Posted by: Patricia Salkin | February 7, 2017

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

Plaintiff-appellant Thomas Beard used his five-acre land to operate numerous businesses, including excavation, trucking and hauling, salvage, loam, demolition, and plowing. Beard brought suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging that defendants violated his Equal Protection rights under the Fourteenth Amendment by enforcing zoning restrictions against him while failing to enforce the same restrictions against other individuals who purportedly were similarly situated. In this case, Beard appealed from a judgment, granting summary judgment in favor of defendants-appellees Town of Monroe, its Planning and Zoning Commission, and Zoning Enforcement Officer Joseph Chapman.

Beard brought his Equal Protection claim under a “class-of-one” theory, arguing that the Town violated his Fourteenth Amendment rights by prohibiting loam manufacturing on his property while permitting others, Twombly and Smith, to engage in the same activity. However, the record indicated that Beard engaged in a number of non-conforming activities on his property that Twombly did not engage in on his property, such as storing multiple vehicles over one ton in capacity, and conducting excavation, trucking and hauling, salvage, demolition, and snow plowing businesses. Moreover, even though Twombly sold compost and mulch, he did so with a permit. Additionally, Beard generated significantly more neighborhood opposition than Twombly. Next, while Smith’s neighbor also registered complaints against him, the complaints were not as numerous as those against Beard.

Accordingly, the record demonstrated that Smith and Beard were not sufficiently similar to support a finding that the Town improperly denied pre-existing use status to Beard. Because the court failed to find that Beard established a cognizable claim under the Fourteenth Amendment, it did not reach his second argument on the issue of causation.

Beard v Town of Monroe, 2016 WL 7177758 (2nd Cir. CA 12/9/2016)

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