Last Friday the United States Supreme Court agreed to take a case from Wisconsin that has implications for takings jurisprudence. The case is Murr v. State of Wisconsin, and the question certified for the Court is “Whether in a regulatory takings case, the ‘parcel as a whole’ concept as described in Penn Central Transportation Company v City of New York, establishes a rule that two legally distinct but commonly owned contiguous parcels must be combined for takings analysis purposes.”
by Hannah Dankbar
McKee Family, LLC and JD McCormick Company, LLC v City of Fitchburg
Wisconsin Court of Appeals, November 5, 2015
The City of Fitchburg rezoned property owned by McKee before McKee was able to apply for a building permit. The rezoning reclassified the property from Planned Development District (PDD), which allows high-density and mixed-use development, to Residential-Medium (R-M) district, which permits lower-density development. McKee argued that McKee had a vested right in the preexisting zoning designation and that the rezoning constituted a taking. The lower court concluded that McKee did not have a vested right in the preexisting zoning classification, and McKee appealed.
In Fitchburg, before a property owner can develop land under a PDD classification they have to go through multiple steps including: submitting a proposed general implementation plan to be approved by the City’s Plan Commission and the Fitchburg Common Council; if approved the property owner submits a specific implementation plan before applying for a building permit. Fitchburg approved the lots in question in 1994 when the McKee’s predecessor owned the lots. In 2008 JD McCormick, working with McKee, submitted the specific implementation plan while two Fitchburg alders petitioned the City to rezone the property. After public hearings, and before reviewing the specific implementation plan, the Council rezoned the property. THe rezoning took effect before any commission review of the specific implementation plan. The Council concluded that the rezoning was “in the best interest of maintaining a stable surrounding neighborhood to reduce the lots.” The primary issue was whether McKee had obtained a vested right in the preexisting zoning designation, despite not being eligible for and not applying for a building permit.
The court concluded that there is no vested right based on Wisconsin’s bright-line “building permit rule.” Wisconsin focuses on building permits and applications for permits to define the point at which a property owner develops a vested interest in the property. Neither McCormick nor McKee ever applied for or received a building permit. McKee argued that Wis. Stat. § 62.23(7) creates private contractual rights for developers, but the Court did not interpret the statute that way. There is nothing in the statute that obligates a municipality to maintain a specified zoning designation. To the contrary the statute authorizes municipalities to amend or repeal zoning designations as long as they follow specific procedures (§62.23(7)(d)(2) and (3)). McKee argued that they made multiple investments in the property without applying for the permit and these investments demonstrate a vested right and a contract with the City. The court rejected this argument in a prior Wisconsin Supreme Court case, and likewise rejected it here. The trial court determination was upheld.
by Hannah Dankbar and Gary Taylor
Rasmuson, et al v. United States
U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, October 5, 2015
Rasmuson and others own land adjacent to three railway corridors in Central Iowa. Pursuant to the National Trail System Act Amendments of 1982, the Surface Transportation Board issued Notices of Interim Trail Use (NITUs) for the corridors. NITUs “preserve established railroad rights-of-ways for future reactivation of rail service” and permit the railroad operator to cease operation without abandoning any “rights-of-way for railroad purposes.” The trial court found that “but for issuance of the NITUs, under Iowa law the railway easements would have reverted back to plaintiff adjacent landowners upon cessation of railroad operations, and plaintiffs would have enjoyed land unencumbered by any easement.” The trial court thus found that a taking occurred, then held a bench trial to determine just compensation. The trial court determined just compensation to be the value of the land as raw land (without any of the railroad’s improvements), and the United States appealed.
A landowner subject to a taking is entitled “to be put in as good a position … as if his property had not been taken.” In the case of an easement, the conventional method of valuation is the difference between the value of the property before and after the government’s easement was imposed. The issue before the Court was a narrow one: Whether, as the government argued, the “before” condition was the property with the physical remnants of the railway’s use (with tracks, ties, earthen embankments, poor soil conditions) or, as the plaintiffs argued, without such physical remnants (raw land pre-railroad development).
The Court concluded that the fair market value of the land “before” the taking was the value including the physical remains of the railway. The “before” condition was the property “before” the issuance of the NITUs. Without the NITUs the land would have returned to the landowners with the physical remains of the railway since the railroad was under no legal obligation to remove the physical remnants of railroad use, and no evidence was introduced that the railroad would have done so on its own. An appraisal of the land to determine just compensation must therefore take into account the remnants of the railway.
The trial court’s decision was vacated and remanded.
by Hannah Dankbar and Gary Taylor
Labrayere v. Bohr Farms
Missouri Supreme Court, April 14, 2015
Multiple landowners filed suit against Cargill Pork LLC and Bohr Farms alleging damages for temporary nuisance, negligence and conspiracy due to odors coming from a concentrated feeding animal operation (CAFO) owned and operated by Bohr Farms. The landowners who filed the complaint claimed that they lost the use and enjoyment of their property. Neither rental value nor medical conditions were issues raised by the landowners in this case. The circuit court found that Bohr Farms was not responsible for paying damages.
In 2011 section 537.296 went into effect. This statute supersedes common law related to actions that result in an alleged nuisance coming from a property that is used primarily for crop or animal production. This statute prohibits non-economic damage recovery for items such as loss of use and enjoyment of property, inconvenience or discomfort that the agricultural nuisance caused, and allows recovery only for a diminished market value of property and documented medical costs. Only a few days after the statute was passed Bohr Farms began their CAFO operation that can feed 4,000 hogs. Bohr owns and operates the CAFO and Cargill owns the hogs. The CAFO includes an on-site sewage disposal system as well as a system for composting deceased hogs. The plaintiffs raised seven constitutional issues. Appellants claimed that section 537.296 is unconstitutional for seven reasons.
- Section 537.296 impermissibly authorized an unconstitutional private taking. Plaintiffs argued that the statute, “effectively provide[s] the right of eminent domain to private companies.” The Court stated that, “The fact that private parties benefit from a taking does not eliminate the public character of the taking so long as there is some benefit to any considerable number of the public.” A use is public if it reasonably likely to create some advantage or benefit for the public. The Court noted that the statute did not authorize any private party to create a nuisance.
- Section 537.296 authorized a taking without requiring just compensation. Under the statute all nuisance claims following the initial temporary nuisance claim are to be considered a permanent nuisance. The plaintiffs claimed that this essentially grants an easement for the respondent to interfere with the full use and enjoyment of their land. The court found this argument was not ripe because the appellants were only seeking relief for a temporary nuisance in this case. The court noted that the statute specifically allowed the recovery of damages for loss in rental value of impacted property when a temporary nuisance was present. That satisfied the constitutionally required just compensation when a temporary nuisance amounts to a temporary taking.
- Section 537.296 violated the plaintiffs’ constitutional right of equal protection. The plaintiffs claimed that the statute creates a suspect class of “rural landowners and residents” and therefore the statute should have to withstand strict scrutiny. Historically, rural landowners have not been oppressed and the statute benefits rural landowners who use their land for agricultural purposes, so there is no suspect class. The argument related to the fundamental right to property conflicts with the established right of the state to confiscate property to “substantially advance a legitimate state interest.” Therefore, the statute only has to withstand the rational basis test. The Court presumes the state has a rational basis for this statute and the appellants had to demonstrate a “clear showing of arbitrariness and irrationality” before the statute can be declared unconstitutional.
- Section 237.296 violates due process. This argument relied on a finding that a fundamental right had been violated, but the Court already determined there was no fundamental right violated.
- Section 537.296 violates separation of powers. The appellants claimed that the statue requiring a person to have “ownership interest” in order to have standing is a judicial decision that the legislature did not have the power to make. Nobody in this case was denied standing because of this, and none of the plaintiffs were injured as a result of this part of the statute. The court will not rule on hypothetical questions of standing.
- Section 537.296 violates the open courts clause. Article I, section 14 of the Missouri Constitution guarantees “the right to pursue in the courts the causes of actions the substantive law recognizes.” The plaintiffs’ asserted that the statute denied access to the court to “lawful possessors and occupiers of land”; however, the plaintiffs did not claim that the statute restricts access to the courts, so they did not have an argument to support this claim.
- Section 537.296 is an unconstitutional special law. Finally, plaintiffs argued that this statute “benefits only the corporate farming industry.” Article III, section 40 of the Missouri Constitution does not allow the legislature to enact “special laws” when a general law will work. Special laws, “includes less than all who are similarly situated… but a law is not a special if it applies to all of the given class alike and the classification is make on a reasonable basis.” The court said that the landowners that can take advantage of the statute could change, as could the land uses. The open-ended classification, the Court noted, was reasonable because it advanced the legitimate state purpose of promoting the agricultural economy.
Plaintiffs argued that, according to a negligence or conspiracy cause of action, they should receive “use and enjoyment” recovery. They also argued that there are not enough facts to demonstrate that Cargill was not vicariously liable for Bohr’s alleged negligence. The statute allows people to recover non-economic “use and enjoyment” damages only if their negligence and conspiracy claims are “independent of a claim of nuisance.” The court found that Appellants’ negligence, conspiracy and vicarious liability claims were not “independent of a claim of nuisance” because those claims were dependent on the nuisance claims.
The ruling of the circuit court was upheld.
by Hannah Dankbar
Irwin v. City of Minot
North Dakota Supreme Court, March 24, 2015
Robert and Donna Irwin own 8.12 acres in Ward County, North Dakota. In 2011 the Souris River was flooding part of Ward County, which resulted in the City of Minot deciding to construct emergency earthen dikes along municipal streets. The City hired a contractor to gather clay to build a dike from Darrell Sedevie, the Irwins’ neighbor. The City contracted with Sedevie for removal of the clay, and paid sixty-five cents per cubic yard for 20,000 cubic yards of clay. The contractors entered the Irwins’ land to access the Sedevie property, removed an undetermined amount of clay and topsoil from both the Sedevie and Irwin properties, and used the materials to construct the emergency dike. Damage to the Irwins’ property included destruction of a cement slab, barn, damage to a fence, and destruction of native prairie grassland. The City did not contract, obtain permission, or pay compensation to the Irwins for removal of the clay from their property.
The Irwins filed a complaint of inverse condemnation against the City, citing Article I Section 16 of the North Dakota Constitution (the state Constitution’s Takings Clause). The Irwins argued that the City took deliberate action to remove soil and damage the property, the clay was removed for public use, the removal of the clay was the proximate cause of the damage to their property, and any defense that the City was acting under its police power or is protected from suit through sovereign immunity is inapplicable. The City moved for summary judgment to dismiss the claim. The City argued that the contractor’s removal of the clay was an exercise of its police power to act in a sudden emergency and did not constitute a taking under eminent domain. The City also argued it was not authorized to compensate the Irwins as a matter of law in exercising its police powers, and is statutorily immune from liability for damages resulting from the contractor’s actions. The District Court found that the City acted under its police power authority during an emergency and not under its eminent domain authority, and therefore was not responsible for compensating the Irwins.
In North Dakota, when the state takes or damages private property without first compensating the owner through eminent domain, the property owner has to take the initiative by raising a claim of inverse condemnation. To establish an inverse condemnation claim, a property owner must prove a public entity took or damaged the owner’s property for a public use and the public use was the proximate cause of the takings or damages. Under common law, however, a public entity can exercise a taking without compensating the owner when acting under police powers. The “doctrine of necessity” operates to protect states from liability “when there is an imminent danger and an actual emergency giving rise to actual necessity.” Under North Dakota legal doctrine, “[t]he State or the municipality may, in the exercise of police power, exact of property owners uncompensated submission of their property in the protection of public health, safety, or morals, but such use or injury of private property under the police power is uncompensated in this State only where such power is exercised to meet sudden emergencies.”
In this instance, the record included evidence that before the flood the City contracted with property owners for clay to construct the dikes, and also that clay was available at other locations around the city. Reviewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the party opposing the motion, a question of fact exists as to whether the imminent danger facing the City gave rise to an actual necessity to take the Irwins’ property. In this case, the North Dakota Supreme Court determined that the district court erred in ordering summary judgment.
by Hannah Dankbar and Gary Taylor
Sommer v Ohio Department of Transportation
Ohio Court of Appeals, Tenth District, December 23, 2014
In 2007 Nick Sommer and Alyssa Birge bought a home in the Tremont neighborhood in Cleveland. In 2010 the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) started construction to replace the “Innerbelt Central Viaduct truss bridge.”
The first phase of the project was to realign the sewer system. This phase of the project ran from September 2010 to July 2011. The construction was coordinated between ODOT and Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District (NEORSD). This phase of construction took place around Sommer’s home and resulted in “construction noise” and the closure of traffic lanes around Sommer’s home. The driving of piles into bedrock for the westbound bridge “create[d] a loud banging sound.” In June 2012 Sommer filed a complaint against ODOT complaining that the construction resulted in “extreme noise, pounding and vibrations *** separate and distinct from that experience by other affected properties,” and causing his home to be uninhabitable. Sommer sought declaration of inverse condemnation, as well as a public and private nuisance. The Court of Claims filed an entry granting ODOT’s motion for summary judgment.
Sommer claimed that the Court of Claims was wrong by (1) not examining their inverse condemnation (takings) claim under the proper legal standard, and (2) granting summary judgment in favor of ODOT on their takings claim.
Sommer argued that the proper analysis for the takings claim was the three-part test set forth by the US Supreme Court in 1978 in Penn Central Transportation Co. v New York:
[w]here a regulation places limitations on land that falls short of elimination all economically beneficial use, a taking nonetheless may have occurred, depending on a complex list of factors including (1) the regulation’s economic effect on the landowner, (2) the extent to which the regulation interferes with reasonable investment-backed expectations, and (3) the character of the government action.”
ODOT countered that because Sommer waited until the appeal to raise this claim, it should not stand. The Court of Appeals agreed, noting that Sommer’s response to ODOT’s summary judgment motion contained no citation to either Penn Central, or to its three-part test. It also noted that the lower court did analyze Sommer’s claim under Ohio state caselaw, specifically a 1966 case that recognized a taking as “any direct encroachment upon land, which subjects it to a public use that excludes or restricts the dominion and control of the owner over it.” The Court of Appeals found no error by the lower court.
The next claim on appeal is that the Court of Claims was wrong to interpret the Ohio law that requires a physical invasion of property or a complete denial of access and that issues of material fact still remain as to whether ODOT substantially interfered with appellants’ use and enjoyment of their property in such a degree as to amount to inverse condemnation. While Sommer complained about how the construction “prohibits you from relaxing completely,” he was never denied access to his property and did not claim any physical damage to his property, prerequisites to an inverse condemnation claim per Ohio caselaw. “An increase in vibration and dust caused by a highway improvement, both from the construction and from the increase in traffic from the expanded highway, is not compensable as a taking.” It is assumed that once the construction is complete Sommer will be able to enjoy his property as he did before the construction.
Finally, among Sommer’s other claims he alleged that “a genuine issue of material fact exists regarding whether the harm suffered by appellants was different in kind than suffered by property owners.” Ohio defines a public nuisance as “an unreasonable interference with a right common to the public.” A private individual does not have standing to claim a public nuisance unless the individual can show that they suffered an injury or damage that was not incurred by the general public. The Court of Appeals reviewed the uncontroverted evidence that the inconveniences experienced by Sommer were also experienced by others in the neighborhood, and concluded that since Sommer failed to show how the harm done to his is different than the harm to others in the neighborhood his claim cannot stand.
by Gary Taylor
Buck’s, Inc. v. City of Omaha
(Nebraska Court of Appeals, November 25, 2014)
Buck’s, Inc. owns and operates a gas station on the northwest corner of the intersection of 144th Street and Stony Brook Boulevard in Omaha. In August 2009, the City eliminated a cut in the median on Stony Brook Boulevard that gave eastbound traffic access to the gas station. No access points to the gas station were eliminated. The city engineer testified that the decision to eliminate the median cut was made to address safety concerns associated with the anticipated increased traffic generated by a new grocery store in the area. The city’s right-of-way manager testified that the City did not acquire any property or property interest from Buck’s for this project, and affirmed that Buck’s had three entrances to its property prior to the project, and continued to have three entrances after project completion.
Buck’s nevertheless brought an inverse condemnation action against the City. A board of appraisers was appointed, and Buck’s was awarded $30,000. Both parties appealed to the district court, which entered summary judgment for the City. Buck’s appealed.
The Nebraska Court of Appeals noted that the right of an owner of property that abuts a street or highway to have ingress and egress by way of the street is a property right in the nature of an easement, and the owner cannot be deprived of such right without due process of law and compensation for loss. The court also noted, however, that “as to damages claimed by reason of a change in the flow of traffic by placing medians in the center of a street, [the damages] result from the exercise of the police power and are noncompensable as being incidental to the doing of a lawful act.” After the median cut was closed, Buck’s still had access to Stony Brook Boulevard. “The fact that left-hand turns are now restricted is but an inconvenience shared with the general public.” The Court of Appeals affirmed the district court.
by Rachel Greifenkamp and Gary Taylor
(Nebraska Supreme Court, March 28, 2014)
The City of Norfolk, Nebraska zoning code includes the following provision with regard to nonconforming uses:
In the event that a nonconforming use is discontinued, or its normal operation stopped, for a period of one year, the use of the same shall thereafter conform to the uses permitted in the district in which it is located.
The Rodehorst Brothers partnerships owns a fourplex in Norfolk an area zoned R-2 for one and two family use. The fourplex is a legal, nonconforming use. In 2010 and 2011 Rodehorst applied for building permits to replace a roof, fix some electrical issues, and remodel the apartments in the building. The first two were granted by the building inspector but the third (apartment remodels) was denied because the inspector concluded that Rodehorst had forfeited its right to continue its nonconforming use of a fourplex because several of the apartments in the building had been unoccupied for more than one year.
Rodehorst appealed the denial of the permit to the City of Norfolk Board of Adjustment (Board), and also requested that they grant a use variance to allow the building to continue operating as a fourplex. Rodehorst argued that simply failing to rent out the apartments did not cause a forfeiture of the right to operate as a fourplex, and that it had been trying to “fix up” the building for years. Rodehorst also argued that it would suffer an undue hardship without the use variance. The City argued that the right to operate the building as a fourplex was forfeited because the apartments were unoccupied for more than one year. The City further argued that the Board did not have authority to grant a use variance because the zoning code defines “variance” as “relief from or variation of the provisions of [the zoning code], other than use regulations, as applied to a specific piece of property, as distinct from rezoning.” The Board agreed with the City on both arguments, and Rodehorst appealed the decision to the district court.
At the district court Rodehorst employed the same arguments but went on to say that the Board’s ruling was an unconstitutional taking. The district court, however, affirmed the Board’s ruling in all respects.
Rodehorst appealed the decision of the District Court to the Nebraska State Supreme Court using the same three arguments as when it appealed to the District Court.
Right to continue nonconforming use. Nebraska Revised Statutes provides that, with regard to nonconforming uses for cities of the first class, “if a nonconforming use is in fact discontinued for a period of twelve months, such right to the nonconforming use shall be forfeited and any future use of the building and premises shall conform to the regulation.” The Supreme Court first noted that the choice of the word “discontinued,” as opposed to “abandoned,” is important. Abandonment requires not only a cessation of the nonconforming use, but also an intent by the user to abandon the nonconforming use. Where a legislature or other zoning authority has used the word “discontinued”…instead of “abandoned” their purpose is ‘to do away with the need to proved intent to abandon.'” This squares with the plain, ordinary meaning of the term “discontinue,” and is consistent with the notion that nonconforming uses are disfavored because they reduce the effectiveness of the zoning ordinance, depress property values, and contribute to the growth of urban blight.
Rodehorst argued that the nature and characteristics of the building control; in other words, that the building is and always was divided into four separate living units. The Court disagreed. After reviewing cases from several other jurisdictions, the Court concluded that
The degree of occupancy is the critical factor in determining whether a multifamily dwelling nonconforming use remains in effect, while the existing characteristics of the building (such as separate units and features) generally go to whether the user intended to abandon the nonconforming use. As noted earlier, intent to abandon is not relevant because [Nebraska] zoning laws speak in terms of discontinuance….Thus, the degree of occupancy of the building is the central inquiry.
Noting that “this is not a situation where the discontinuance was involuntary” but rather that no effort had been made to rent the apartments for a number of years, the Court ruled that “a discontinuance period will run where the landlord did not really try to rent the premises.” Thus, the Court affirmed the district court on this argument.
Authority to grant use variance. Citing the relevant provision of Nebraska Revised Statutes, which allows for the grant of a variance “when by reason of exceptional narrowness, shallowness, or shape of a specific piece of property…or exceptional topographic conditions” the Court denied Rodehorst’s argument for a use variance because the request was based on its desire to continue using its building as a fourplex, not because of any physical characteristic of its property.
Taking. While acknowledging that discontinuance provisions may work a taking in some cases, the Court denied that such a claim could be sustained in this case. Using the three-factor test from Penn Central, the Court concluded that (1) even assuming a 50 percent diminution of value, that level of loss generally does not equate to a regulatory taking; (2) Rodehorst bought the property when it was already a nonconforming use, and thus his reasonable investment-backed expectations should have been that he could continue it as a fourplex only so long as its use as such was not discontinued for a period of one year; and (3) the character of the governmental action – to gradually eliminate nonconforming uses over time – is a recognized good.
by Kaitlin Heinen
Joseph P. Stanislaw v. Thetford Township
(Federal 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, February 20, 2013)
In July 1983, Joseph and Lorraine Stanislaw submitted a “vehicle dealer supplemental location license application” to sell used cars in Thetford Township, Michigan. The township’s zoning ordinance required that automobile sales be conducted inside an enclosure, so the planning commission ordered the Stanislaws to construct such an enclosure in 30 days. In April 1984, a neighbor, Daniel Case, complained about the Stanislaws’ property. So Joseph Stanislaw appeared before the Planning Commission in May 1984 and August 1984 and received approval of a a plan that included an enclosing fence. Thetford Township approved a new zoning ordinance in 1989, and the Stanislaws’ business was grandfathered in as a previously approved non-conforming use.
In September 2005, Case complained to the Township that the Stanislaws’ property was a junk yard. In 2004, Michigan passed an act that required car dealers to obtain “written verification from the appropriate governing or zoning authority that the established place of business meets all applicable municipal and zoning requirements” prior to any license renewal. So in December 2005, Lorraine Stanislaw submitted the necessary form to renew the car dealership’s license. The Thetford Township Building Inspector, Mark Angus, inspected the property before signing. He refused to sign the Stanislaws’ forms concluding that the fence was in poor condition and that the property was “an auto graveyard.”
The Stanislaws submitted the license-renewal form to Michigan anyway. The state ordered the Stanislaws to fix their incomplete application by January 31, 2006. On January 24, 2006, the Stanislaws met with Angus, the Township Supervisor (Luther Hatchett) and the Police Chief (Thomas Kulcher). Lorraine Stanislaw testified that the Township said that they would revisit their application if the fence was restored and the cars were moved out of view. So Angus wrote a letter to the state asking for an extension to allow the Stanislaws more time to comply with the zoning ordinances. Joseph Stanislaw made the repairs to the fence. Hatchett sent Chief Kulcher to inspect the property. Kulcher refused to sign the form because he found that vehicles were still sitting out front on the property.
In February 2006, the Planning Commission passed a motion, requiring the Stanislaws to construct a 6-foot-tall fence on the property. The Stanislaws wanted to appeal this motion to the Zoning Board of Appeals, but Chief Kulcher supposedly told them that they could not. Kulcher denied saying this, testifying that he did not know anything about zoning appeals procedures. The Stanislaws instead filed this action in federal district court; however, the district court determined that it lacked subject-matter jurisdiction to consider the Stanislaws’ claim that the Thetford Township’s decision constituted a taking. This is because the Stanislaws did not give the state court the opportunity to adjudicate the issue of whether or not the State failed to provide just compensation.
The Stanislaws never appealed in state court Angus’ denial or the ZBA’s acceptance of Angus’ denial and order to construct a fence. The Stanislaws partly claim that they failed to the December 2005 ZBA vote because Chief Kulcher had told them that they could not. According to the federal district court, the Stanislaws provided no legal support that this would have excused them from their failure to appeal the ZBA’s decision. “Chief Kulcher is not familiar with appellate zoning procedures; however, the Stanislaws are quite familiar having dealt with the local zoning regulations on their property over the past two decades.”
The 6th Circuit Court agreed with the district court that the Stanislaws’ failed to exhaust their state administrative remedies. “if a State provides an adequate procedure for seeking just compensation, the property owner cannot claim a violation of the Just Compensation Clause until it has used the procedure and been denied just compensation.” The Stanislaws argued that their claim was to be left alone to continue to do what they have been doing to earn a living for decades – not a taking of real estate, but rather their business interests. The court held that the Stanislaws’ claim encompassed “some sort of ill-defined Fifth Amendment takings claim.” The Court disagreed with the assertion that the Stanislaws did not raise a takings claim; and agreed with the district court that the claim was not ripe for federal review.
The Stanislaws’ other claims, according to the Court, were “somewhat jumbled and poorly explained” and “abstractly involved” procedural due process, substantive due process, and equal protection. They did not cite any case law that suggested a hearing would have been required for a decision to sign or not sign the license-approval form. Rather, the Stanislaws “had numerous hearings and opportunities over the course of two decades to remedy their non-conforming use of the property.” If a decision had been made without appropriate process, the correct recourse still would have been first to the state courts, not the federal courts. As for the equal protection claim, The Stanislaws “failed to identify any similarly situated businesses who were actually treated differently,” Thus the 6th Circuit Court affirmed the district court’s judgment.
SCOTUSblog provided good previews of this week’s oral arguments, discussed in this blog on Tuesday, and a post-argument recap of the St. Johns Water Management takings case.