Flora Realty & Inv. Co. v. City of Ladue

Decision Date11 February 1952
Docket NumberNo. 42103,42103
Citation362 Mo. 1025,246 S.W.2d 771
CourtMissouri Supreme Court

Victor Packman, St. Louis, for appellant, Irl B. Baris, Curtis L. Mann, St. Louis, of counsel.

J. H. Cunningham, Jr., St. Louis, for City of Ladue, respondent, Willson, Cunningham & McClellan, St. Louis, of counsel.

Thomas Rowe Schwarz, St. Louis, amicus curiae.

Don O. Russell, St. Louis, amicus curiae for Village of Huntleigh.

DALTON, Judge.

Action in equity to have zoning ordinance No. 282 of the city of Ladue declared unconstitutional and void insofar as it restricts the use of plaintiff's property. Plaintiff is the owner of approximately 104 acres of real estate (acquired in 1911) in said city and the zoning ordinance placed this property in the 'A' three acre minimum area one family residence district, wherein institutional use is forbidden except by special permit, as provided in said ordinance. Plaintiff charged that the ordinance, insofar as it classified plaintiff's property in District 'A' and restricted the use thereof, was unreasonable, arbitrary, discriminatory, void and unconstitutional; that the classification of plaintiff's property in District 'A' and the restrictions on use and area imposed thereby were 'without relationship to the needs of the health, safety, morals and general welfare of citizenry (present and future) of Ladue'; that the classification and restrictions adversely affected the marketability and value of plaintiff's property, and that under said ordinance plaintiff's property was taken and damaged without compensation and without due process of law. After a hearing, the trial court found the issues for defendant and dismissed plaintiff's petition. Plaintiff has appealed.

Respondent is a municipal corporation, duly organized and existing under the laws of this state and is a city of the fourth class, located in St. Louis county. It was formed in 1936 by the consolidation of three villages, Deer Creek, Ladue and McKnight. Appellant's real estate is located in the southwest section of the city a short distance south of Litzinger Road and between Lindberg Boulevard and Warson Road. It fronts 1,676 feet on Lindberg and about 800 feet on Warson. On its south and west boundaries it adjoins Huntleigh Village, which also has 3 acre minimum area one family residence zoning restrictions. Appellant's property is completely surrounded on all sides by real estate similarly zoned and restricted.

The eastern portion of appellant's property (approximately 54 acres) was in the village of Deer Creek, which in 1934 adopted a zoning ordinance with 3 acre minimum area one family residence restrictions. After the consolidation, the city of Ladue in 1938 adopted a zoning ordinance and the 3 acre minimum area one family residence restrictions as to this portion of appellant's property were continued in force. In November 1946, that part of appellant's property then outside of the city of Ladue was subjected to a county zoning order providing for one acre minimum area one family residence use and allowing institutional use. In November 1947, the city of Ladue extended its western boundary line to Lindberg Boulevard and its south boundary to the corporate limits of Huntleigh Village and, in so doing, annexed the remaining portion of appellant's property. In July 1948, the 3 acre minimum area one family residence restrictions were extended by an amended ordinance to cover the annexed portion of appellant's property. So far as the record shows no objections had theretofore been made to the 3 acre minimum area one family residence restrictions previously imposed on the eastern part of appellant's property. This action was instituted in November 1948.

By the terms of ordinance No. 282 all land embraced in the city limits is divided into seven districts. The ordinance places appellant's property in District 'A', subject to use and area limitations, to wit, for residential purposes with a minimum of 3 acres per family. The minimum area per family for District 'B' is 1.8 acres, for District 'C' 30,000 square feet (approximately 3/4 of an acre), for District 'D' 15,000 square feet, for District 'E' 10,000 square feet and, in District 'F' a family may dwell on the second floor of any commercial structure on a lot fronting 25 feet or more on a street even though the lot contains less than 10,000 square feet. Schools, churches and institutions of an educational, religious or philanthropic nature are only permitted in 'D' and 'E' residence districts, 'F' (Commercial) and 'G' (Industrial) districts, except by special permit governed by procedure outlined in Section 8 of the ordinance.

Appellant's evidence tended to show that approximately one hundred acres of its property is unimproved. 'It is gently rolling in spots and it has an elevated eminence throughout its area' with the grade sloping 'perhaps not too gently' down from Lindberg and Warson Roads. The best use of the property would be for residential purposes on one acre or less and it could very well be used for institutional purposes. The most marketable and most advantageous way to dispose of it to produce the greatest good would be to subdivide it into parcels of one acre or less. Real estate in the Village of Frontenac, which lies on the west side of Lindberg Boulevard and immediately to the north of the north line of appellant's property, is zoned for one acre residence use and the real estate east of Lindberg in Ladue and north of Litzinger is developed on one acre or less though zoned for 1.8 acres. It is possible to isolate a home on one acre or less. One acre is plenty to afford sufficient protection, since the average 7, 8, or 9 room house has about three thousand square feet of floor space and ten to fifteen times that area surrounding the house would be plenty of space for sunshine and air. About 20% of purchasers buy more than one lot. If more area is desired it may be purchased. In many areas in the city of Ladue septic tanks are considered safe and permissible as far as health is concerned. On the property south of Litzinger, between Warson and Lindberg the back ends of larger lots have grown up wild, as wasteland. Appellant's property is of sufficient area to lend itself very well to making its own neighborhood. Under good planning you can make a community out of 20 acres. It is possible to run roads from Lindberg east into appellant's property without servicing from Warson and Litzinger. Lindberg is a national highway carrying a lot of traffic. It could easily handle the traffic of home owners on 3/4 acre lots and 'quite a few' entrances could be made from appellant's property into Lindberg Boulevard. There is no practical reason that the area fronting on Lindberg couldn't be arranged for traffic entering and leaving by the west. Eighty homes or so would not add to the load on Warson and Litzinger Roads so as to create congestion. Litzinger could be widened and improved. Appellant's property is large enough to be subdivided into several distinct types of property all independent of each other. There is a sanitary sewer is adequate it Road for some distance bordering appellant's property. If the sewer is adequate it wouldn't make any difference if there were 100 families on plaintiff's tract. There would be little difference in the school facilities required. The 3 acre minimum zoning restriction definitely and adversely affects the value of appellant's property and takes away about $800 per acre of its value. The property under 3 acre zoning is worth not more than $1,200 per acre in bulk. There is much more 3 acre zoned land in the vicinity than is being absorbed or will be absorbed for quite some time. There is a lot of vacant property, appellant's property will be very difficult to sell subject to 3 acre zoning and it couldn't be sold from a practical standpoint. Three acre and larger developments to the west in Huntleigh Village have been very slow and have not been sold out or built up in 13 or 14 years. A fifteen acre tract at the southeast corner of the intersection of Lindberg and Litzinger and a ten acre tract further east, both between appellant's property and Litzinger Road are vacant and unimproved. The effect of a development comprising one acre or less residence lots would not hurt the surrounding property but would probably be a benefit, because the neighborhood was being developed. If the 104 acres were permitted to be sold in 3/4 acre residence tracts or for institutional purposes it could be sold profitably. If platted and sold in 3 acre tracts it would take so long in marketing that it would be a loss to the organization handling the development.

There was evidence that appellant's land was worth $2,500 per acre with one acre zoning, but not worth one-third of that if it had to be used subject to the 3 acre restriction. It is not worth over $1,000 to $1,100 per acre under present zoning, according to other witnesses. There are institutions and schools in Ladue which do not injure adjacent high grade developments. The 3 acre minimum area restrictions and the limitations on the possibility of putting any part of the property to institutional use are a distinct detriment to the marketability and value of appellant's property. If zoned into 3/4 acre tracts or available for institutional purposes it would be worth $2,500 per acre to a wholesale buyer, but a wholesale buyer could not handle it profitably with present restrictions. Smaller parcels for residential use would command a higher price and be more salable because the ordinary buyer is not interested in a parcel larger than that which is adequate for a proper home site. The cost of a home site is increased when the least a person can buy in the area is 3 acres, as distinguished from a smaller parcel. The development of appellant's property into 3/4 acre lots and part...

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