Summary of Village of Euclid v. Ambler Realty Co., U.S. Supreme Ct. (1926)
Parties: Complainant – Appellee – Amber Realty Co. – Owner of a 68 acre tract of land; Appellant – Village – Enacted zoning regulations affecting appellee’s land
Cause of action/remedy sought: The following is an equitable action for was an injunction restraining the enforcement of the ordinances.
Procedural History: In lower court, a motion was made to dismiss the complaint on the ground that the complainant (appellee) did not go to the zoning board for relief as the ordinance stated and so the suit was premature (ripeness issue). The motion was overruled by the lower court. Supreme Court reverses.
Facts: Company owned a 68 acre tract of land in the Village when Village adopted an ordinance establishing a comprehensive zoning plan, based upon 6 classes of use, 3 classes of height and 4 classes of area. Appellee’s land came under U-2, U-3 and U-4 (see P.994), and various H and A requirements. Appellee claims this has substantially reduced the market value of the property by limiting its use.
Appellee claims these are unconstitutional and in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment because it deprives Appellee of liberty and property without due process of law and denies it the equal protection of the law and it offends against certain provisions of the Constitution of the state of Ohio.
Issue(s): Under federal law, does the ordinance establishing the zoning violate the fourteenth amendment (i.e., is the ordinance invalid in that it violates the constitutional protection to the right of property in the appellee) when there are attempted regulations under the guise of the police power, which are unreasonable and confiscatory?
Holding: No. The ordinance must be for the benefit of the public welfare. This is to be determined not by an abstract consideration of the building considered apart but considered in connection with the circumstances and the locality.
Court’s Rationale/Reasoning: First upheld the denial of appellants motion that the suit was premature because company had not yet sought a building permit or apply to the zoning board of appeals for relief.
The line which separates legitimate from illegitimate assumption of power depends on the circumstances and conditions. These ordinances are made for the public welfare and rely on some aspect of police power.
It can not be said that the ordinance passes the bounds of reason and assumes the character of merely arbitrary fiat. Thus, ordinance can not be declared unconstitutional.
Here, Appellee offered no evidence that any specific part of the regulation has actually had any appreciable effect on the value or marketability of the lands. This is speculation and no evidence aside from speculation is present.
The village of Euclid was located near the edge of Cleveland and the ordinances were to prevent the growing of Cleveland into the village. Thus, they enacted a comprehensive and cumulative zoning ordinance.
One way to a constitutional attack is that the gov’t approach is unconstitutional as it applies to that particular person. Here, they attacked it not as it applied to them, but on its face as it applied to everybody.
In this case, we are dealing with a low level of scrutiny (rational basis). If someone claims that another has violated due process and equal protection he has to show there is not a rational basis for the law.
Due Process involves a fundamental interest; if we are talking about equal protection, what would raise the level of scrutiny would be a law that inherently discriminates. You as the challenger, have to show there is no rational basis or governmental interest at stake.
Here the landowner did not win challenge-the landowner did not bring up the fact that he had suffered depreciation of his land, therefore the court should not consider it because it has not received the benefit of the adversarial system.
Possible effects: Strengthens legality of zoning ordinances
Rule: An ordinance under review, as well as all similar laws and regulations, must find their justification in some aspect of the police power, asserted for the public welfare.
Did court avoid issues?: No.
Dicta: Case of first impression.