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Tollbrook, LLC v. City of Troy

United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division

January 9, 2018

TOLLBROOK, LLC, Plaintiff,
CITY OF TROY, Defendant.


          MARK A. GOLDSMITH United States District Judge

         This matter is before the Court on Defendant City of Troy's motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) (Dkt. 11). The issues were fully briefed, and a hearing was held on September 19, 2017. For the reasons discussed below, the Court grants Defendant's motion.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff Tollbrook, LLC is the owner of three parcels of property located in Defendant City of Troy.[1] See Compl. ¶ 2 (Dkt. 1). These parcels of land are zoned as one-family residential. Id. ¶ 7. In June 2016, Tollbrook submitted a request to the City to conditionally rezone its property so that it could develop a multi-family housing project; following comments from the City Planning Commission, Tollbrook resubmitted its site plan three times between July 2016 and January 2017. Id. ¶¶ 7-8. Tollbrook submitted its final request on January 30, 2017, following recommendations and requests from the Planning Commission that Tollbrook accepted. Id. ¶ 17.

         The final plan received a unanimous recommendation from the Planning Commission, as well as public support from city management. Id. ¶¶ 21-22.

         The Troy City Council considered the conditional rezoning application on April 10, 2017. Id. ¶ 23. During the public-comment portion of this hearing, there was resounding opposition to the plan. Id. Following the public comments, the City Council denied approval of the conditional rezoning by a vote of 4 to 3. Id. ¶ 24.

         Tollbrook filed suit, claiming that the City Council violated its substantive due process rights through its denial, because the decision was arbitrary and capricious and shocks the conscience, and had no legitimate governmental interest or purpose. Id. ¶¶ 27-33. Plaintiff argues that basing a decision solely on public opinion is unlawful if it fails to advance a legitimate government interest. Id. ¶ 33. Plaintiff also brings a claim under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983 and 1988 based on the same factual pattern, as the Defendant is a government actor. Id. ¶¶ 34-38.

         Troy now seeks dismissal (Dkt. 11), arguing that Tollbrook does not have a constitutionally protected interest in the rezoning of its property, and that, even if it did, the City Council's exercise of its discretion to deny the rezoning was not arbitrary and capricious. Troy also argues that the §1983 and §1988 claim must be dismissed because there is no underlying constitutional violation.


         On a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), “[t]he defendant has the burden of showing that the plaintiff has failed to state a claim for relief.” Directv, Inc. v. Treesh, 487 F.3d 471, 476 (6th Cir. 2007). The motion “should not be granted unless it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief.” Id. The Court must assume that all alleged facts are true, even when their truth is doubtful, and must make all reasonable inferences in favor in of the plaintiff. Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555-556 (2007). The complaint need not contain detailed factual allegations; rather, it only needs enough facts to plausibly suggest illegality. Id. Although the Court is required to assume that the allegations in the complaint are true, the Court is also entitled to “consider materials in addition to the complaint if such materials are public records or are otherwise appropriate for the taking of judicial notice.” New England Health Care Employees Pension Fund v. Ernst & Young, LLP, 336 F.3d 495, 501 (6th Cir. 2003).

         III. ANALYSIS

         A. Due Process Claim

         Tollbrook argues that the City Council's denial of its petition for conditional rezoning violated its due process rights under the 14th Amendment. The power of local governments to zone and control land use is quite broad, though not infinite. See Pearson v City of Grand Blanc, 961 F.2d 1211, 1223 (6th Cir. 1992). The limits are provided, at least in part, by the Due Process Clause. The Sixth Circuit has articulated a two-part test for determining whether a plaintiff can show a substantive due process violation in the context of zoning regulations. Plaintiffs must show “that (1) a constitutionally protected property or liberty interest exists, and (2) the constitutionally protected interest has been deprived through arbitrary and capricious action.” EJS Properties, LLC v. City of Toledo, 698 F.3d 845, 855 (6th Cir. 2012). Thus, a plaintiff claiming a substantive due process violation in the zoning context must plead both prongs to survive the motion-to-dismiss stage.

         i. Constitutionally ...

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