- Usurping Legislative Power in Virginia. In Virginia, the state Supreme Court has struck down a longstanding arrangement in Albemarle County in which the planning commission, rather than the Board of Zoning Appeals, had been awarding waivers from the zoning code. In the case, brought by an aggrieved landowner who also happens to be a University of Virginia law professor, former magistrate judge and current court reporter for the Virginia Supreme Court, the court applied Dillon's rule in concluding that the state had never expressly authorized local planning boards to override zoning ordinances. Based on the county's reaction, the decision seems to highlight the extent to which local governments are dependent on waivers, variances, zoning modifications and special use permits in administering highly restrictive and inflexible zoning codes (Sinclair v. Cingular).
- Anti-student Zoning in Philadelphia. The Yorktown neighborhood of Philadelphia, immediately adjacent to Temple University, prevailed upon the city to create a special Yorktown Overlay in which "student housing" would no longer be permitted in its single-family zones, notwithstanding that these zones generally permit at least at least three unrelated persons to live together in a single residence. Local property owners challenged the overlay after requests to lease to students were denied by the city, alleging that the law deprived them of their property rights under the 5th and 14th amendments. The Zoning Board upheld the overlay on the ground that students "tend to create traffic, parking and noise problems which derogate from the quality of life of families in the neighborhood," and here, the commonwealth court affirms. This is the first time that I am aware of that a city has taken the bold step of barring a certain class of persons, by name, from a neighborhood (at least since the era of racial zoning). In the past, towns and neighborhoods, more circumspect about their motives, have generally tinkered with unrelated persons limits to achieve similar ends with respect to student renters. The owners apparently intend to appeal. (SFH Properties v. Zoning Board of Adjustment of Philadelphia).
- Challenging Findings of "Blight." Citing property rights principles, the Texas Supreme Court held that an administrative board's finding that a property was a public nuisance did not entitle the city of Dallas to automatically prevail in a takings action brought by the owner of a home demolished by the city. Sadly, it has not been since 1921's Spann v. City of Dallas, a true property rights encomium, that these same principles have appeared in a zoning context. (Dallas v. Stewart).
Spann v. City of Dallas is not available for a direct link, unfortunately, but I have excerpted portions of it in Ever Since Euclid.