Posted by: Patricia Salkin | March 31, 2012

Ohio Supreme Court Holds Landowner Lacks Standing to Bring Takings Claim Against Adjacent Municipality

Clifton owns approximately 99 acres of property zoned for agricultural and residential use adjacent to 23 acres of property owned by J&M Precision Machining, Inc. in Clinton and Warren Counties, Ohio.  Clifton had been farming his property since he purchased it in 1993, and claimed he usually made a profit doing so.  

J&M had operated a machine shop on a two-acre, roadside-business-zoned portion of its property since the 1970s; Clifton claimed that, at the time, the machine shop caused no noticeable noise disturbances to his property.  In 1998, Clinton County rezoned eight of J&M’s 23 acres to business industrial and, in 2002, the Village of Blanchester annexed the entire 23-acre property and rezoned the full parcel for general industrial use.  Clifton, whose property is not located in the Village of Blanchester, sued claiming an unconstitutional taking of his property. 

In its initial holdings, the trial court granted summary judgment to the village because it found that Clifton’s property still retained economic value, thus the rezoning change did not result in a total taking of Clifton’s property.  On appeal, the Ohio Court of Appeals reversed in part, determining that the lower court should have applied the partial takings test outlined in Penn Cent. Transp. Co. v. New York, 438 U.S. 104 (1978), and remanded the case for new analysis.  On remand, the village raised the issue of standing, arguing that Clifton did not have standing to bring a takings claim against a nearby municipality of which his property was not a part.  After considering the standing issue on remand, the trial court again found in favor of the village, finding that Clifton did not have standing to bring a takings claim against an adjacent municipality and, even if he had standing, the village’s rezoning decision did not result in a partial taking of his property.  The Appellate Court affirmed.  Clifton appealed. 

The Ohio Supreme Court held that in order for a nonresident, contiguous property owner to have standing to challenge an adjacent government’s action, the nonresident must either have been the target of the regulation, or else must meet the causation and redressability tests laid out in Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555 (1992).  In terms of causation, the court held that “when a government’s taking or regulation of property causes incidental damage to an adjacent by unregulated property, the damage is not attributable to the government actor for the purpose of supporting a taking claim.”  With regard to redressability, the court held that adjacent property owners do not have redressable takings claims where the affected property lies outside the corporate limits of the municipality accused to taking the property.  In other words, the court stated that a municipality’s potential takings liability is limited to properties it is authorized to regulate. 

In this case, the court held that since the Village of Blanchester does not have jurisdiction over Clifton’s property, and since the zoning at issue was directed toward the J&M parcel, not Clifton’s parcel, and since the alleged diminution of value in Clifton’s property was caused by J&M’s use of its property, not by the rezoning action of the village, Clifton lacked standing to bring a takings claim against the village. 

Justice Pfeifer, in a dissenting opinion, raised concerns that this decision may preclude adjoining landowners from ever having standing to bring takings claims against nearby municipalities.  “If a zoning change really does diminish the value of an adjacent property, then it diminishes the value whether the adjacent property is in the same or different political subdivision,” he wrote.  “Why would the law countenance a remedy in one instance but not the other?  All of the parties are located in Ohio.  Ought not the law of Ohio provide a remedy for an aggrieved landowner even if he lives in a different political subdivision from the one whose zoning change diminishes the value of his property?”  The justice charged that the majority’s opinion does not adequately address this issue, and may prevent similarly harmed landowners from redressing their problems in the future. 

Clifton v. Village of Blanchester, 2012 WL 676173 (Ohio 3/1/12) 

The opinion can be accessed at: http://www.sconet.state.oh.us/rod/docs/pdf/0/2012/2012-ohio-780.pdf


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