty, the Village proposed its demolition as a nuisance. The Village published notice, posted notices on the house, and mailed notice to Willow, which concedes having actual knowledge of the impending demolition. Willow did not respond until the week scheduled for the demolition when its lawyer proposed a meeting. The parcel was sold at auction to satisfy the Village’s lien for demolition expenses.Willow sued under 42 U.S.C. 1983, claiming a taking without compensation. The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment for the Village. Demolition of a dilapidated structure that constitutes a public nuisance is not problematic under the Due Process Clause and does not require compensation. The protection that the federal Constitution offers to property owners is notice and an opportunity for a hearing. The Village gave such a notice to Willow, which did not ask for a hearing. Illinois law offers procedures that are constitutionally adequate; someone wanting to stop a demolition need only file suit in state court, which automatically blocks action until the judge decides whether the building meets the statutory criteria for demolition. The district court was not required to decide a state law inverse-condemnation claim. View "Willow Way, LLC v. Village of Lyons, Illinois" on Justia Law
Stimson Lumber Co. v. United States
In 1907, the then-owner executed the “Stimson deed,” transferring to the Railroad “its successors and assigns, the right to cross said right of way at any point or points where such crossing is desired” the land at issue. POTB later took ownership of the railroad. A 2007 storm caused severe damage to the railroad tracks. POTB did not repair the damage, resulting in the disbandment of the Oregon Tillamook Railroad Authority. POTB, with governmental entities, established the Salmonberry Trail Intergovernmental Agency, to construct “a new multi-use trail” that would “connect to a wide network of existing recreation[al] trails and parks, educational opportunities, and heritage sites” over portions of the railroad line. In 2016, POTB filed a notice of intent to abandon service of the portions of the railroad line at issue with the Surface Transportation Board, which issued a Notice of Interim Trail Use (NITU) allowing interim trail use and railbanking under the National Trails System Act Amendments, 16 U.S.C. 1247(d).The Claims Court and Federal Circuit rejected Stimson’s claim that the creation of the trail constituted a Fifth Amendment taking. Railbanking and interim trail use are within the scope of the easement. Stimson failed to show abandonment for all purposes and had no compensable property interest in the land to which the deed pertained. View "Stimson Lumber Co. v. United States" on Justia Law
Wise Business Forms, Inc. v. Forsyth County, et al.
Wise Business Forms, Inc. (“Wise”) was the nation’s fourth largest printer of business forms, and was headquartered in Forsyth County, Georgia. A 36-inch metal pipe (“Subject Pipe”) ran underneath Wise’s property and had been in place since 1985. Approximately twenty-five feet of the drainage pipe extended into a two-acre tract of land west of Wise’s property (“Corner Tract”). The Corner Tract was undeveloped and forms a natural detention basin into which a large vertical concrete drainage structure with a large stormwater outlet pipe (“Feeder Structure”) was constructed. Wise asserted in its complaint that water from the Feeder Structure on the Corner Tract was designed to flow through the Subject Pipe underneath Wise’s property. The McFarland Parkway Widening Project extended McFarland Road from two lanes to four lanes and was completed in 2000. Wise alleged in its complaint that this project resulted in a substantial increase of the surface and stormwater runoff flowing underneath its property. In 2020, Wise filed a complaint against Forsyth County and the Georgia Department of Transportation (the “DOT”) raising claims for per se taking of Wise’s property, inverse condemnation by permanent nuisance, attorney fees. Wise amended its complaint to add a claim for inverse condemnation by abatable nuisance. The Georgia Supreme Court granted certiorari in this case to clarify the standards for determining when a claim for inverse condemnation by permanent nuisance accrues for purposes of applying the four-year statute of limitation set forth in OCGA § 9-3-30 (a). The Court concluded that, although the Court of Appeals articulated one of the correct standards to apply in determining when the applicable statute of limitation begins to run on a permanent nuisance claim, the Court of Appeals failed to construe the allegations of the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff as the non-moving party; erred in concluding there was only one harm in this case that was “immediately observable” to the plaintiff when the nuisance at issue was completed; and erred in concluding that the statute of limitation had run on the plaintiff’s claim as a matter of law. View "Wise Business Forms, Inc. v. Forsyth County, et al." on Justia Law
Catholic Healthcare International Inc. v. Genoa Charter Township, Michigan
Fillmore County Park in Genoa Charter Township, Michigan, includes a 15-station “Leopold the Lion Reading Trail” with large signs, telling the story. On a wooded 40-acre property a few miles away, Catholic Healthcare created a prayer trail with 14 “Stations of the Cross.” None of the improvements were visible from outside the property. The Township treated the prayer trail as a church building, for which a “special land use” permit was required. At considerable expense, Catholic Healthcare submitted two unsuccessful applications. The Township demanded the removal of the Stations of the Cross, plus a stone altar and mural.Catholic Healthcare sought a preliminary injunction to restore the Stations of the Cross, altar, and mural. The district court twice denied that request, holding that its free-exercise and statutory claims are unripe. The Sixth Circuit reversed. In land-use cases, claims are ripe when the government has adopted a “definitive position” as to “how the regulations at issue apply to the particular land in question.” Here, the Township has uniformly insisted that Catholic Healthcare obtain a special land-use permit and has twice refused to grant a permit. Those events have “inflicted an actual, concrete injury” because the Township has actually forced them to remove the religious displays. Catholic Healthcare is likely to succeed on the merits of its claim under 42 U.S.C. 2000cc(a)(1), the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act. View "Catholic Healthcare International Inc. v. Genoa Charter Township, Michigan" on Justia Law
Republic Building Co., Inc. v. Charter Township of Clinton, Michigan
In 1999, the plaintiffs sought to develop condominiums but needed rezoning approval from the Charter Township of Clinton. After a protracted dispute, the plaintiffs sued the Township in Michigan state court. That court entered a consent judgment that dictated the conditions for rezoning the property and completing the project. Years later, after experiencing several setbacks, the plaintiffs sought to amend the consent judgment, but the Township refused.The plaintiffs then filed suit in federal court, alleging several constitutional violations and a breach-of-contract claim. The Sixth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the suit. The consent judgment contains a “retaining-jurisdiction” provision providing Macomb County Circuit Court jurisdiction over its interpretation and enforcement. A separate lawsuit filed in federal district court would constitute a collateral attack on the consent judgment, requiring the district court in some way to interpret or enforce it. All of plaintiffs’ alleged constitutional violations stem from the Township’s alleged refusal to “honor its obligations under the Consent Judgment to allow plaintiffs to develop the Subject Property.” View "Republic Building Co., Inc. v. Charter Township of Clinton, Michigan" on Justia Law
International Outdoor, Inc. v. City of Troy
International sought permission to erect two two-sided billboards in the City of Troy. These billboards were to be 14 by 48 feet in area and 70 feet in height when mounted; they did not conform to height, size, and setback requirements in the Ordinance. After the City denied its permit application and request for a variance, International sued, citing the First Amendment and arguing that the Ordinance’s variance procedure imposed an invalid prior restraint and that its permit exceptions were content-based restrictions on free speech. The Sixth Circuit affirmed summary judgment to the City on International’s prior-restraint claim but remanded for the court to consider whether the Ordinance, with the permit exceptions, survived strict scrutiny.The district court held that the permitting requirements, with the content-based exceptions. did not survive strict scrutiny but that the permit exceptions are severable, leaving intact the Ordinance’s height, size, and setback requirements. The Sixth Circuit affirmed. International’s proposed billboards do not satisfy those valid, content-neutral standards, View "International Outdoor, Inc. v. City of Troy" on Justia Law
United Neighborhoods for L.A. v. City of L.A.
The City of Los Angeles (the City) approved a project at 1719-1731 North Whitley Avenue in Hollywood (the Project) that would replace 40 apartments subject to the City’s rent stabilization ordinance (RSO) with a hotel. The City determined the Project was exempt from review under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) pursuant to CEQA Guidelines relating to certain development projects. The relevant guideline addresses what is often referred to as the “infill” exemption or the “Class 32” exemption. Respondent United Neighborhoods for Los Angeles (United Neighborhoods) sought a writ of mandate in the Los Angeles Superior Court, arguing, among other things, that the in-fill exemption does not apply because the Project is not consistent with a General Plan policy concerning the preservation of affordable housing. The trial court granted the writ, effectively halting the Project until the City was to find the Project is consistent with that policy or 148-159 undertakes CEQA review. The City and real parties in interest appeal. The Second Appellate District affirmed the order granting the petition for writ of mandate. The court explained that the City’s suggestion that the Project’s consistency with the Framework Element implies consistency “with the entirety of the General Plan” because of the Framework Element’s foundational role assumes, contrary to authority, the Framework Element stands in perfect harmony with the General Plan. However, the court explained that although it affirms the trial court, it does not suggest that the City was necessarily required to make formal findings that Housing Element policies are outweighed by competing policies favoring the Project. View "United Neighborhoods for L.A. v. City of L.A." on Justia Law
Marfil v. City of New Braunfels
Plaintiffs appealed the Rule 12(b)(6) dismissal of their complaint, alleging that the City of New Braunfels’s zoning regulation banning short-term rentals of residential properties in certain areas of the city is unconstitutional. The district court ordered dismissal. The Fifth Circuit vacated and remanded. The court held that Plaintiffs are entitled to engage in discovery in an attempt to surmount the currently high bar for challenging local zoning ordinances under the Constitution. View "Marfil v. City of New Braunfels" on Justia Law