Village of Euclid v. Ambler Realty Co.

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Village of Euclid, Ohio v. Ambler Realty Co.
Seal of the United States Supreme Court.svg
Argued January 27, 1926
Reargued October 12, 1926
Decided November 22, 1926
Full case name Village of Euclid, Ohio, et al. v. Ambler Realty Company
Citations 272 U.S. 365 (more)
47 S. Ct. 114; 71 L. Ed. 303; 1926 U.S. LEXIS 8; 4 Ohio L. Abs. 816; 54 A.L.R. 1016
Prior history Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Ohio
Holding
The Court held that the zoning ordinance was not an unreasonable extension of the village's police power and did not have the character of arbitrary fiat, and thus it was not unconstitutional.
Court membership
Case opinions
Majority Sutherland, joined by Taft, Holmes, Stone, Brandeis, Sanford
Dissent Van Devanter, McReynolds, Butler
Laws applied
U.S. Const.

Village of Euclid, Ohio v. Ambler Realty Co., 272 U.S. 365 (1926), more commonly Euclid v. Ambler, was a United States Supreme Court landmark case[1]argued in 1926. It was the first significant case regarding the relatively new practice of zoning, and served to substantially bolster zoning ordinances in towns nationwide in the United States and in other countries of the world including Canada.

Facts[edit]

Ambler Realty owned 68 acres (0.28 km2) of land in the village of Euclid, a suburb of Cleveland. The village, in an attempt to prevent industrial Cleveland from growing into and subsuming Euclid and prevent the growth of industry which might change the character of the village, developed a zoning ordinance based upon 6 classes of use, 3 classes of height and 4 classes of area. The property in question was divided into three use classes, as well as various height and area classes, thereby hindering Ambler Realty from developing the land for industry. Ambler Realty sued the village, arguing that the zoning ordinance had substantially reduced the value of the land by limiting its use, amounting to a deprivation of Ambler's liberty and property without due process.

Judgment[edit]

Lower Court[edit]

In the lower court, the village of Euclid, Ohio moved to dismiss the complaint entirely, arguing that Ambler Realty had no right to sue in the first place without taking the issue before the Euclid Zoning Board, as required by the zoning ordinance. Euclid was basing this argument on a legal doctrine which has come to be known as the exhaustion of administrative remedies. The court denied this motion. Finding that the zoning ordinance did in fact constitute a taking by Euclid of Ambler's property, the court stated that the ordinance was unconstitutional. Thus there was no reason for the company to abide by the ordinance's requirement. Euclid's motion was denied and the lower court decided in favor of Ambler Realty. Prominent lawyer Newton D. Baker argued the case for Ambler Realty and James Metzenbaum represented Euclid.

Supreme Court[edit]

The Supreme Court agreed with the lower court's denial of the dismissal motion, but overturned the outcome of the case and sided with the Village of Euclid. The Court held that the zoning ordinance was not an unreasonable extension of the village's police power and did not have the character of arbitrary fiat, and thus it was not unconstitutional.

Further, the Court found that Ambler Realty had offered no evidence that the ordinance had in fact had any effect on the value of the property in question, but based their assertions of depreciation on speculation only. The court ruled that speculation was not a valid basis for a claim of takings.

Ambler Realty had argued their case on the basis of the 14th Amendment's due process clause. The Court noted that the challenger in a due process case would have to show that the law in question is discriminatory and has no rational basis. The Court found that Euclid's zoning ordinance in fact did have a rational basis.

Planner and lawyer Alfred Bettman, supported by the Ohio Planning Conference (now APA-Ohio, A Chapter of the American Planning Association), submitted a friend of the court brief on behalf of Euclid, arguing that zoning is a form of nuisance control and therefore a reasonable police power measure.

In short the court ruled that Zoning ordinances, regulations and laws must find their justification in some aspect of police power and asserted for the public welfare. Benefit for the public welfare must be determined in connection with the circumstances, the conditions and the locality of the case.[2][3]

Significance[edit]

Zoning precedent[edit]

At the time of Euclid, zoning was a relatively new concept, and indeed there had been rumblings that it was an unreasonable intrusion into private property rights for a government to restrict how an owner might use property. The court, in finding that there was valid government interest in maintaining the character of a neighborhood and in regulating where certain land uses should occur, allowed for the subsequent explosion in zoning ordinances across the country. The court has never heard a case seeking to overturn Euclid. Today most local governments in the United States have zoning ordinances. The city of Houston, Texas, is the largest unzoned city in the United States.[4] Initiatives to allow zoning in Houston have been proposed and rejected by the voters in 1948, 1962, and 1993.[1]

Less than two years later, the Supreme Court decided Nectow v. City of Cambridge. In Nectow, the Court overturned a zoning ordinance for violating the 14th Amendment due process clause.

Together, the Village of Euclid and Nectow cases formed the basis of Supreme Court authority on zoning law for about 50 years.

Euclid[edit]

The Ambler tract remained undeveloped for 20 years until General Motors built an aircraft plant there during World War II and later a GM Fisher Body plant until the 1970s. The factory has since been vacant but Korean automaker KIA has expressed an interest in the property in recent years.

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ "Village of Euclid v. Ambler Reality Co. - The Encyclopedia of Cleveland History". Encyclopedia of Cleveland History. Encyclopedia of Cleveland History. Retrieved 19 May 2014. 
  2. ^ "Village of Euclid v. Ambler Realty Co". Casebriefs by BloombergLaw. Casebriefs by BloombergLaw. Retrieved 19 May 2014. 
  3. ^ "Village of Euclid v. Ambler Realty Co. Case Brief". 4 Law School. 4 Law School. Retrieved 19 May 2014. 
  4. ^ Reinhold, Robert. "FOCUS: Houston; A Fresh Approach To Zoning". New York Times. Retrieved 2009-03-27.

References[edit]

  • Wolfe, Michael Allan (2008). The Zoning of America: Euclid v. Ambler. Lawrence, University Press of Kansas. ISBN 978-0-7006-1621-3

External links[edit]

  • Text of Village of Euclid v. Ambler Realty Co. , 272 U.S. 365 (1926) is available from:  Findlaw  Justia 

Coordinates: 41°33′57″N 81°32′33″W / 41.565711°N 81.5426°W / 41.565711; -81.5426 (Village of Euclid, Ohio v. Ambler Realty Co.)