Posted by: Patricia Salkin | May 30, 2015

Second Circuit Court of Appeals Denies Class of One Claim due to Lack of Evidence that the Commission Accorded Preferential Treatment to Other Similarly Situated Properties

Appellant Margaret R. Pappas appealed from an order of the district court granting summary judgment in favor of appellees Town of Enfield, Town of Enfield Planning and Zoning Commission, Anthony DiPace, Jeffrey D. Cooper, James A. Hickey, Jr., and Karen Weseliza on Pappas’s class-of-one equal protection claim. Pappas argued that the appellees discriminated against her by denying her subdivision application based on concerns about flooding, traffic safety, neighborhood aesthetics, and community opposition, despite the fact that Pappas’s application conformed with all relevant subdivision regulations, and that the Commission had approved all other applications that conformed with those requirements since 1999. The court reviewed the district court’s grant of summary judgment de novo.

As in all class of one claims, where a plaintiff challenges a zoning decision, that standard requires her to identify comparators who are similarly situated to her with regard to the zoning board’s “principal reasons” for denying the application. Pappas sought to compare her application to numerous others that, like hers, complied with all of the Town of Enfield’s technical requirements for a residential subdivision, but that had won approval from the Commission. However, Pappas failed to introduce any evidence that these comparators were “similarly situated” to hers with regard to any of the considerations that supported the Commission’s denial of her subdivision plan, including its concerns about flooding, traffic safety, neighborhood harmony, or community opposition. The court held that unlike a challenge to the merits of a zoning decision, which requires only evidence that the defendants subjected a plaintiff to unlawful treatment, an equal protection claim requires evidence that the defendants singled out the plaintiff for such treatment among others whom they had no legitimate interest in treating differently. Because Pappas failed to establish any similar situated comparators, the dismissal of her class of one claim was affirmed.

Pappas v Town of Enfield, 2015 WL 2146140 (2nd Cir. 5/8/2015)

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