State ex rel. Lachtman v. Houghton

CourtSupreme Court of Minnesota (US)
Citation134 Minn. 226,158 N.W. 1017
Docket NumberNo. 19773[163].,19773[163].
PartiesSTATE ex rel. LACHTMAN v. HOUGHTON, Inspector of Buildings.
Decision Date28 July 1916


Appeal from District Court, Hennepin County; Daniel Fish, Judge.

Application by the State, on relation of Samuel Lachtman, for mandamus to James G. Houghton, as Inspector of Buildings of the City of Minneapolis. From a judgment denying the writ, relator appeals. Reversed.

Hallam and Holt, JJ., dissenting.

Syllabus by the Court

Although an ordinance adopted under legislative authority is presumed to be valid, it must nevertheless be declared invalid if it clearly impairs rights guaranteed by the Constitution.

The use which the owner may make of his property is subject to any reasonable restrictions and regulations, imposed by the legislative power, which tend to promote the public welfare or to secure to others the rightful use and enjoyment of their own property; but only such use of property as may produce injurious consequences, or infringe the lawful rights of others, can be prohibited without violating the constitutional provisions that the owner shall not be deprived of his property without due process of law, nor without compensation first paid or secured.

Prohibiting the owner from erecting a store building upon land within a residential district cannot be sustained as a legitimate exercise of the police power, and is an unlawful invasion of the rights secured to him by the Constitution.

Geo. B. Leonard, of Minneapolis (M. Rose, of Minneapolis, of counsel), for appellant.

C. D. Gould and R. S. Wiggin, both of Minneapolis, for respondent.


The relator owns two lots on Fourteenth avenue south in the city of Minneapolis, and, on August 12, 1915, procured from the building inspector of that city a permit for the erection of a small one-story store building thereon. Immediately thereafter, the contracted with the Hennepin Lumber Company to erect the building, and also executed to Aaron Rudoy a lease of the building so to be erected for a term of two years for use as a store. Pursuant to the contract and before August 20, 1915, the contractor began excavating for the building and delivered some materials therefor upon the premises. On August 20, 1915, the city council passed an ordinance establishing a residential district which provided that:

‘No person shall hereafter erect within said district any building except those used for residence purposes, including duplex and double houses, flats, tenement and apartment houses, and there are hereby prohibited within said district the erection and maintenance of hotels, stores, factories, warehouses, dry cleaning plants, public garages or stables, or any industrial establishment or any business whatsoever.’

The relator's property was within the residential district so established, and, at the same meeting at which the ordinance was adopted, the city council, by motion, directed the building inspector to revoke the permit issued to him for the erection of the store building. It does not appear that the building inspector took any action toward revoking the permit, and the relator completed the building ready for the installation of wires and other appliances for lighting it by electricity. The ordinances of the city prohibit the installation of such appliances without a permit therefor from the building inspector, and relator applied to him for such permit. He refused to issue it upon the sole ground that the erection and maintenance of a store building was prohibited by the ordinance above quoted. Thereupon relator sought to compel the issuance of the permit by mandamus. The district court rendered judgment against him and he appealed.

Relator contends that the ordinance infringes the provision of the state Constitution prohibiting the taking or damaging of private property for public use without compensation, and the provision of the United States Constitution prohibiting the state from depriving any person of his property without due process of law; also, that when he obtained his permit and began construction thereunder he acquired a vested right to erect and maintain his building which could not be impaired by an ordinance adopted thereafter. Respondent contends that the ordinance was enacted under the police power of the state and is a proper exercise of that power.

[1][2][3] The city had legislative authority for adopting the ordinance (sections 1581-1585, G. S. 1913); and the question presented is whether it violates rights secured to property owners by the Constitution, or whether it can be sustained as a legitimate exercise of the police power. It is presumed to be valid and will not be declared invalid unless it clearly transgresses some constitutional inhibition. The Legislature has power to regulate and restrict the manner in which the owner may make use of his property so far as may be necessary for the general welfare; but such regulations and restrictions must tend in some degree to prevent harm to the public or to promote the common good, and must not unreasonably impair or abridge his property rights. In State ex rel. v. Megaarden, 77 Minn. 483, 80 N. W. 633, 778, 1134, in which the validity of the statute regulating the business of persons selling agricultural products on commission was upheld, it is said:

‘The term ‘police power,’ as understood in American constitutional law, means simply the power to impose such restrictions upon private rights as are practically necessary for the general welfare of all. Rippe v. Becker, 56 Minn. 100, 57 N. W. 331 . And it must be confined to such restrictions and burdens as are thus necessary to promote the public welfare, or, in other words, to prevent the infliction of public injury. State v. Chicago, M. & St. P. Ry. Co., 68 Minn. 381, 71 N. W. 400 [38 L. R. A. 672, 64 Am. St. Rep. 482]. And in the exercise of its police powers a state is not confined to matters relating strictly to the public health, morals, and peace, but, as has been said, there may be interference whenever the public interests demand it; and in this particular a large discretion is necessarily vested in the Legislature, to determine not only what the interests of the public require, but what measures are necessary for the protection of such interests. Lawton v. Steele, 152 U. S. 133, 14 Sup. Ct. 499 . If, then, any business becomes of such a character as to be sufficiently affected with public interest, there may be a legislative interference and regulation of it in order to secure the general comfort, health, and prosperity of the state, provided the measures adopted do not conflict with constitutional provisions, and have some relation to, and some tendency to accomplish, the desired end. The subjects which may be legislated upon are, of necessity, continually arising as business increases and new phases, conditions, and methods appear. The development of the law relating to the proper exercise of the police power of the state clearly demonstrates that it is very broad and comprehensive, and is exercised to promote the general welfare of the state, as well as its health and comfort.'

It is well settled that under this power cities may regulate and control the construction of buildings in the interest of health and safety and for the purpose of guarding against fires, and to accomplish this end may prohibit the erection of any building without first obtaining a permit therefor. To promote the general well-being, cities may also prescribe districts within which no business or occupation of a noxious or offensive character, or which tends to interfere with the comfort and prosperity of others, may be carried on. The dividing line between restrictions which may be lawfully imposed under the police power and those which invade the rights secured to the property owner by the constitutional provisions that his property shall not be taken or damaged without compensation, nor he be deprived of it without due process of law, has never been distinctly marked out, and probably cannot be. As different cases arise, the courts determine from the facts and circumstances of the particular case whether it falls upon one side or the other of the line. The rule governing the exercise of the police power and defining the duty of the courts in respect thereto is stated in general terms in State v. C., M. & St. P. Ry. Co., 68 Minn. 381, 71 N. W. 400,38 L. R. A. 672, 64 Am. St. Rep. 482, as follows:

‘While the police power of the state is a very extensive one, it is not without limits. A law enacted in the exercise of the police power must be a police regulation in fact. If it will not conduce to any legitimate police purpose, or if it amounts to an arbitrary and unwarranted interference with the right of the citizen to pursue any lawful business, the courts have a right, and it is their duty, to declare the law unconstitutional.’

Of the cases cited by the city as supporting its contention that the erection of store buildings in residential districts may be prohibited under the police power, the following are the most nearly in point: In Ex parte Montgomery, 163 Cal. 457, 125 Pac. 1070, Ann. Cas. 1914A, 130, Montgomery had been convicted of maintaining a lumber yard in a residence district of the city of Los Angeles in violation of an ordinance which enumerated several industrial districts, declared the remainder of the city to be a residence district, and prohibited establishing or maintaining within the residence district, ‘any stone crusher, rolling mill, machine shop, planing mill, carpet beating establishment, hay barn, woodyard, lumber yard, public laundry, or washhouse.’ The court did not discuss the constitutional question further than to say that the ordinance had been held constitutional in Ex parte Quong Wo, 161 Cal. 220, 118 Pac. 714, and that what was there said applied with equal force to this case. Turning to the case cited we find an extended discussion of the question...

To continue reading

Request your trial
57 cases
  • Carter v. Bluefield, (No. 10142)
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • June 14, 1949
    ...A. 547, L. R. A. 1917A, 1216; Senefsky v. Huntington Wood's, 307 Mich. 728, 12 N. W. 2d 387, 149 A. L. R. 1433; State ex rel. Lachtman v. Houghton, 134 Minn. 226, 158 N. W. 1017, L. R. A. 1917F, 1050; State ex rel. Del Monte v. Woodmansee, Court of Appeals, Ohio, 72 N. E. 2d 789; State ex r......
  • Goldman v. Crowther
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Maryland
    • February 3, 1925
    ...district fixed by a zoning ordinance did not endanger the public health safety or general welfare. 125 A. 121. In State v. Houghton, 134 Minn. 226, 158 N. W. 1017, L. R. A. 1917F, 1050, it was held that a zoning ordinance prohibiting the erection of any building except for residential purpo......
  • Northern States Power Co. v. City of Oakdale, C3-98-867
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Minnesota
    • February 2, 1999
    ...legitimate exercise of the police power may prohibit the injurious use of property without compensation. Lachtman v. Houghton, 134 Minn. 226, 237, 158 N.W. 1017, 1021-22 (1916). Furthermore, NSP's argument that this uncompensated regulation would perpetrate an unconstitutional taking fails ......
  • State ex rel. Beery v. Houghton
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Minnesota (US)
    • July 3, 1925
    ...of Laws 1921, c. 217, as amended by Laws 1923, c. 364. Whether the ordinance is constitutional is the question. In State v. Houghton, 134 Minn. 226, 158 N. W. 1017, L. R. A. 1917F, 1050, it was held, by a divided court, that an ordinance of Minneapolis prohibiting the erection of a store wi......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
1 books & journal articles
  • Singling Out Single-Family Zoning
    • United States
    • Georgetown Law Journal No. 111-4, April 2023
    • April 1, 2023
    ...expressly rejected three prior decisions that had adopted a more restrictive view of zoning. See State ex rel. Lachtman v. Houghton, 158 N.W. 1017, 1021–22 (Minn. 1916) (“Only such use of property as may produce injurious consequences, or infringe the lawful rights of others, can be prohibi......

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT