Brief Fact Summary. Plaintiffs challenged a zoning ordinance which provided for multi-family housing to be built only as part of a planned residential development, which required that multi-family housing include a variety of housing types, such as single-family homes, duplexes, and multi-family structures.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. A successful plaintiff is entitled to relief, which rewards his or her efforts in testing the legality of the ordinance and prevents retributive action by the municipality, such as correcting the illegality.
To forsake a challenger's reasonable development plans after all the time, effort and capital invested in such a challenge is grossly inequitable.View Full Point of Law
Issue. Is the zoning ordinance constitutional?
Held. Yes. The court upholds the zoning ordinance since the effect of the lower court’s decision would leave the town without zoning. However, the court orders the town to remedy the portions of the ordinance, which deal with multi-family housing, and the court granted specific relief to the Plaintiffs, the potential builders. The court affirmed the decision in part, and reversed in part.
The statute, which allows for municipalities to adopt or amend a zoning ordinance requires that such an adoption or amendment be done “for the purpose of promoting the health, safety, or the general welfare of the community.” The court found that the portion of the zoning ordinance which deals with multi-family housing flew in the face of the general welfare condition of the state zoning statute, and that, as applied to this case, the ordinance was an invalid exercise of power delegated to the town.
The effect of the lower court’s ruling is to leave the town without zoning. The ordinance will be allowed to stay in effect for a reasonable time within which the town is ordered to correct the portions of the ordinance regarding multi-family housing.
A successful plaintiff is entitled to relief, which rewards his or her efforts in testing the legality of the ordinance and prevents retributive action by the municipality, such as correcting the illegality. This is a builder’s remedy, and does not benefit the plaintiff.
The builder’s remedy is appropriate in this case, both to compensate the developer who has invested substantial time and resources in pursuing this litigation, and as the most likely means of ensuring that low and moderate income housing is actually built.
Discussion. The result of the court’s action is to give the town an opportunity to revise its ordinance. Specifically, the court’s decision gave Plaintiffs an opportunity to build, which they hade been trying to do for many year