Posted by: Patricia Salkin | April 4, 2014

NC Appeals Court Holds Enforcement of Zoning Ordinance Against Car Owners Without Any Determination as to the Reason for the Parking of Cars on Lots Did Not Violate Substantive Due Process

Defendant Town of Chapel Hill enacted a zoning ordinance as part of its Land Use Management Ordinance. Defendant’s planning department determined that although “it is not a perfect measure, the number of vehicles parked on a residential lot in the [NNC] is a reasonable approximation of how many people are living at the property.” After conducting a public hearing to address “the community’s concerns about student rental,” the Town Council adopted an amendment to the zoning ordinance that limited the number of cars that may be parked on a residential lot in the NNC district to four cars. Plaintiffs are property owners who rent houses in the NNC district and were cited for violation of the amendment; they do not dispute that their properties were in violation of the ordinance. Plaintiffs asserted that the zoning amendment was “unlawful, ultra vires, and void” and that “its enforcement and application is unreasonable, arbitrary and capricious, and violates Article I § 19 of the North Carolina Constitution and substantive due process[.]” The trial court entered an order granting summary judgment in favor of defendant.

As to the Plaintiff’s substantive due process claim, Plaintiffs’ argument is that an alternative enforcement plan might have been fairer to them. Despite this, the Court of Appeals noted that “[a] duly adopted zoning ordinance is presumed to be valid, and the burden is on the complaining party to show it to be invalid”. Thus in cases such as this, where the most that can be said against such ordinances is that whether it was an unreasonable, arbitrary or unequal exercise of power is fairly debatable, the courts will not interfere. Plaintiffs further contended that the decision of our Supreme Court in Lanvale Properties, LLC v. County of Cabarrus, 366 N.C. 142, 731 S.E.2d 800 (2012), “establishes that the instant parking regulation is not authorized by the general zoning power.” Since the Court did not address a local government’s authority to enact a bona fide zoning ordinance or the requirements of a valid zoning regulation, however, the Court of Appeals concluded that plaintiffs are not entitled to relief on the basis of the holding in Lanvale.

Patmore v Town of Chapel Hill North Carolina, 2014 WL 1365987 (NC App. 4/1/2014)

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