Justia Zoning, Planning & Land Use Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit
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In the case before the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, One Love Housing, LLC, a company that operates a residential sober living home in Anoka, Minnesota, sued the City of Anoka for refusing to grant a waiver from the city's zoning regulations. The regulations permit only a single family or a group of not more than four unrelated persons to reside together in the area where the sober home is located. One Love wanted to accommodate seven unrelated recovering addicts in the home. One Love and two residents of the home alleged that the city violated the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Fair Housing Act by refusing to grant this waiver.The district court granted One Love summary judgment on its claim that the city failed to reasonably accommodate the sober home's request. The court ordered the city to grant the waiver for One Love to house seven unrelated individuals recovering from substance abuse. The city appealed this decision.The United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit reversed the district court's decision and remanded the case for further proceedings. The appellate court held that the district court erred by considering evidence that was not presented to the city council when it denied One Love's request for a waiver. The appellate court also found that the district court erred in granting summary judgment to One Love because there was a genuine dispute over whether the requested accommodation was reasonable and necessary. The court stated that the financial viability of One Love's sober home is relevant only if One Love can prove that the service it offers provides a therapeutic benefit that is necessary for people recovering from alcohol or drug abuse to successfully live in a residential neighborhood without relapsing. The court concluded that there are genuine issues of disputed fact on these issues. The court also declined to rule on One Love's disparate treatment and disparate impact claims, leaving those for the district court to address on remand. View "One Love Housing, LLC v. City of Anoka, MN" on Justia Law

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Alliance Pipeline L.P. (“Alliance”) entered into contracts with four states (“State Agreements”) as well as contracts with individual landowners in order to build a natural gas pipeline. The contracts with landowners provide easements for the pipeline right-of-way. In 2018, some landowners on the pipeline right-of-way filed a class-action lawsuit against Alliance. After the class was certified, Alliance moved to compel arbitration for the approximately 73 percent of plaintiffs whose easements contain arbitration provisions. Alliance appealed, arguing the district court erred by not sending all issues to arbitration for the plaintiffs whose easements contain arbitration provisions.   The Eighth Circuit affirmed in part and reversed in part. The court explained that the district court that the damages issues are subject to arbitration for the plaintiffs whose easements contain an arbitration provision. Plaintiffs make two arguments against sending any issues to arbitration: (1) Plaintiffs’ claims cannot be within the scope of the arbitration provisions because the claims allege lack of compensation for “ongoing yield losses,” not “damages to crops” and (2) Plaintiffs’ claims arise under the State Agreements, which do not have arbitration provisions. The court found the arbitration agreements to be enforceable and to cover all issues. The court held that as to the arbitration class members, the claims should be dismissed without prejudice. As to the members of the class without arbitration provisions, the court saw no reason why these class members cannot proceed with the lawsuit in the normal course at the district court. View "H&T Fair Hills, Ltd. v. Alliance Pipeline L.P." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs own 375 Slane Chapel Road, LLC (“375”), a limited liability company that owns and operates a substantial vacation home adjacent to Table Rock Lake in Stone County, Missouri. When Plaintiffs' personal use of the home declined, 375 applied in October 2020 for a conditional use permit (“CUP”) to rent out the property to short-term renters on platforms such as Airbnb. The Board of Adjustment voted 3-0 to reverse the Planning & Zoning Commission’s decision and deny 375 a CUP. 375 filed separate actions in state and federal court to overturn the Board of Adjustment’s decision. Defendants promptly moved to dismiss this lawsuit, arguing, as relevant here, that 375’s federal claims are “barred by the Younger abstention doctrine.” Invoking Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37 (1971), the district court granted the motion.   The Eighth Circuit reversed, concluding that the district court misinterpreted the “exceptional circumstances” warranting Younger abstention. The court explained that the district court’s definition of Category 3 shares the flaw in relying exclusively on the Middlesex factors identified by the Supreme Court in Sprint -- it “would extend Younger to virtually all parallel state and federal proceedings . . . where a party could identify a plausibly important state interest.” The two cases cited by NOPSI as examples of Category 3 make clear that its focus is institutional -- “the state courts’ ability to perform their judicial functions” -- not simply the State’s interest in enforcing a particular court order. Therefore the district court erred in abstaining under Younger. View "375 Slane Chapel Road, LLC v. Stone County, Missouri" on Justia Law

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The Army Corps of Engineers denied a permit to build student housing on the Russellville property, next to Arkansas Tech University. The land is bordered by two waterways. Downstream from the tract, the Corps maintains the Russellville Dike and Prairie Creek Pumping Station to protect Russellville from flooding by pumping water into the backwaters of the Arkansas River, away from the city. Upstream from the station is a sump, 730 acres of low-lying land that holds water that then flows toward the pumping station, The Corps purchased flowage easements giving it the right to flood the land subject to those easements to a certain elevation. Part of the tract at issue lies within the sump and is subject to an easement, "that no structures for human habitation shall be constructed." The owner proposed four apartment buildings on land subject to the easement.The Eighth Circuit upheld the denial of a permit. It is unlawful for anyone "in any manner whatever [to] impair the usefulness of any . . . work built by the United States . . . to prevent floods" unless the Corps permits it, 33 U.S.C. 408(a). The proposed construction would impair the usefulness of the Corps's pumping station. The Corps found that the structures would result in water velocities and depths that would be "a significant hazard that can deny escape," and "may threaten the lives and security of the people and property in Russellville.” View "Russellville Legends LLC v. United States Army Corps of Engineers" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of the City in an action brought by plaintiffs, challenging its enforcement of the City's zoning regulations against them. Plaintiffs' claims stemmed from the City's enforcement of commercial zoning regulations.Even assuming zoning-enforcement decisions are susceptible to class-of-one challenges, the court concluded that plaintiffs have not shown that the City lacked a rational basis for its differential treatment of plaintiffs and other property owners. In this case, plaintiffs have not shown that they are identical or directly comparable to the comparator property owners in every material respect. The court also concluded that plaintiffs did not present sufficient evidence of affirmative misconduct to withstand summary judgment on their equitable-estoppel claim. View "Bruning v. City of Omaha" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of plaintiff's motion for a preliminary injunction seeking to enjoin defendants from enforcing the City of Davenport's Special Events Policy against him. In this case, plaintiff seeks to protect his right to share his religious messages in public spaces within Davenport. The district court found that the Street Fest was a traditional public forum and that law enforcement's decision to move plaintiff to an adjacent location was likely a content-neutral limitation on the time, place, and manner of his speech.The court concluded that the district court did not err in determining the Special Events Policy was a content-neutral permitting scheme. Furthermore, even if it the court assumed for purposes of this appeal, without deciding, that plaintiff has shown a likelihood of success on the merits, the court found that plaintiff's inability to demonstrate a threat of irreparable harm heavily weighs against granting preliminary injunctive relief. View "Sessler v. City of Davenport" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's 42 U.S.C. 1983 claim, alleging that the County's right-of-way dedication ordinance violates their procedural due process rights. The court concluded that plaintiffs' due process and unconstitutional conditions claims are an impermissible attempt to recast a Takings claim. In this case, plaintiffs claim that the County's dedication rules could result in an exaction, which would require consideration of nexus and proportionality. However, the court concluded that this conflates takings and due process law. The court explained that plaintiffs claim a redundant remedy under the due process clause.The court concluded that the ordinance here promotes the government's interest in providing public roads and was not truly irrational. Furthermore, because plaintiffs received individualized notice and an opportunity to be heard on their variance applications, the County provided sufficient notice and opportunity for a hearing about their proposed uses. View "Pietsch v. Ward County" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment upholding the constitutionality of an Arkansas zoning law that prevents adult-oriented businesses from opening within 1,000 feet of schools and other places frequented by children. The court held that Adam and Eve, an adult toy superstore, has not engaged in speech and therefore cannot state a claim under the First Amendment. In this case, Adam and Eve disavowed any express conduct; cited no authority that selling sexually-oriented devices was speech; and expressly and repeatedly rejected that it was an adult-oriented business similar to those found in prior precedent, each of which engaged in protected speech.The court also held that the zoning law was not unconstitutionally vague and does not violate equal protection. The court held that a plaintiff whose conduct is clearly proscribed cannot raise a successful vagueness claim under the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment for lack of notice, and a substantial portion of Adam and Eve's business involves selling items the statute reaches. Finally, Adam and Eve failed to show that the Act treated it differently than similarly situated entities or lacked a rational basis. View "Adam and Eve Jonesboro, LLC v. Perrin" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit reversed the district court's denial of plaintiff's motion to preliminarily enjoin enforcement of Bel-Nor's Ordinance 983, which restricts the number of signs displayed on private property. The court held that Ordinance 983 is a content based restriction that is not narrowly-tailored to achieve the compelling government interests of government safety and aesthetics. The court held that the ordinance is also facially overbroad; plaintiff was likely to succeed on his First Amendment claim; and the district court erred in denying the motion for a preliminary injunction. Accordingly, the court remanded for further proceedings. View "Willson v. City of Bel-Nor" on Justia Law

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The Eighth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to the City in an action alleging that the City discriminated against plaintiff based on her race when it denied her applications for rezoning to open a beauty salon in a residential neighborhood. The court held that plaintiff's race discrimination claim under the Equal Protection Clause failed because plaintiff failed to produce evidence that the City's decision constituted racial discrimination and the City's interest in preserving the neighborhood's residential character from increased commercialization was supported by the record.In a class-of-one challenge to local zoning decisions, courts are not entitled to review the evidence and reverse the commission merely because a contrary result may be permissible. Instead, the court is authorized only to ascertain whether there has been a transgression upon the property owner's constitutional rights. In this case, the court held that plaintiff's class-of-one discrimination claim failed to meet this standard where she failed to identify how any purported comparators were similarly situated in all material respects. View "Mensie v. City of Little Rock" on Justia Law