Justia U.S. 8th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Zoning, Planning & Land Use
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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

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Plaintiff and others filed suit alleging federal and state law claims arising from a nuisance abatement carried out on his land. The district court dismissed the claims based on the doctrine of claim preclusion. The court held that plaintiff's federal action challenging the nuisance abatement was precluded by the summary judgment granted in the Ramsey County District Court and affirmed by the Minnesota Court of Appeals. In this case, the actions involved the same set of factual circumstances, same parties or privies, there was a final judgment on the merits in the prior litigation, and plaintiff had a full and fair opportunity to litigate this matter in the prior action. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Anderson v. City of St. Paul, Minnesota" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs own mineral interests in Chalybeat Springs and granted 21 oil and gas leases based on those interests. EnerQuest and BP America are the lessees. The property interests in Chalybeat, including the leases at issue, are subject to a Unit Agreement that establishes how the oil and gas extracted from certain formations will be divided and provides for a unit operator with the exclusive right to develop the oil and gas resources described in the Unit Agreement. In the late 1990s, PetroQuest became the operator of the Chalybeat Unit. Unhappy with the level of extraction, lessors filed suit against EnerQuest and BP, seeking partial cancellation of the oil and gas leases on the ground that EnerQuest and BP breached implied covenants in the leases to develop the oil and gas minerals. The district court granted the companies’ motion for summary judgment, reasoning that the lessors had not provided EnerQuest and BP with required notice and opportunity to cure a breach. The Eighth Circuit affirmed, rejecting an argument that the plaintiffs’ earlier effort to dissolve the Chalybeat Unit constituted notice. View "Lewis v. Enerquest Oil & Gas, LLC" on Justia Law

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Smith sought a conditional use permit (CUP) to build a 300-foot-tall cellular tower on a Washington County site zoned "Agriculture/Single-Family Residential." There are homes within one-quarter of a mile of the site. The Zoning Code authorizes a CUP upon findings: That the proposed use is compatible with the surrounding area; will not be detrimental to or endanger the public health, safety, morals, comfort or general welfare; and will not be injurious to use and enjoyment of other property in the area for purposes already permitted, nor substantially diminish and impair property values within the area. The Planning Board approved the application. Neighbors appealed to the Quorum Court with arguments focused on "safety," "property values," the tower's "fit" with the area, proximity to their homes, and having purchased their homes specifically because of the surrounding scenery and views. Hearing participants discussed cellular phone reception; potential safety issues, particularly in inclement weather; proximity to residences; and impact on nearby residents' views and property values. The application was rejected. The district court and Eighth Circuit affirmed, rejecting arguments that Washington County failed to provide a legally adequate explanation of its reasons for denial and that the denial was not based on substantial evidence in violation of the Telecommunications Act, 47 U.S.C. 332(c)(7)(B). View "Smith Commc'ns, LLC v. Washington Cnty." on Justia Law

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Hawkes wishes to mine peat from wetland property owned by affiliated companies in northwestern Minnesota. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers issued an Approved Jurisdictional Determination (JD) that the property constitutes “waters of the United States” within the meaning of the Clean Water Act, requiring a permit to discharge dredged or fill materials into the “navigable waters,” 33 U.S.C. 1344(a), 1362(7). The district court dismissed a challenge, holding that an approved JD, though the consummation of the Corps’ jurisdictional decision-making process, was not a “final agency action” within the meaning of the Administrative Procedure Act, 5 U.S.C. 704. While the appeal was pending, a panel of the Fifth Circuit reached the same conclusion. The Eighth Circuit reversed, finding that both courts misapplied the Supreme Court’s 2012 decision, Sackett v. EPA. A “properly pragmatic analysis of ripeness and final agency action principles compels the conclusion that an Approved JD is subject to immediate judicial review. The Corps’s assertion that the Revised JD is merely advisory and has no more effect than an environmental consultant’s opinion ignores reality.” View "Hawkes Co., Inc. v. U.S. Army Corps of Eng'rs" on Justia Law