Articles Posted in Zoning, Planning & Land Use

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Plaintiffs brought an action against the City of Marietta, Georgia, challenging the validity of its zoning ordinance. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the city and against plaintiffs on all claims except for one plaintiff's claim (Covenant) that the city's ordinance, as amended in November 2004, facially violated the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA), 42 U.S.C. 2000cc, by treating religious assemblies less favorably than non-religious assemblies. The court held that claims seeking injunctive relief were moot in light of the passage of the 2008 Ordinance and dismissed those claims for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. The court held that, to the extent that RLUIPA claims sought damages, they failed on the merits because all damages stemmed from Covenant's inability to build a church in the R-2 residential zone and Covenant was not entitled to build a church in that zone. The court further held that the district court did not err in concluding that the 2004 Ordinance facially violated the equal terms provision of RLUIPA and did not err in awarding nominal damages for this claim. The court finally held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying Covenant's motion to leave to amend the complaint.

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The Georgia Parties, Gwinnett County, Georgia, and the United States Army Corps of Engineers (the Corps) appealed from a grant of summary judgment in this consolidated suit arising from more than 20 years of litigation between the parties. All of the underlying cases related to the Corps' authority to operate the Buford Dam and Lake Lanier, the reservoir it created, for local water supply. On appeal, the parties raised several jurisdictional matters and asserted a number of substantive claims. The court held that the district court erred in finding that it had jurisdiction to hear certain parties because the Corps had not taken final agency action. The court also held that the district court and the Corps erred in concluding that water supply was not an authorized purpose of the Buford Project under the Rivers and Harbors Act (RHA), Pub. L. No. 79-525, 60 Stat. 634. The court also held that the district court erred in finding that the 1956 Act expired after 50 years. The court also provided certain instructions to the Corps on remand and the Corps shall have one year to make a final determination of its authority to operate the Buford Project under the RHA and the Water Supply Act, 43 U.S.C. 390b(a).