Hoagland v. Town of Clear Lake, Ind.

Decision Date18 July 2005
Docket NumberNo. 04-4045.,04-4045.
Citation415 F.3d 693
PartiesDaniel HOAGLAND, Karen Hoagland, Hoagland Family Limited Partnership and Clear Lake Management Corporation, Plaintiffs-Appellants, v. TOWN OF CLEAR LAKE, INDIANA; Robert D. Troll, Derold H. Covell, Emma J. Brown, William Geiger, Joe Driver, and Thomas Reith, individually and in their official capacity as current and former members of the Clear Lake Town Council and Plan Commission; Thomas Wehrenberg, in his official capacity as a former member of the Clear Lake Town Council and Plan Commission; Richard Allen Lehman, individually and in his official capacity as Town of Clear Lake Marshal and Clear Lake Zoning Inspector; Julie Azchrich, Barb Disser, Alan B. Larue and Thomas Reith, individually and in their official capacity as current and former members of the Board of Zoning Appeals of the Town of Clear Lake, Indiana, Defendants-Appellees.
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — Seventh Circuit

John R. Price (argued), Price & Associates, Indianapolis, IN, for Plaintiff-Appellant.

Dane L. Tubergen (argued), Hunt Suedhoff Kalamoros, Fort Wayne, IN, for Defendant-Appellee.

Michael W. Owen, Owen Law Group, Carmel, IN, for Amicus Curiae.

Before CUDAHY, EVANS, and WILLIAMS, Circuit Judges.

TERENCE T. EVANS, Circuit Judge.

This lawsuit, accurately described by Magistrate Judge Roger B. Cosbey as a feud, pits Daniel Hoagland and the other plaintiffs,1 owners of a heliport, against the town fathers of Clear Lake, Indiana, a very small and apparently wealthy community ringing the shores of an inland lake in northeastern Indiana. The town wants to get rid of the heliport and has amended its zoning ordinance (which originally did not mention landing strips) to make it applicable to landing strips and to require that the use of all preexisting unapproved landing areas be discontinued within 5 years. At some point, Hoagland made his opposition to the town's actions rather clearly known by posting a homemade "No Trespass" sign warning that "[t]his land is privately owned by an American national, with sovereign rights of God the Creator," and that "[v]iolations of the owners [sic] Private Christian, or property rights ... shall be assessed a civil penalty of one million dollars in U.S. Dollars for each violation" as well as "up to ten years in prison." (Underlining omitted.) It is no wonder, then, that the plaintiffs challenged the town's right to regulate landing strips in the present case — which is, by the way, not the only litigation involving these parties. In this case, the parties filed cross-motions for summary judgment in the district court. The defendants' motion was granted and the plaintiffs appeal. Our review is de novo. Nese v. Julian Nordic Const. Co., 405 F.3d 638 (7th Cir.2005).

Hoagland, a licensed pilot, lives in Clear Lake and commutes by helicopter to his electrical contracting business 60 miles away in Fort Wayne. To make his helicopter commute user-friendly, he constructed two landing pads on his property in Clear Lake. In 1999, the town sued Hoagland in Steuben County (Indiana) Superior Court, alleging that the helicopter takeoffs and landings were a "public nuisance." The case was submitted to mediation. Although Hoagland did not know it, at that time Clear Lake had no existing ordinance governing landing strips, but, Hoagland contends, during the negotiations Clear Lake officials often alluded to one. Eventually a settlement was reached in which Hoagland agreed to abide by several restrictions on the helicopter operations and, in turn, Clear Lake agreed to pay him a sum "to be negotiated." Hoagland claims Clear Lake never paid him anything and that he would not have agreed to the settlement had he known there was no ordinance in effect at the time.

Following the mediation, Clear Lake amended its existing zoning ordinance to designate an "[a]ircraft landing strip, pad, or space" as a "special use" requiring special permission of the Zoning Board of Appeals. It also provided that any preexisting unapproved aircraft landing area must be discontinued within 5 years or upon the transfer of the property.

One of the issues raised in this appeal is whether the ordinance should be invalidated because it is preempted by the Federal Aviation Act, 49 U.S.C. § 40101 et seq.

The preemption doctrine is based in the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution, which states, "This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof . . . shall be the Supreme Law of the land." U.S. Const., art. VI, cl. 2. The clause has been interpreted as supporting three ways in which federal law can preempt state and local law: express preemption, conflict (or implied) preemption, and field (or complete) preemption. Boomer v. AT & T Corp., 309 F.3d 404, 417 (7th Cir.2002). Express preemption occurs when a federal statute explicitly states that it overrides state or local law. Conflict preemption exists if it would be impossible for a party to comply with both local and federal requirements or where local law "stands as an obstacle to the accomplishment and execution of the full purposes and objectives of Congress." Freightliner Corp. v. Myrick, 514 U.S. 280, 287, 115 S.Ct. 1483, 131 L.Ed.2d 385 (1995) (quoting Hines v. Davidowitz, 312 U.S. 52, 67, 61 S.Ct. 399, 85 L.Ed. 581 (1941)). Field preemption occurs when federal law so thoroughly "occupies a legislative field" as to make it reasonable to infer that Congress left no room for the states to act. Cipollone v. Liggett Group, Inc., 505 U.S. 504, 516, 112 S.Ct. 2608, 120 L.Ed.2d 407 (1992).

In the district court, according to Judge Cosbey, the plaintiffs' briefs were "hazy" on which preemption theory was being propounded. On appeal, it seems relatively clear they are relying on express preemption. They contend that 49 U.S.C. § 41713(b)(1) preempts the local ordinance. That section provides:

Except as provided in this subsection, a State, political subdivision of a State, or political authority of at least 2 States may not enact or enforce a law, regulation, or other provision having the force and effect of law related to a price, route, or service of an air carrier that may provide air transportation under this subpart.

The question, then, is whether the Clear Lake ordinance relates to "price, route, or service of an air carrier."

The plaintiffs argue that restricting Hoagland from making landings or departures from his helipad necessarily affects his route, and the ordinance is thus preempted. In support of this argument they point out that the helipads have been formally approved by federal and state authorities. In January 1996 and December 2000, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued Airspace Determinations which stated that daytime visual helicopter operations can be safely conducted at the Clear Lake Heliport. In February of 1996, the State of Indiana Department of Transportation Aeronautics Section issued a Certificate of Site Approval certifying that the Clear Lake Heliport has met the administrative requirements for a private-use heliport.

There is at least superficial force to the argument that the elimination of his helipad (the end result of the ordinance) would affect Hoagland's flight routes. Obviously it would. His route would no longer end in Clear Lake. But the question for us is whether the statute preempts so much, and we conclude that it does not. The Clear Lake ordinance is a land use, or zoning, ordinance, not a flight pattern regulation. We are not convinced that Congress meant to take the siting of air fields out of the hands of local officials. The siting of an airfield — so long as it does not interfere with existing traffic patterns, etc. — remains an issue for local control.

Cases from the Supreme Court and our sister circuits as well as FAA regulations support our conclusion. To see what is not preempted, we will first look at the kinds of regulations which are preempted. These include noise regulation ordinances and flight pattern controls. In City of Burbank v. Lockheed Air Terminal, 411 U.S. 624, 93 S.Ct. 1854, 36 L.Ed.2d 547 (1973), the Supreme Court determined that in light of the pervasive nature of the scheme of federal regulation of aircraft noise, as evidenced by the Noise Control Act of 1972, the FAA and the Environmental Protection Agency had full control over airport noise, preempting local control. The Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit followed suit in Pirolo v. City of Clearwater, 711 F.2d 1006 (11th Cir.1983), finding that local ordinances prohibiting night operations and proscribing air traffic patterns were preempted. The Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit found that curfews on aircraft flights were preempted in San Diego Unified Port Dist. v. Gianturco, 651 F.2d 1306 (9th Cir.1981).

In Abdullah v. American Airlines, Inc., 181 F.3d 363 (3d Cir.1999), the court found air safety regulations preempted. And a state statute requiring drug testing of pilots was found to be preempted in French v. Pan Am Express, Inc., 869 F.2d 1 (1st Cir.1989).

These cases have one thing in common. They involve issues which reach far beyond a single local jurisdiction and which cannot sensibly be resolved by a patchwork of local regulations. It would be unmanageable — say nothing of terrifying — to have local control of flight routes or of flight times. Such things require nationwide coordination. But the issue of where a local governing body chooses to site an airport is different. When an airport is proposed, the FAA makes a determination of the safe and efficient use of the airspace in regard to the airport, but in situations such as the one before us, the agency leaves the decision not to allow a landing strip to the discretion of the local government.

A case specifically on point is Condor Corp. v. City of St. Paul, 912 F.2d 215, 219 (8th Cir.1990), in which the court found there was no preemption in the denial of...

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