Mayhew v. Town of Sunnyvale

Decision Date08 May 1998
Docket NumberNo. 95-0771,95-0771
Citation964 S.W.2d 922
Parties41 Tex. Sup. Ct. J. 517 Charles MAYHEW, Sr., Charles Mayhew, Jr., The Estate of Audrey Mayhew, and Sunnyvale Properties, Ltd., Petitioners, v. The TOWN OF SUNNYVALE, Respondent.
CourtTexas Supreme Court

Don Black, P. Michael Jung, Dallas, Charles L. Siemon, Marcella Larsen, Boca Raton, FL, for Petitioners.

LaDawn H. Conway, Cole B. Ramey, Terry D. Morgan, Robert H. Freilich, Kansas City, MO, W. Alan Wright, Dallas, for Respondent.

ABBOTT, Justice, delivered the opinion for a unanimous Court.

We are confronted with two primary questions in this regulatory takings case. First, we must determine the extent to which the Mayhews' claims are ripe for our consideration. Second, we must decide whether the denial of the Mayhews' planned development proposal violated their constitutional rights. While we conclude that the Mayhews' claims are ripe, we hold that the Town did not violate their constitutional rights. We reverse the court of appeals' judgment dismissing the Mayhews' claims, and we render judgment that the Mayhews take nothing.

I

The Town of Sunnyvale, a Texas general law municipal corporation with a population of approximately 2,000 people, is located approximately twelve miles east of the central business district of Dallas. The Town contains approximately 10,941 acres of land, but approximately 8,190 acres are currently vacant. The Town's first zoning ordinance, adopted in 1965, allowed residential development at a density of 3.6 units per acre. In 1973, in response to septic tank failures, the Town modified its zoning ordinance and enacted a one-acre minimum lot size requirement. However, when sanitary sewer facilities were later made available to the Town, the Town did not repeal its one-acre minimum lot requirement.

The Mayhew family owns approximately 1196 acres of land in Sunnyvale. From 1941 to 1965, the Mayhews acquired 850 acres of their property at a cost of $372,000.00. The Mayhews used this property for ranching for a number of years. In 1985 and 1986, the Mayhews purchased an additional 346 acres in the Town for development purposes. The Mayhews' property comprises 26% of the land available for residential development in the Town.

In 1985, the Mayhews began meeting with various Town officials seeking permission to proceed with a planned development with a density in excess of the then allowable one-dwelling-unit-per-acre residential zoning. The Mayhews told the Town a planned development would not be feasible under one-unit-per-acre zoning. In 1986, after meeting with the Mayhews, the Town adopted a comprehensive plan providing for a projected population of 25,000 by the year 2006, and 30,000 to 35,000 persons by the year 2016. The Town also amended article XV of its zoning ordinances to allow, upon council approval, planned developments with densities in excess of one dwelling-unit per acre.

In July 1986, after spending over $500,000 conducting studies and preparing evaluative reports, the Mayhews submitted their planned development proposal to the Town. If the proposal was approved, the Mayhews planned to sell their property to the Trammel Crow Company for development. Because Trammel Crow would only develop the property if it could build a minimum of 3,600 units, the Mayhews requested approval to build between 3,650 and 5,025 units on their land, a density of over three units per acre.

The Town employed a professional planning and engineering firm to initially review the proposal. This firm, after finding that the proposal satisfied each of the requirements of the Town's zoning ordinance, recommended approval of the proposal. The proposal was then forwarded to the Town's planning and zoning commission.

While the commission was reviewing the Mayhews' application, the Town council passed a moratorium on planned developments, which was in effect until the Spring of 1987. Despite the moratorium, the commission continued to consider the Mayhews' application. After four months of consideration, the commission recommended denial of the Mayhews' application on November 20, 1986. In support of its recommendation, the commission noted that the development would severely impact the ability of the Town to provide adequate municipal services. The commission also reasoned that the Town had a very unique character and lifestyle that differed from the proliferation of multi-family and single-family homes on small lots in adjoining municipalities. According to the commission, a less dense use of the property was preferable.

The Town council appointed a negotiating committee of two Town councilmen, the Town mayor, and the Town attorney. The Mayhews met with the committee and both sides tentatively agreed to a compromise development of 3,600 units. Subsequently, on January 13, 1987, the Town council met to vote on the proposal. During the council meeting, Charles Mayhew, Jr. told the council that anything less than approval for 3,600 units would be considered an outright denial. Despite the prior compromise, the Town council voted to deny the Mayhews' development proposal by a four-to-one vote. A subsequent meeting to reconsider the planned development request was canceled by the Town.

In March 1987, the Mayhews sued the Town and the four individual council members who voted against their proposal, alleging that the refusal to approve the planned development violated their state and federal constitutional rights to procedural due process, substantive due process, and equal protection. The Mayhews further alleged that the Town's decision was a taking of their property without payment of just or adequate compensation. The Mayhews also brought various statutory claims.

The Town and the individual council members moved for summary judgment, which the district court granted. On appeal, the court of appeals affirmed the summary judgment in favor of the individual council members, and also affirmed the summary judgment in favor of the Town on the Mayhews' statutory claims. However, the appellate court reversed the summary judgment on the Mayhews' constitutional claims against the Town, concluding that material fact questions existed regarding whether the Town violated the Mayhews' state and federal constitutional rights. Mayhew v. Town of Sunnyvale, 774 S.W.2d 284, 286 (Tex.App.--Dallas 1989, writ denied), cert. denied, 498 U.S. 1087, 111 S.Ct. 963, 112 L.Ed.2d 1049 (1991).

Upon remand, the district court held a bench trial. The court heard testimony from thirty-five witnesses, most of whom were experts. At the conclusion of the trial, the district court made numerous findings of fact and conclusions of law, including findings that:

26. The Mayhew Ranch Planned Development was well-planned and satisfied all of the requirements contained in Article XV and the Zoning Ordinance of the Town of Sunnyvale.

36. Adequate steps were taken in the design of the Mayhew Ranch Planned Development to protect the public health, safety, welfare, and morals of the Town of Sunnyvale and its citizens.

40. Growth and development in the Town of Sunnyvale cannot possibly reach the population projection in the Comprehensive Plan of the Town of Sunnyvale under the Town's one-acre zoning.

78. The Planning and Zoning Commission's recommendations to the Town Council of November 20, 1986 had no basis in fact and were not rational.

82. The Town of Sunnyvale's one-acre zoning does not bear any factual relationship to valid planning principles or objectives.

87. The existing development in the Town of Sunnyvale is suburban and urban and any "rural" atmosphere that exists is the result of the existence of undeveloped private property.

99. In denying the application for planned development approval for the Mayhew Ranch Planned Development, the Town of Sunnyvale has refused to allow economically viable development on [the Mayhews'] property with the intention to prevent all development ... and thereby impose a servitude for the benefit of the public.

101. In denying the application for planned development approval ..., and in enacting numerous moratoria on applications for consideration of planned development approval, the Town of Sunnyvale has acted pursuant to an official policy not to allow development with a density of greater than one dwelling unit per acre.

106. Prior to the Town Council's action to deny the application for [the] planned development ..., the [Mayhews'] property had a fair market value of at least $9,700,000.00.

107. The value of the [Mayhews'] property on January 13, 1987, with development approval ... and without the application of the one-acre zoning requirement, would have been greater than $15,000,000.00.

108. As a result of the Town Council's denial of the application for [the] planned development ..., and the continued application of the one-acre zoning, the fair market value of the [Mayhews'] property was reduced to $2,400,000.00.

115. The minimum residential density necessary for economic viability on [the Mayhews'] property is approximately 3,600 dwelling units or three dwelling units per acre.

117. Agriculture is not an economically viable use of [the Mayhews'] property.

118. No knowledgeable investor would purchase [the Mayhews'] property as it is currently zoned.

120. The Town Council's decision to deny the application for [the] planned development ... has the practical effect of depriving [the Mayhews] of the only economically viable use of their property.

121. The result of the Town Council's decision to deny the application for [the] planned development ... is to destroy the value of [the Mayhews'] property.

131. The actions of the Town of Sunnyvale reveal a pattern and practice which

demonstrates the intent of the Town of Sunnyvale to deny any application for developmental approval with a density greater than one dwelling unit per acre.

133. The Town of Sunnyvale has closed...

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