272 U.S. 365 (1926), 31, Village of Euclid v. Ambler Realty Co.

Docket Nº:No. 31
Citation:272 U.S. 365, 47 S.Ct. 114, 71 L.Ed. 303
Party Name:Village of Euclid v. Ambler Realty Co.
Case Date:November 22, 1926
Court:United States Supreme Court

Page 365

272 U.S. 365 (1926)

47 S.Ct. 114, 71 L.Ed. 303

Village of Euclid


Ambler Realty Co.

No. 31

United States Supreme Court

Nov. 22, 1926

Argued January 27, 1926

Reargued October 12, 1926




1. A suit to enjoin the enforcement of a zoning ordinance with respect to the plaintiff's land need not be preceded by any application on his part for a building permit, or for relief under the ordinance from the board which administers it, where the gravamen of the bill is that the ordinance, of its own force, operates unconstitutionally to reduce the value of the land and destroy its marketability, and the attack is not against specific provisions, but against the ordinance in its entirety. P. 386.

2. While the meaning of constitutional guaranties never varies, the scope of their application must expand or contract to meet the new and different conditions which are constantly coming within the field of their operation. P. 386.

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3. The question whether the power exists to forbid the erection of a building of a particular kind or for a particular use, like the question whether a particular thing is a nuisance, is to be determined by considering the building or the thing not abstractly, but in connection with the circumstances and the locality. P. 387.

4. If the validity of the legislative classification for zoning purposes be fairly debatable, the legislative judgment must be allowed to control. P. 388.

5. No serious difference of opinion exists in respect of the validity of laws and regulations fixing the height of buildings within reasonable limits, the character of materials and methods of construction, and the adjoining area which must be left open in order to minimize the danger of fire or collapse, the evils of over-crowding, and the like, and excluding from residential sections offensive trades, industries, and structures likely to create nuisances. P. 388.

6. The same power may be extended to a general exclusion from residential districts of all industrial establishments, though some may not be dangerous or offensive; for the inclusion of a reasonable margin to insure effective enforcement will not put upon a law, otherwise valid, the stamp of invalidity. P. 388.

7. The power to relegate industrial establishments to localities separate from residential sections is not to be denied upon the ground that its exercise will divert a flow of industrial development from the course which it would follow and will thereby injure the complaining land owner. P. 389.

8. The police power supports also, generally speaking, an ordinance forbidding the erection in designated residential districts, of business houses, retail stores and shops, and other like establishments, also of apartment houses in detached-house sections -- since such ordinances, apart from special applications, cannot be declared clearly arbitrary and unreasonable, and without substantial relation to the public health, safety, morals, or general welfare. P. 390.

9. Where an injunction is sought against such an ordinance upon the broad ground that its mere existence and threatened enforcement, by materially and adversely affecting values and curtailing the opportunities of the market, constitute a present and irreparable injury, the court, finding the ordinance in its general scope and dominant features valid, will not scrutinize its provisions sentence by sentence to ascertain by a process of piecemeal dissection whether there may be, here and there, provisions of a minor character, or relating to matters of administration, or not shown

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to contribute to the injury complained of, which, if attacked separately, might not withstand the test of constitutionality. P. 395.

297 F. 307, reversed.

APPEAL from a decree of the District Court enjoining the Village and its Building Inspector from enforcing a zoning ordinance. The suit was brought by an owner of unimproved land within the corporate limits of the village, who sought the relief upon the ground that, because of the building restrictions imposed, the ordinance operated to reduce the normal value of his property and to deprive him of liberty and property without due process of law.

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SUTHERLAND, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE SUTHERLAND delivered the opinion of the Court.

The Village of Euclid is an Ohio municipal corporation. It adjoins and practically is a suburb of the City of Cleveland. Its estimated population is between 5,000 and 10,000, and its area from twelve to fourteen square miles, the greater part of which is farmlands or unimproved acreage. It lies, roughly, in the form of a parallelogram measuring approximately three and one-half miles each way. East and west it is traversed by three principal highways: Euclid Avenue, through the southerly border, St. Clair Avenue, through the central portion, and Lake Shore Boulevard, through the northerly border in close proximity to the shore of Lake Erie. The Nickel Plate railroad lies from 1,500 to 1,800 feet north of Euclid Avenue, and the Lake Shore railroad 1,600 feet farther to the north. The three highways and the two railroads are substantially parallel.

Appellee is the owner of a tract of land containing 68 acres, situated in the westerly end of the village, abutting on Euclid Avenue to the south and the Nickel Plate railroad to the north. Adjoining this tract, both on the east and on the west, there have been laid out restricted residential plats upon which residences have been erected.

On November 13, 1922, an ordinance was adopted by the Village Council establishing a comprehensive zoning plan for regulating and restricting the location of trades,

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industries, apartment houses, two-family houses, single family houses, etc., the lot area to be built upon, the size and height of buildings, etc.

The entire area of the village is divided by the ordinance into six classes of use districts, denominated U-1 to U-6, inclusive; three classes of height districts, denominated H-1 to H-3, inclusive, and four classes of area districts, denominated A-1 to A-4, inclusive. The use districts are classified in respect of the buildings which may be erected within their respective limits, as follows: U-1 is restricted to single family dwellings, public parks, water towers and reservoirs, suburban and interurban electric railway passenger stations and rights of way, and farming, noncommercial greenhouse nurseries and truck gardening; U-2 is extended to include two-family dwellings; U-3 is further extended to include apartment houses, hotels, churches, schools, public libraries, museums, private clubs, community center buildings, hospitals, sanitariums, public playgrounds and recreation buildings, and a city hall and courthouse; U-4 is further extended to include banks, offices, [47 S.Ct. 116] studios, telephone exchanges, fire and police stations, restaurants, theatres and moving picture shows, retail stores and shops, sales offices, sample rooms, wholesale stores for hardware, drugs and groceries, stations for gasoline and oil (not exceeding 1,000 gallons storage) and for ice delivery, skating rinks and dance halls, electric substations, job and newspaper printing, public garages for motor vehicles, stables and wagon sheds (not exceeding five horses, wagons or motor trucks) and distributing stations for central store and commercial enterprises; U-5 is further extended to include billboards and advertising signs (if permitted), warehouses, ice and ice cream manufacturing and cold storage plants, bottling works, milk bottling and central distribution stations, laundries, carpet cleaning, dry cleaning and dyeing establishments,

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blacksmith, horseshoeing, wagon and motor vehicle repair shops, freight stations, street car barns, stables and wagon sheds (for more than five horses, wagons or motor trucks), and wholesale produce markets and salesrooms; U-6 is further extended to include plants for sewage disposal and for producing gas, garbage and refuse incineration, scrap iron, junk, scrap paper and rag storage, aviation fields, cemeteries, crematories, penal and correctional institutions, insane and feeble minded institutions, storage of oil and gasoline (not to exceed 25,000 gallons), and manufacturing and industrial operations of any kind other than, and any public utility not included in, a class U-1, U-2, U-3, U-4 or U-5 use. There is a seventh class of uses which is prohibited altogether.

Class U-1 is the only district in which buildings are restricted to those enumerated. In the other classes, the uses are cumulative; that is to say, uses in class U-2 include those enumerated in the preceding class, U-1; class U-3 includes uses enumerated in the preceding classes, U-2 and U-1, and so on. In addition to the enumerated uses, the ordinance provides for accessory uses, that is, for uses customarily incident to the principal use, such as private garages. Many regulations are provided in respect of such accessory uses.

The height districts are classified as follows: In class H-1, buildings are limited to a height of two and one-half stories or thirty-five feet; in class H-2, to four stories or fifty feet; in class H-3, to eighty feet. To all of these, certain exceptions are made, as in the case of church spires, water tanks, etc.

The classification of area districts is: in A-1 districts, dwellings or apartment houses to accommodate more than one family must have at least 5,000 square feet for interior lots and at least 4,000 square feet for corner lots; in A-2 districts, the area must be at least 2,500 square feet for interior lots, and 2 000 square feet for corner lots; in A-3

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