Furlong Companies v. City of Kansas City, No. SC 86741.

CourtMissouri Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtWilliam Ray Price, Jr.
Citation189 S.W.3d 157
Docket NumberNo. SC 86741.
Decision Date21 March 2006
PartiesFURLONG COMPANIES, INC., Respondent, v. CITY OF KANSAS CITY, Missouri, Appellant.

Page 157

189 S.W.3d 157
FURLONG COMPANIES, INC., Respondent,
v.
CITY OF KANSAS CITY, Missouri, Appellant.
No. SC 86741.
Supreme Court of Missouri, En Banc.
March 21, 2006.

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Douglas M. McMillan, Galen Beaufort, Kansas City, for appellant.

Robert A. Horn, K. Christopher Jayaram, Kansas City, for respondent.

Paul A. Campo, Lee's Summit, Stephen P. Chinn, Stinson Morrison Hecker LLP, Kansas City, amicus curiae.

WILLIAM RAY PRICE, JR., Judge.


I. Introduction

The City of Kansas City, Missouri, appeals from a judgment in mandamus directing that it grant a preliminary plat to Furlong Companies, Inc. and awarding actual damages of $224,871.00 and attorney's fees in the amount of $148,435.20 against the city under 42 U.S.C. section 1983 arising from the denial of the plat. The city complains that the trial court improperly engaged in de novo review applicable to noncontested case matters under the Missouri Administrative Procedure Act. Section 536.150.1 The city contends that the review should have been limited to the record before the city council because the proceeding was one in mandamus. The city also contends that the evidence was not sufficient to support the 42 U.S.C. section 1983 judgment against it.

The trial court's judgment granting mandamus and awarding actual damages and attorney's fees is affirmed as modified.

II. Facts

Furlong owned 2.76 acres of real property located in Kansas City, Jackson County, Missouri, on the north side of Red Bridge Road near Holmes Road. The property is located in an area that is zoned for intermediate business, high buildings. Furlong intended to subdivide the land into three lots and develop it for commercial use, with the land ultimately to contain two fast food restaurants and a car wash. Furlong

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purchased the property largely because of the established favorable zoning, which would allow for the intended uses without the difficulty of rezoning.

Furlong's plan for development of the land was to first construct a car wash and, once the land was finally platted and properly subdivided, sell or lease the other two tracts of land for the construction of fast food restaurants. The proceeds from the sale or lease of the subdivided tracts would then be used to repay or offset Furlong's purchase and construction loans. Prior to completing the platting process, Furlong entered into a contract to sell one of the tracts to a developer for the construction of a Wendy's restaurant and entered into a contract to lease the other tract to a developer for the construction of a Sonic drive-in. The terms of these contracts required that the land be properly and finally platted and subdivided before construction.

On October 1, 1999, Furlong filed an application for approval of a preliminary plat for the property with the city. On November 3, 1999, Furlong and its engineers met with the city's plats review committee to receive comments on the preliminary plat. The committee reviewed Furlong's application and suggested certain conditions that needed to be met prior to approval. On December 7, 1999, at a public hearing, city staff recommended that the city plan commission approve the preliminary plat application subject to the conditions. Furlong agreed to all of the conditions of approval set forth by city staff. Notwithstanding the city staff's recommendation, the commission voted to deny Furlong's preliminary plat application. The commission did not issue findings of fact and conclusions of law as to why Furlong's application was denied.

City staff told Furlong that they could not discuss the denial of the application "for fear of litigation." Furlong attempted to submit a revised preliminary plat reflecting compliance with the conditions, but city staff refused to accept it. Furlong then requested that the plat application be submitted to the city council. On February 3, 2000, a proposed ordinance reflecting Furlong's preliminary plat application was introduced to the city council for first reading.

On March 1, 8, 15, and 29 of 2000, the Planning, Zoning & Economic Development Committee (the "P & Z committee"), a subcommittee of the full city council, held public hearings regarding approval of Furlong's preliminary plat. During the course of those hearings, the P & Z committee heard comments from area residents both in favor of and in opposition to the plat application. The city also requested a traffic study to analyze the effect of Furlong's proposed plat on the surrounding area. Furlong complied with the traffic study request. The study ultimately concluded that Furlong's plat would have little impact on the existing traffic system.

At the March 15, 2000, hearing the city requested more time and information regarding the traffic study. On March 29, 2000, Furlong provided the P & Z committee with a revised, more comprehensive traffic study, which also concluded that Furlong's proposed plat would have little impact on traffic in the surrounding area. At the March 29 meeting the P & Z committee voted the matter "off the docket," meaning that it would not be reviewed again for up to six months.

On April 13, 2000, the chairman of the P & Z committee called Furlong's preliminary plat ordinance out of committee for docketing before the entire city council. The chairman stated that the city's legal counsel had attended a closed session and advised that there was no legal basis for rejecting Furlong's application. On May 4, 2000, the city council voted not to approve

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Furlong's preliminary plat by a vote of 9 to 4. Again, no findings of fact or conclusions of law were issued in regard to the city's denial of Furlong's preliminary plat.

Furlong filed suit against the city on May 9, 2000, seeking an order of mandamus compelling the city to approve its plat application and also seeking damages under 42 U.S.C. section 1983. After hearing evidence on Furlong's mandamus claim, the trial court entered an order of mandamus against the city on November 29, 2000, compelling the city to approve Furlong's plat application immediately and without undue delay. In so doing, the trial court expressly found that the city's action in denying Furlong's preliminary plat application was unlawful, unreasonable, arbitrary, and capricious. After the entry of the mandamus order, Furlong moved forward with its development plans. Today, the property has been completely developed and contains a car wash, a Wendy's restaurant, and a Sonic drive-in.

Subsequent to the mandamus trial, the trial court heard evidence on Furlong's additional claim for damages under 42 U.S.C. section 1983. The trial court found "the City's conduct to be more than a mere violation of the law but that the action of the City rose to the level of truly irrational." The trial court awarded Furlong $224,871.00 in actual damages and $148,435.20 for costs and attorney's fees. The city appeals.

III. Points of Error

The city seeks review asserting four points of error.

I. The trial court erred in granting a writ of mandamus because it exceeded its permissible scope of review by hearing the proceeding de novo in that review of a plat application denial is limited to the information presented to the city council.

II. The trial court erred in granting a writ of mandamus because there was insufficient evidence to show that the city council's decision was arbitrary or capricious in that the information the city council reviewed was sufficient to support the city council's decision to deny the preliminary plat application.

III. The trial court's grant of judgment on the substantive due process claim was clearly erroneous because there was no substantial evidence to support a finding that the city acted in a clearly irrational manner when its city council denied Furlong's preliminary plat application in that the trial court erroneously declared the law and in that the plat did not comply with the city's subdivision ordinance and this was a rational basis for the city's denial and in that Furlong used the process available and therefore was not denied due process

IV. The trial court's award of damages was clearly erroneous because there was no substantial evidence to support a finding that the city proximately caused the damages award to Furlong.

IV. General Legal Background
A. Zoning and Plat Approval

Zoning and plat approval for subdivision development are crucial tools for the orderly development of our cities and counties. Yet, these tools impact significantly on the freedom of landowners to do what they might want with their real property and on the relative value that any particular piece of property might have.

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Zoning and plat approval represent different types of authority in political subdivisions. "Zoning" is the exercise of legislative authority as to what land uses are in the interest of the public for particular areas within the political subdivision. The governmental body has great latitude in this regard. "Plat approval" is the ministerial application of zoning requirements, uniformly, to all particular parcels within the zoned area. Far less latitude exists in this regard, as each landowner is entitled to equal application of the zoning and planning laws applicable to his property. See generally, Yokely, E.C., Law of Subdivisions 217-318 (2d ed.1981).

B. Missouri law regarding subdivision plat approval

Sections 445.030 and 89.410 set forth the procedures and mechanisms by which Missouri cities may govern the subdividing of land. Section 445.030, in relevant part, states:

... that if such map or plat be of land situated within the corporate limits of any incorporated city, town or village, it shall not be placed of record until it shall have been submitted to and approved by the common council of such city, town or village, by ordinance, duly passed and approved by the mayor, and such approval endorsed upon...

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82 practice notes
  • Powell v. City of Hous., No. 19-0689
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Texas
    • June 4, 2021
    ...which may be located thereon, in accordance with a general plan.") (cleaned up); Furlong Cos., Inc. v. City of Kansas City , 189 S.W.3d 157, 163 (Mo. 2006) ("Zoning is the exercise of legislative authority as to what land uses are in the interest of the public for particular areas......
  • Banks v. Slay, Case No. 4:13CV02158 ERW
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 8th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Missouri)
    • July 25, 2016
    ...of a ministerial duty that one charged with the duty has refused to perform." Furlong Companies, Inc. v. City of Kansas City , 189 S.W.3d 157, 165 (Mo.2006). "A litigant asking relief by mandamus must allege and prove that he has a clear, unequivocal, specific right to a thing cla......
  • State ex rel. Hewitt v. Kerr, No. SC 93846
    • United States
    • Missouri Supreme Court
    • April 28, 2015
    ...must allege and prove that he has a clear, unequivocal, specific right to a thing claimed.” Furlong Cos., Inc. v. City of Kansas City, 189 S.W.3d 157, 166 (Mo. banc 2006). This right may arise from a statute that creates a right but does not explicitly provide mandamus as a remedy to enforc......
  • Babb v. Mo. Pub. Serv. Comm'n, No. WD 76384.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Missouri (US)
    • November 26, 2013
    ...applicable when circuit court review is sought from non-contested administrative decisions. In Furlong Cos., Inc. v. City of Kansas City, 189 S.W.3d 157, 164–67 (Mo. banc 2006), the Supreme Court found that review of a city's decision to deny an application for approval of a subdivision pla......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
87 cases
  • State ex rel. Hewitt v. Kerr, No. SC 93846
    • United States
    • Missouri Supreme Court
    • April 28, 2015
    ...must allege and prove that he has a clear, unequivocal, specific right to a thing claimed.” Furlong Cos., Inc. v. City of Kansas City, 189 S.W.3d 157, 166 (Mo. banc 2006). This right may arise from a statute that creates a right but does not explicitly provide mandamus as a remedy to enforc......
  • Banks v. Slay, Case No. 4:13CV02158 ERW
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 8th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Missouri)
    • July 25, 2016
    ...of a ministerial duty that one charged with the duty has refused to perform." Furlong Companies, Inc. v. City of Kansas City , 189 S.W.3d 157, 165 (Mo.2006). "A litigant asking relief by mandamus must allege and prove that he has a clear, unequivocal, specific right to a thing claimed. He m......
  • Powell v. City of Hous., 19-0689
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Texas
    • June 4, 2021
    ...structures which may be located thereon, in accordance with a general plan.") (cleaned up); Furlong Cos., Inc. v. City of Kansas City , 189 S.W.3d 157, 163 (Mo. 2006) ("Zoning is the exercise of legislative authority as to what land uses are in the interest of the public for particular area......
  • Banks v. Slay, Case No. 4:13CV02158 ERW
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 8th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Missouri)
    • July 25, 2016
    ...performance of a ministerial duty that one charged with the duty has refused to perform." Furlong Companies, Inc. v. City of Kansas City, 189 S.W.3d 157, 165 (Mo. 2006). "A litigant asking relief by mandamus must allege and prove that he has a clear, unequivocal, specific right to a thing c......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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