Articles Posted in Regulatory Takings

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Last week the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals denied an action pursuant to the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (“RLUIPA”) challenging a local law that resulted in a religious school being denied the right to install specific lighting and a sound system for its baseball field. In Marianist Province of the United States; St. John Vianney High School, Inc.  v. City of Kirkwood, the Court held that the local regulations prohibiting spillage of light and sound, beyond certain levels,  into the adjacent neighborhood did not violate RLUIPA.

The high school, which provides religious teachings, has a sports program with a football stadium that contains lighting and a sound system. The baseball stadium did not contain lighting or a sound system.  The local public high school likewise has both football and baseball fields, with the football field having lighting and a sound system and the baseball field lacking both. In 2012 the City adopted local regulations that limited such systems so as to avoid disturbances cause by light spillage and loud sounds into adjacent neighborhoods.

“Vianney began the process of installing lights on its baseball field in late 2014. In 2015, contractors told the school that no lighting configuration could both comply with the lighting regulations and be bright enough to play baseball safely at night. Vianney therefore applied for a variance from the regulations. Kirkwood’s city planner told Vianney it did not need a variance, mistakenly thinking the baseball field already had lights. In October 2015, Vianney submitted a site plan for its improvements to the baseball field, which Kirkwood approved. Vianney then installed the lights at a cost in excess of $235,000. In January 2016, Vianney also installed an updated sound system on its baseball field.

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The Second Circuit Court of Appeals issued a summary order denying an appeal from a decision dismissing the claim of regulatory taking, by a property owner whose property was not placed in any zoning district. In the case of BT Holdings, LLC v Village of Chester, the Circuit Court found that the District Court properly dismissed the claim, pursuant to 42 USC §1983, as there had not been a final determination with respect to whether the property owner could utilize its property.

Plaintiff’s property had been annexed from the Town of Chester to the Village of Chester. After the annexation, the Village of Chester failed to place the property in a zoning district. Due to the lack of zoning designation, the Plaintiff could not apply for site plan or other approvals necessary to develop Plaintiff’s property. As a result, Plaintiff commenced this action claiming a regulatory taking.

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