Justia U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Zoning, Planning & Land Use
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In 1981, a Georgia federal district court concluded that Atlanta’s zoning regulations for adult businesses were constitutionally overbroad in their entirety and permanently enjoined their enforcement. Atlanta did not appeal. Cheshire operates an Atlanta adult novelty and video store, Tokyo Valentino, and sued, asserting that the definitions of “adult bookstore,” “adult motion picture theater,” “adult mini motion picture theater,” “adult cabaret,” and “adult entertainment establishment” in the current Atlanta City Code are facially overbroad in violation of the First Amendment.On remand, the district court granted Atlanta summary judgment. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed. The district court did not err in providing a narrowing construction of certain terms (the term “patron” in the definitions of “adult motion picture theater” and “adult mini-motion picture theater”) in the challenged provisions. The phrase “intended, designed, or arranged” suggests that the challenged provisions do not apply to isolated or intermittent uses of the property. Cheshire failed to show that any overbreadth in the provisions is “substantial” as required by Supreme Court precedent. The challenged provisions do not purport to ban the activities or conduct they define or describe but are part of a zoning scheme regulating where covered establishments can locate or operate. View "Cheshire Bridge Holdings, LLC, v. City of Atlanta," on Justia Law

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At issue in this case are the terms of a recorded easement that runs with two beachfront lots in Walton County, Florida. After the County enacted an ordinance purporting to establish the public's right to use the dry-sand area of all beaches for recreational purposes, two beachfront property owners filed suit alleging that the ordinance triggered the easement's abandonment clause.The Eleventh Circuit reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of the County, holding that the ordinance triggered the abandonment clause and that no other source of law—Florida common law, separate provisions in the easement, a Walton County resolution, or a consent judgment—forestalls or limits the abandonment clause's operation. Accordingly, the court remanded for further proceedings. View "A Flock of Seagirls LLC v. Walton County Florida" on Justia Law

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In 1994, SGV bought 547 acres in Alabaster for $1.65 million. The master development plan, approved in 1995, zoned the land as R-2 (90-foot wide single-family residences), R-4 (60-foot wide garden homes), and R-7 (townhomes). Most of the development was completed by 2008, except the 142-acre Sector 16, zoned predominantly for R-4 and R-7 with a small part as R-2. In 2011, the city rezoned Sector 16 for R-2 lots only. SGV filed suit under 42 U.S.C. 1983, 1985(3), and 1988, alleging that the rezoning “constitute[d] an unlawful taking” without just compensation and denials of procedural and substantive due process. The court rejected the due process claims. The city objected to evidence of the city’s motive and the “lot method” valuation and argued that the case was not ripe for adjudication, since SGV had not sought variances. The court found that a zoning ordinance was a final matter that could be adjudicated. A jury found that there was a regulatory taking without just compensation; that before the taking, the value of the property was $3,532,849.19; and after the taking, the value of the property was $500,000. The court added prejudgment interest and entered a final judgment of $3,505,030.65. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed, rejecting arguments that the just compensation claim was not ripe, that the district court improperly allowed evidence regarding the city’s motivation for enacting th ordinance, and concerning the admission and exclusion of certain other evidence. View "South Grand View Development Co., Inc. v. City of Alabaster" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, who seeks to knock down his beachfront mansion and to build a new one, filed suit against the town, claiming that the criteria the town's architectural review commission used to deny his building permit violated his First Amendment free speech rights and his Fourteenth Amendment rights to due process and equal protection. In this case, plaintiff wants to knock down his "traditional" beachfront mansion and to build a new one, almost twice its size, in the midcentury modern style. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the town.The Eleventh Circuit concluded that summary judgment was not granted too early and affirmed on the First Amendment claim because there was no great likelihood that some sort of message would be understood by those who viewed plaintiff's new beachfront mansion. The court also affirmed the district court's summary judgment on the Fourteenth Amendment claims because the commission's criteria were not unconstitutionally vague and plaintiff has not presented evidence that the commission applied its criteria differently for him than for other similarly situated mansion-builders. View "Burns v. Town of Palm Beach" on Justia Law

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PBT, on behalf of itself and the owners of the other condominiums, sought an injunction in state court barring the Town from levying a special assessment against their properties. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of the Town's motion for summary judgment on the owners' substantive due process and equal protection claims. In regard to the substantive due process claim, the court concluded that PBT failed to provide evidence showing that the Town lacked a rational basis in enacting the Resolution as a whole. In regard to the equal protection claim, given the relevant differences between the Comparators and the PB Towers, the court concluded that all that PBT has shown is that the Town Council treated dissimilar properties differently. The court concluded that such treatment does not implicate the Equal Protection Clause. Furthermore, even if they were similar, PBT fails to identify any evidence that an objectively reasonable governmental decisionmaker would consider the similarity it proffers.The court also affirmed the Town's motion to dismiss the owners' state law claims. The court explained that the district court was correct to dismiss the state law takings claims asserted in Count III, but erred in dismissing the state law claim alleging an unconstitutional tax. However, the unconstitutional tax claim was properly before the district court only based on supplemental jurisdiction. Because the federal claims were properly dismissed, the district court may decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over this state law claim on remand. Finally, the court concluded that the district court did not abuse its discretion by denying the motion to reconsider. View "PBT Real Estate, LLC v. Town of Palm Beach" on Justia Law

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After the City denied zoning permits to construct a Buddhist meditation and retreat center in a residential area of Mobile, the Association and its incorporators filed suit alleging violations of the Free Exercise and Equal Protection Clauses of the United States Constitution, several provisions of the federal Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA), the Alabama Constitution, and state common-law principles.The Eleventh Circuit held that the district court applied the wrong standard in evaluating plaintiffs' claims under RLUIPA's substantial-burden provision and the Free Exercise Clause, and that the district court should reconsider those claims on remand under the proper standard, but that the district court properly rejected plaintiffs' claims under RLUIPA's equal-terms and nondiscrimination provisions and the Equal Protection Clause. The court also held that the district court misread the Alabama Religious Freedom Amendment (ARFA) and should reconsider plaintiffs' ARFA claim under the court's interpretation, but that the district court correctly rejected plaintiffs' negligent-misrepresentation claim. Therefore, the court vacated in part and remanded for further proceedings. The court affirmed the district court's rejection of plaintiffs' remaining claims. View "Thai Meditation Association of Alabama, Inc. v. City of Mobile" on Justia Law

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Harbourside filed suit against the town, moving for a pre-enforcement preliminary injunction against Ordinance 1-16. The ordinance, among other things, established a two-tiered scheme for the use of amplified sound at non-residential properties and contains a separate section relating to outdoor live musical performances. The district court denied injunctive relief.The Eleventh Circuit applied limited review, without definitively addressing the merits, and affirmed the district court's judgment. The court held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in ruling that Harbourside failed to establish a likelihood of success on its claims that it qualifies as an outdoor venue and that the challenged sections of the Jupiter Code are content-based. View "Harbourside Place, LLC v. Town of Jupiter" on Justia Law

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Tokyo Valentino filed suit against the County, challenging certain business licensing and adult entertainment ordinances, and seeking damages under 42 U.S.C. 1983, as well as declaratory and injunctive relief. At issue in this appeal was the district court's second dismissal of Tokyo Valentino's claims.The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of Tokyo Valentino's claim for compensatory damages relating to the appeal of the ordinances, because Tokyo Valentino's second amended complaint does not contain factual allegations that establish it suffered a cognizable injury in fact for which compensatory damages might be warranted. However, the court reversed the dismissal of Tokyo Valentino's request for a declaratory judgment regarding whether its sale of sexual devices constitutes a lawful prior nonconforming use authorized under the repealed ordinances and whether the new ordinances' failure to include provisions grandfathering in prior lawful uses violates federal and state law. Finally, the court held that the district court abused its discretion by abstaining under Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37, 91 S. Ct. 746 (1971), from hearing Tokyo Valentino's claims stemming from the County's new ordinances. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Tokyo Gwinnett, LLC v. Gwinnett County" on Justia Law

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A fully nude strip club filed suit challenging the administrative action the city had taken against the club, the laws authorizing that action, and ordinances the city later enacted that regulated the fully nude strip club business. The district court dismissed all sixteen claims.The Eleventh Circuit held that counts III through VI failed to state claims and that one of the remaining claims was not ripe. The court affirmed the district court's dismissal of one more of those claims because the club lacked standing to pursue it. However, the court held that the eight remaining appealed claims were ripe for the district court's review. In this case, counts XIII, XIV, and XV assert that the Ordinance was preempted by state and federal law; further factual development cannot assist in resolution of these facial challenges, which raise purely legal issues; and no institutional concerns of the court or the city render the issues unfit for review. Furthermore, the club's as-applied challenges, asserting an unconstitutional burden and tax on speech, an equal protection violation, and a contract clause violation, required no more factual development to be ripe for review. Finally, count XVI, challenging the ordinance under the Fourth Amendment, was also fit for review. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded in part. View "Club Madonna, Inc. v. City of Miami Beach" on Justia Law

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A litigant in this circuit does not have a substantive due process claim under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment when the alleged conduct is the unlawful application of a land-use ordinance. The Eleventh Circuit held in McKinney v. Pate, 20 F.3d 1550 (11th Cir. 1994) (en banc), that executive action never gives rise to a substantive due process claim unless it infringes on a fundamental right. The court held that a land use decision is executive, rather than legislative, action, and did not implicate a fundamental right under the Constitution in this case.The ordinance at issue was Ordinance No. 11-15, which seeks to preserve, protect, and provide for the dedication and/or acquisition of right-of-way and transportation corridors that are necessary to provide future transportation facilities and facility improvements to meet the needs of projected growth. The court held that the application of the Ordinance to Hillcrest did not give rise to a substantive due process claim. Therefore, Hillcrest lacked a viable cause of action and the judgment as a matter of law was appropriate. Accordingly, the court reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment. View "Hillcrest Property, LLP v. Pasco County" on Justia Law