Posted by: Patricia Salkin | July 17, 2020

Fed. Dist Court NE Grants City’s Motion for Summary Judgement in Equal Protection Class-of-One Claim

This post was authored by Matthew Loescher, Esq.

In 1979, the Brunings purchased property which was zoned for agricultural use, and began renting buildings on the property to various businesses. In 2015, in response to a complaint brought by a neighbor of the Brunings, the City opened an investigation into the Brunings’ property and found that it was in violation of its agricultural-use zoning. The Brunings applied for a variance, but the application was rejected by the City’s Zoning Board of Appeals. The Brunings appealed the decision of the Zoning Board of Appeals to the District Court for Douglas County and the Nebraska Supreme Court, and both courts affirmed the decision of the Zoning Board of Appeals. The Brunings then brought this case, claiming the City’s actions were unconstitutional and should be equitably estopped. The Court granted summary judgment for the City on all but plaintiffs’ class-of-one claim. 

Plaintiff alleged that they were treated differently because the City sent them an email notice giving them five days to vacate their property, whereas the City gave owners of the comparator properties thirty days to cease and desist violative operations. The court rejected this contention, finding that the City had a rational basis to treat the Brunings differently than the owners of the allegedly similarly situated properties. Here, the Brunings remained in violation of zoning ordinances 18 months after the City received complaints about their property, and failed to provide the City with information it requested. As a result, the court held that even if the comparator properties were similarly situated to the Brunings’ property, the City had a rational basis for treating the Brunings differently and the City was entitled to judgment as a matter of law. 

Bruning v City of Omaha, 2020 WL 4015482 (D. NE 7/16/2020)


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