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City of Eastlake v. Forest City Enterprises, Inc

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Citation. 22 Ill.426 U.S. 668, 96 S. Ct. 2358, 49 L. Ed. 2d 132 (1976)

Brief Fact Summary. In this case Respondent sought to have a parcel of property rezoned from “light industrial” to permit the construction of a high-rise multi-family apartment building. The application for rezoning was in the process of approval when the voters of the City of Eastlake amended the city charter to require land use changes to be ratified by 55% of the voters to become effective.

Synopsis of Rule of Law. As a basic instrument of democratic government, the referendum process does not, in itself, violate the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment when applied to a rezoning ordinance.


Facts. In this case Respondent sought to have a parcel of property rezoned from “light industrial” to permit the construction of a high-rise multi-family apartment building. The application for rezoning was in the process of approval when the voters of the City of Eastlake amended the city charter to require land use changes to be ratified by 55% of the voters to become effective. In May 1971, Respondent applied to the City Planning Commission for a zoning change to permit the construction of the apartment building. The Planning Commission recommended the proposed change to the City Council, which under the old procedures could either accept or reject the Planning Commission’s recommendation. In the meantime, by popular vote, the voters of Eastlake voted to amend the city charter to require 55% voter approval in a referendum before any changes can be made to land use. The City Council approved the Planning Commission’s recommendation for reclassification of Respondent’s property. Res
pondent then applied to the Planning Commission for “parking and yard” approval for the proposed building. The Commission rejected the application on the basis that the rezoning had not been submitted to the voters for ratification. Respondent then filed a state court action seeking a declaratory judgment declaring the amended charter provision invalid as an unconstitutional delegation of legislative authority to the people. While the lawsuit was pending, the City Council’s action was submitted to a referendum, but the proposed change fell short of the required 55%. After the election the trial court and the Court of Appeals of Ohio sustained the amended charter provision. The Supreme Court of Ohio reversed by concluding that the enactment of zoning regulations is a legislative function. The Supreme Court of Ohio held that the popular referendum lacked standards to guide the decision of the people and was thus arbitrary and capricious. The City appealed.

Issue. Does the city charter provision requiring proposed land use changes to be ratified by 55% of the voters violate the due process rights of a landowner who applies for a zoning change?

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