Second Circuit Rejects “Class-of-One” Claim Against Town’s Enforcement of Zoning Restrictions

Plaintiff Beard (“Plaintiff”) owned five acres in the Town of Monroe (“Town”), subject to dwelling size and use restrictions, which he used to operate numerous businesses including excavation, trucking and hauling, salvage, loam manufacturing, demolition, and plowing.  Plaintiff also stored the associated heavy vehicles on site.  Plaintiff sued under § 1983 alleging that the Town violated his Fourteenth Amendment rights by enforcing zoning restrictions against him and not others who were allegedly similarly situated. The trial court granted summary judgment for the Town, its Planning and Zoning Commission, and Zoning Enforcement Officer Joseph Chapman (“ZEO”).

Plaintiff’s alleged an Equal Protection claim under a “class-of-one” theory, arguing the Town violated his Fourteenth Amendment rights by prohibiting loam manufacturing on his property while allowing others to do so. However, the record indicated that Plaintiff engaged in a number of non-conforming activities that the other properties did not, such as storing heavy vehicles and conducting excavation, trucking and hauling, salvage, demolition, and snow plowing businesses. Moreover, while the alleged comparable sold compost and mulch, he did so with a permit. Finally, Plaintiff generated significantly more local opposition. In the same vein, while the other comparable was also subject to complaints, they were far fewer in number.

Accordingly, the record demonstrated the properties were not sufficiently similar to find that the Town improperly denied Plaintiff pre-existing use status. As the court failed to find that Plaintiff established a cognizable claim under the Fourteenth Amendment, it did not reach the issue of causation.

The case was Beard v Town of Monroe, 666 Fed.Appx. 62 (2d Cir. 2016).

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