Posted by: Patricia Salkin | March 4, 2021

Fed. Dist. Court of KS Found No Violation of Procedural Due-Process Rights, Substantive Due-Process Rights, and Equal Protection

This post was authored by Olena Botshteyn, Esq.

MOJO Built, LLC (“MOJO”), the plaintiff in this case, sought judgment for violation of its procedural due-process rights, substantive due-process rights, and equal protection after the City of Prairie Village, Kansas (“City”) denied its applications to have two properties rezoned and split into two lots. The court granted the defendant’s motion to dismiss.

MOJO is a property developer. In 2018, MOJO bought a property at 7540 Reinhardt (“7540”) and applied to the City to rezone it and to split it into two 60-foot lots. The City granted the applications. Subsequently, MOJO built two houses on the lots and sold for profit. In April and June 2020, MOJO entered into contracts to purchase two other properties at 7631 and 7632 Reinhardt (“7631” and “7632”). The plan was to construct two residential homes on each property, similarly to MOJO’s 7540 project. MOJO then applied to the City to rezone 7631 and 7632 and to split them into two 60-foot lots. The City’s planning commission recommended approval of the applications, but the mayor and the city council denied, stating that they employed “a broader, more holistic approach to planning in the area”. Believing that the City and its employees acted with prejudice, MOJO commenced this action for violation of its procedural due-process rights, substantive due-process rights, and equal protection.

The court concluded that there was no violation on any of the three counts and dismissed the action. With regard to procedural due process, the court determined that MOJO did not have a protected property interest that implicates due process, because it did not have a “legitimate claim of entitlement to a particular zoning decision”. Since MOJO merely had a right to a particular action or inaction by the city without a guarantee of a particular outcome, there was no property interest implicated. Although 7540 had previously been approved, the court concluded that “the expectation of a favorable outcome is irrelevant”.

Further, with regard to substantive due process, the court concluded that this right was not violated, since there was no arbitrary deprivation of a property right and no outrageous conduct by the city council. MOJO argued that during the meeting, which was conducted over Zoom, one of the members “appeared to be consuming alcoholic beverages as a light-yellow wine in a stemless wine glass,” and two others were reading from documents they prepared in advance. However, the court stated that it cannot infer from such actions that multiple members of the city council were “impaired” to make a decision and that they acted outrageously.

Finally, with regard to the equal protection claim, the court found that MOJO cannot compare its own prior treatment on a different piece of property (7540) to the treatment here, as the standard requires comparison to a third-party treatment in similar circumstances. The court thus granted the City’s motion to dismiss.

Mojo Built, LLC v Prairie Village, 2021 WL 826239 (D. KS 3/4/20201)

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