Justia Zoning, Planning & Land Use Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Constitutional Law
by
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

by
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

by
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

by
The Missouri River, in its natural state, experienced annual flooding that constantly morphed its path and the topography of its floodplain, rendering it unproductive for development. The 1944 Flood Control Act (FCA) authorized the construction of dams to create a reservoir storage system. The FCA required the Army Corps of Engineers to promote navigation and flood control and, secondarily, fish and wildlife conservation. Under the 1945 Bank Stabilization and Navigation Project, the Corps altered the River’s water flow (location, volume, and rate); the floodplain was no longer dynamic by 1980. The Corps' 1979 Master Manual prioritized flood control over recreation and wildlife By 2005, 95 percent of the floodplain was developed for agricultural, urban, and industrial uses. The programs had significant environmental side effects, eliminating fish and bird habitats and interrupting wildlife breeding cycles. In 1986, Congress authorized the Corps to purchase River-adjacent land to recreate lost habitats. The Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) placed several species on the endangered species list. The Corps did not make changes recommended by FWS, concerned about exacerbating flooding. Lawsuits followed. The district court ordered the Corps to revise its Master Manual,.The 2004 Master Manual was intended to restore the River to a more natural state.About 372 plaintiffs who operate River-adjacent farms in six states sued, alleging the 2004 Changes caused frequent and severe flooding on their farms and amounted to permanent, physical takings under the Fifth Amendment. The Claims Court determined there was a taking and awarded compensation for the diminished value of the land but dened damages for lost crops. The Federal Circuit affirmed with respect to the takings claims but vacated the denial of crop damages and a finding that the Government did not causally contribute to 2011 flooding. View "Ideker Farms, Inc. v. United States" on Justia Law

by
The City of San Buenaventura (City) removed a statute of Father Junípero Serra because it is now offensive to significant members of the community. This appeal stems from the denial of the Coalition for Historical Integrity’s (Coalition) writ of mandate requiring the City to restore the statue.   The Second Appellate District affirmed the judgment. The Coalition contends that the removal of the bronze statue requires review under CEQA. Here the 2020 HRG report discusses the history of the statue and the criteria for evaluating its historical significance. Among other matters, the report points out that the bronze replica statue does not meet the 40-year-old threshold required for local designation as a historical landmark. The report constitutes substantial evidence.   Further, the Coalition contends that removal of the bronze statue violates the City’s Specific Plan. The court found the Specific Plan provides that the demolition of a historical resource may require review by the Historic Preservation Committee, the committee that approved removal of the statue. Nothing in the Specific Plan prohibits the destruction or removal of a statue that is listed as a historical resource upon a finding that on reexamination, it, in fact, never had historical value.   Moreover, The Coalition contends that the City failed to follow the procedure set forth in the municipal code for removing landmark status from the statue. But the City found that the bronze statue was never a landmark. That finding is supported by substantial evidence. The code provisions for removing landmark status do not apply. View "Coalition for Historical Integrity v. City of San Buenaventura" on Justia Law

by
Nashville passed a “sidewalk ordinance.” To obtain a building permit, an owner must grant an easement across their land and agree to build a sidewalk on the easement or pay an “in-lieu” fee that Nashville will use to build sidewalks elsewhere.In a challenge to the ordinance under the Fifth Amendment’s Takings Clause, the landowner plaintiffs asked the court to apply the “unconstitutional-conditions” test that the Supreme Court adopted in 1987 to assess conditions on building permits (Nollan v. California Coastal Commission). Nashville argued that the Court has applied Nollan’s test only to ad hoc administrative conditions that zoning officials impose on specific permit applicants—not generally applicable legislative conditions that city councils impose on all permit applicants. For legislative conditions, Nashville argued in favor of the application of the deferential “balancing” test that the Court adopted to assess zoning restrictions in “Penn Central” (1978). The district court granted Nashville summary judgment.The Sixth Circuit reversed, agreeing with the landowners. Nothing in the relevant constitutional text, history, or precedent supports Nashville’s distinction between administrative and legislative conditions. Nollan’s test should apply to both types, including those imposed by the sidewalk ordinance. View "Knight v. e Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County" on Justia Law

by
The owners of a hotel that the City of Boynton Beach declared a “chronic nuisance property” complain that they were deprived of property without due process and that the municipal chronic nuisance property code violates their First Amendment rights and those of their hotel guests. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the City because the City afforded the hotel owners due process and enforcing the municipal code did not violate rights protected by the First Amendment.   The Eleventh Circuit affirmed. The court held that the hotel owners lack prudential standing to bring a First Amendment claim based on the rights of hotel guests, failed to present any evidence that the City otherwise violated the First Amendment, and failed to state a claim under the Fourteenth Amendment. Further, the court explained that the hotel owners’ claim lacks the causal connection between their injury and the third parties’ injuries that must be present for jus tertii standing. Moreover, the court wrote that the hotel owners’ complaint failed to state a cognizable claim. The hotel owners alleged that they were deprived of procedural protections during the administrative proceeding, but they did not allege in their complaint that there was no state process to remedy these procedural defects. View "Mata Chorwadi, Inc., et al. v. City of Boynton Beach" on Justia Law

by
The Upper Skagit Indian Tribe (the Upper Skagit tribe) claimed that the usual and accustomed fishing areas of the Sauk-Suiattle Indian Tribe (the Sauk tribe) under a 1974 decision do not include the Skagit River, and therefore that decision did not authorize the Sauk tribe to open salmon fisheries on that river. The dispute, in this case, relates to the meaning of Finding of Fact 131 in Final Decision I, which defines the Sauk tribe’s U&As   The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court’s summary judgment in favor of the Upper Skagit tribe. The court concluded that the district court intended to omit the Skagit River from the Sauk tribe’s usual and accustomed fishing areas. The panel agreed with the Upper Skagit tribe’s contention that Finding of Fact 131 clearly and unambiguously established Judge Boldt’s intent not to include the Skagit River in the Sauk tribe’s U&As. The panel held that if Judge Boldt intended to include the Skagit River in the U&As of the Sauk tribe, he would have used that specific term, as he did elsewhere. The panel held that the Lane Report, on which Judge Boldt heavily relied, reinforced its conclusion. The panel held that none of the statements undermined its conclusion that Judge Boldt’s intent was clear or showed that he intended to include the Skagit River in the U&As contrary to the plain text of Finding of Fact 131. View "UPPER SKAGIT INDIAN TRIBE, ET AL V. SAUK-SUIATTLE INDIAN TRIBE" on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals reversing a summary judgment granted by the circuit court dismissing the claims brought by Kentucky Concealed Carry Coalition (KC3) alleging that the City of Pikeville, Kentucky and its agents violated Ky. Rev. Stat. 65.870, which generally prohibits the regulation of firearms by local government, holding that KC3 lacked standing to bring this action.KC3, a non-profit Kentucky corporation, alleged that the City's prohibition on firearms within certain City properties constituted unlawful local regulation, in violation of section 65.870. The trial court entered summary judgment in favor of the City and dismissed the complaint. The court of appeals reversed, ruling that the City was not permitted to enforce an informal blanket prohibition on the possession and carrying of firearms upon the properties. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded the matter with instructions to dismiss the action, holding that KC3 failed to establish constitutional standing because it failed to produce sufficient proof of any concrete and particularized injury suffered by its members. View "City of Pikevill v. Ky. Concealed Carry Coalition, Inc." on Justia Law

by
After receiving frequent criticism from tourists and residents alike, the City of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina became concerned that the proliferation of smoke shops and tobacco stores were repelling families from the area due to those stores' merchandise and advertising practices. More specifically, the city was troubled with those shops' sale of sexually explicit items, cannabidiol (CBD)-infused products, and tobacco paraphernalia. In an effort to improve the "family friendly" nature of the downtown area, the city created a zoning overlay district that prohibited the operation of smoke shops and tobacco stores, among others, in the city's downtown. Appellants, nine of the twenty-five affected stores located in the area, were each issued a citation by the city's zoning administrator for failing to comply with the zoning overlay ordinance. Following a complicated legal battle, appellants raised a host of constitutional challenges to the zoning overlay ordinance. The circuit court found the ordinance survived appellants' complaints, and appellants directly appealed that decision to the South Carolina Court. The Supreme Court held that, under its long-standing precedent, the overlay ordinance did not impermissibly spot zone the city's historic downtown area. Additionally, the Court found the overlay ordinance was a constitutional exercise of the city's police powers. The Court therefore affirmed the decision of the circuit court and upheld the validity of the ordinance. View "Ani Creation, Inc., et al. v. City of Myrtle Beach" on Justia Law