Posted by: Patricia Salkin | February 24, 2016

Fed. District Court in CA Finds Owner Successfully Alleged Due Process and Equal Protection Claims Against Town but Takings Claim was not Ripe

Plaintiff, Ronald Shanko, obtained building permits approximately six years ago to begin the construction of a small residential structure on his property on May Hollow Road in Lake County California. The Board of Supervisors held a hearing to discuss the building permits issued for Plaintiff’s home, and Defendant Coel gave false information to the Board of Supervisors by telling them that Plaintiff had built an unapproved “shack” on the property. As a result, the Board of Supervisors refused to renew the building permits and threatened to demolish the structure. The Board of Supervisors demanded that Plaintiff file for new permits and comply with the additional requirement of including a sprinkler system in the structure within thirty days. The Board also told Plaintiff he could not live in a temporary trailer structure while he worked on the project and that the County would bulldoze the temporary structure if Plaintiff did not remove it himself.

Twenty-nine days after the hearing, Defendant Holleran came to inspect the structure and ordered Plaintiff to stop building even though Plaintiff had met the stated requirements imposed by the Board of Supervisors to “show progress.” On November 18, 2014, Defendants gave him a final notification that they were going forward with the abatement and that they intended to bulldoze the building on his property. Plaintiff filed a complaint based on the Defendants’ actions, alleging: unreasonable seizure under the Fourth Amendment, violation of the Just Compensation Clause under the Fifth Amendment, violation of the Due Process Clause and Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Plaintiff also brought a tort claim alleging Defendants intentionally inflicted emotional distress. The Court granted Defendants’ motion to dismiss, concluding that Plaintiff had not pled sufficient facts to demonstrate that his claims were ripe. Plaintiff then filed an amended Complaint.

At the outset, the court noted the Plaintiff’s Fourth Amendment claims were not yet ripe since the Town had not yet seized his property. Similarly, the Plaintiff’s Takings claim was found unripe since the Plaintiff had not alleged that he has sought compensation. Plaintiff next alleged that because other homeowners were given lengthy periods of time to complete the construction of their home and were allowed to live in a trailer or other temporary living quarters during the construction, the County violated his right to equal protection under the Fourteenth Amendment. This claim was found to have been sufficiently stated to overcome the motion to dismiss.

As to the procedural due process claim, Plaintiff alleged a property interest in the structure built on his property pursuant to building permits obtained “approximately six years ago.” He also alleged that the government has threatened to deprive him of that property interest by indicating that they intended to demolish the structure. Moreover, Defendant Holleran’s failure to inspect the premises demonstrated that the Board of Supervisors and the County’s Community Development Department were acting in bad faith and “intended to terminate the building permits regardless of what progress [Plaintiff] made on the structure.” These facts, coupled with his argument that Defendants imposed arbitrary requirements on him, such as the imposition of unreasonable timetables and unnecessary changes in building materials, were sufficient to show a substantive due process claim.

Shanko v. Lake County, 116 F.Supp.3d 1055 (7/27/2015)


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