Justia U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Zoning, Planning & Land Use

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Plaintiffs filed suit against the City, alleging that the City, acting through it's Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA), violated the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA), 42 U.S.C. 2000cc et seq., by denying plaintiffs' request for a variance to permit a certain property to be used as a church facility. The district court dismissed the complaint with prejudice. The court concluded that plaintiffs failed to state a claim that the BZA’s decision imposed a substantial burden on plaintiffs’ right of religious exercise. The court also concluded that the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying plaintiffs’ request to amend their complaint, because any such amendment would have been futile. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Andon, LLC v. The City of Newport News, VA" on Justia Law

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T-Mobile filed suit under the Telecommunications Act of 1996, 47 U.S.C. 332(c)(7)(B), challenging the Board's denial of T-Mobile's application for permits to build two telecommunications towers in Loudoun County - one disguised as a bell tower and one disguised as a silo on a farm. The district court concluded that the Board improperly denied T-Mobile's application for the silo tower and affirmed the Board's decision denying permits for the bell tower. The court concluded that the Board's decision to deny T-Mobile's Bell Tower Site application was supported by substantial evidence; did not have the effect of prohibiting the provision of personal wireless services in view of the possibility of other alternatives; and was not made on the basis of health concerns about radio frequency emissions. In regards to the Silo Site, the court concluded that while the aesthetic concerns that the Board gave for denying T-Mobile's application were supported by substantial evidence, its decision to base the denial of T-Mobile's application on improper environmental concerns about radio frequency emissions was prohibited by the Act. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment of the district court.View "T-Mobile Northeast LLC v. The Loudoun Cty. Bd." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit challenging his arrests for refusing to obey Officer Early's repeated orders to confine his leafleting to the area designated for protest activities outside the First Mariner Arena in Baltimore. The designated protest area was defined by a written policy of the City and the BCPD. The court held that the policy was facially valid under the First Amendment as a reasonable time, place, and manner restriction. The court found that the district court committed no reversible error as to plaintiff's remaining claims. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment in favor of defendants. View "Ross v. Early" on Justia Law

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This case concerned efforts by the Town of Nags Head, North Carolina, to declare beachfront properties that encroach onto "public trust lands" a nuisance, and regulate them accordingly. In the related appeal of Sansotta v. Town of Nags Head, the district court adjudicated the claims but concluded that it was inappropriate for a "federal court to intervene in such delicate state-law matters," and abstained from decision under Burford v. Sun Oil Co. The court reversed the district court's decision to abstain in this case where resolving the claims in this case was not sufficiently difficult or disruptive of that policy to free the district court from its "unflagging obligation to exercise its jurisdiction." Accordingly, the court remanded for further proceedings. View "Town of Nags Head v. Toloczko" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed suit against the Town after the Town declared plaintiffs' cottages to be in violation of its nuisance ordinance. The cottages were considered nuisances as a result of storm or erosion damage. The court affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment on plaintiffs' procedural due process claims because plaintiffs' procedural due process rights were not violated where the Town never deprived plaintiffs of any property interest; affirmed the grant of summary judgment on plaintiffs' equal protection claims because plaintiffs' equal protection rights were not violated where the Town had a rational basis for its decision to declare plaintiffs' cottages nuisances under the Town's ordinance; and remanded the takings claims based on the court's conclusion that a state and its political subdivisions waived the state-litigation requirement by removing a case to federal court. View "Sansotta v. Town of Nags Head" on Justia Law

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SCV filed suit against the City and its officials alleging that Lexington City Code section 420-205(C) (the "Ordinance), which bans any private access to City-owned flag standards, contravenes the SCV's First Amendment rights and breached a consent decree resolving an earlier lawsuit between SCV and the City. The court concluded there was no legal support for requiring the City to relinquish its control over the flag standards because they are not a traditional public forum; inasmuch as the Ordinance was lawfully enacted to close a designated public forum, the court affirmed the dismissal of the SCV's free speech claim; in regards to the civil contempt claim relating to the Consent Decree, the court agreed with the district court's conclusion that, because there was no constitutional violation posed by the Ordinance, there could be no violation of the Decree; and, because the flag standards are no longer given over to private expression, their use is not governed by the Decree. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment of the district court. View "Sons of Confederate Veterans v. City of Lexington, VA" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, seeking to offer services as a psychic and spiritual counsel in the County of Chesterfield, challenged the application of regulations enacted by the County affecting fortune tellers. The County regulated fortune tellers in four ways, one of which was applicable to all those operating a business in the County, with the others more specific to fortune tellers. The district court considered and rejected plaintiff's claims and plaintiff subsequently appealed. The court held that the First Amendment Free Speech Clause afforded some degree of protection to plaintiff's activities where the County could not establish either premise of its argument that fortune telling was inherently deceptive speech outside the scope of the First Amendment. However, the County's regulations did not abridge plaintiff's First Amendment freedom of speech where the County's regulation of plaintiff's activities fell squarely within the scope of the professional speech doctrine. The court agreed with the district court's conclusion that granting summary judgment to the County on plaintiff's constitutional and statutory religion claims was proper where plaintiff's beliefs comprised a way of life, and not a religious exercise. Finally, plaintiff's Equal Protection argument failed where the court, applying rational basis review, held that the County's regulatory scheme was rationally related to a legitimate government interest. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Moore-King v. County of Chesterfield, VA" on Justia Law

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This case involved the City's adoption of an ordinance that proscribed "soliciting" in certain areas of the City. At issue was whether the ordinance restricted the free speech of individuals who regularly beg in the areas at issue. The court held that plaintiffs had standing to bring this First Amendment suit and that the complaint was improperly dismissed at the pleadings stage. The court found that plaintiffs have asserted a claim that the City enacted a content-based regulation, which was not the least restrictive means of furthering a compelling government interest. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded. View "Clatterbuck v. City of Charlottesville" on Justia Law

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Bethel brought this action asserting that the County's zoning regulations, which prevented Bethel from constructing a church, violated the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA), 42 U.S.C. 2000cc et seq., the United States Constitution, and the Maryland Declaration of Rights. The district court granted summary judgment to the County on all claims. The court concluded that the County had presented no evidence that its interest in preserving the integrity of the rural density transfer zone could not be served by less restrictive means, like a minimum lot-size requirement or an individualized review process. Therefore, the court reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment to the County on Bethel's substantial burden claim. The court affirmed in all other respects and remanded for further proceedings. View "Bethel World Outreach Ministries v. Montgomery County Council" on Justia Law

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The MTA applied to the Board to abandon freight transportation use of a right-of-way and to convert it to a recreational trail, as authorized by the National Trails System Act, 16 U.S.C. 1247. The Board rejected the MTA's application, concluding that instead of assuming full responsibility for legal liability or indemnifying the MTA for any potential liability, the proposed sponsors conditioned their undertakings by subjecting them to sovereign immunity and to future state legislative appropriations. The Board explained that instead of assuming full responsibility, the proposed sponsors offered the possibility of no responsibility. The MTA subsequently filed a petition for review. The court found that the MTA's arguments were unpersuasive, especially in light of its burden to demonstrate that the Board acted arbitrarily and capriciously. Accordingly, the court affirmed the decision of the Board and denied the petition for review. View "Maryland Transit v. Surface Transportation Board" on Justia Law