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Van Sicklen v. Browne

    Brief Fact Summary.

    Plaintiffs sued Defendants, challenging the decision to deny Plaintiffs’ application for a permit to construct an automobile service station in the Highway Service District. The trial court ruled in favor of Defendants. Plaintiffs appeal.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law.

    Zoning ordinances are valid as long as they serve a valid purpose pertaining to a city’s police powers and are not meant primarily to regulate economic competition.

    Facts.

    The city planning commission (Defendants) denied the Van Sicklens’(Plaintiffs) application for a permit to construct an automobile service station in the Highway Service District. Although the proposed use complied with the property’s zoning designation, the city denied the application because there were already enough service stations more logically located at major intersections. In addition, approval would set a precedent that would make it harder to deny other such applications, and approval would establish an unneeded service station too close to a residential area. The stated purpose of the zoning ordinance was to “strengthen and promote development through stability and balance.” Plaintiffs challenged the Defendants’ decision in court, which affirmed the decision of the city’s planning commission. Plaintiffs appealed.

     

    Issue.

    Whether zoning ordinances are valid as long as they serve a valid purpose pertaining to a city’s police powers and are not meant primarily to regulate economic competition.

    Held.

    Yes. The trial court’s ruling is affirmed. Zoning ordinances are valid as long as they serve a valid purpose pertaining to a city’s police powers and are not meant primarily to regulate economic competition.

    Discussion.

    The purpose of a zoning ordinance is to maintain property values and tax revenues, provide social and economic stability, attract business and industry, and generally foster conditions that make a community a pleasant place in which to live and work. Land use and planning decisions will inevitably impact the local economy. Regulating the intensity of land use is a valid purpose of zoning and a valid local concern that implicates health and safety. In this case, limiting the density of automobile service stations is a valid exercise of the police power because having them highly concentrated in a given area is hazardous. Service stations store large amounts of flammable and explosive substances; a glut of them in a given area is understandably undesirable. Moreover, one of the stated purposes of this zoning ordinance is to “strengthen and promote development through stability and balance.” The city, after due consideration, concluded that approval of plaintiff’s proposed use would lead to an undesirable proliferation of a use that is already saturated in the area and that it would result in placing a service station too close to residential properties. This too is a valid exercise of the city’s discretionary authority.


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