Taliaferro v. Darby Tp. Zoning Bd.

Decision Date10 August 2006
Docket NumberNo. 05-2253.,05-2253.
Citation458 F.3d 181
PartiesLee TALIAFERRO, Samuel Alexander, Beatrice Moore, and Bernice Wilson, Appellants v. DARBY TOWNSHIP ZONING BOARD, John Dougherty, Individually and as a Member of the Darby Township Zoning Board; Jesse Byrd-Estes, Individually and as a Member of the Darby Township Zoning Board; Lamont Jacobs, Individually and as a Member of the Darby Township Zoning Board; John J. O'Neill, Individually and as a Member of the Darby Township Zoning Board; William Ryan, Individually and as a Member of the Darby Township Zoning Board; Darby Township; Delaware County Redevelopment Authority; United States Department of Housing and Urban Development; Maureen Healy also known as Maureen Diluzio; John Doe; Detective John Ryan, Manager of Darby Township, Individually and as Manager; Secretary Mel Martinez, Individually and as Secretary of HUD; Milton R. Pratt, Jr., Individually and as Regional Director of HUD, Appellees.
CourtU.S. Court of Appeals — Third Circuit

Robert J. Sugarman, Esquire (Argued), Sugarman and Associates, P.C., Philadelphia, PA, for Appellants.

James J. Byrne, Jr., Esquire (Argued), Kelly S. Sullivan, Esquire, Curran & Byrne, P.C., Media, PA, for Appellees Township of Darby, Darby Township Zoning Hearing Board, John Dougherty, Jesse Byrd-Estes, Lamont Jacobs, John J. O'Neill, William Ryan, and John Ryan.

Curtis P. Cheyney, III, Esquire (Argued), Swartz Campbell LLC, Philadelphia, PA, for Appellees Delaware County Redevelopment Authority.

Lee J. Janiczek, Esquire (Argued), Reilly, Janiczek & McDevitt, P.C., Philadelphia, PA, for Appellee Maureen Healy.

Before ROTH and ALDISERT, Circuit Judges, and RODRIGUEZ,1 District Judge.

OPINION OF THE COURT

RODRIGUEZ, District Judge.

On its face, this case presents the Court with the issue of whether neighboring property owners who allege that their property values will be diminished and their neighborhood blighted by the construction of a storage facility have standing to sue under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The focus of this case is the propriety of the Darby Township Zoning Hearing Board's ("Board") decision to grant a variance, which permitted the construction of a storage facility in a residential zone, and the attendant State court decisions issued in the course of appeal. With the exception of the claim that Appellants' property values will be damaged by the grant of the variance, we will affirm the district court's dismissal of the Amended Complaint because Appellants have not alleged facts clearly demonstrating that they are proper parties to invoke the exercise of the federal court's remedial powers. Insofar as Appellants Taliaferro and Alexander have alleged injuries to their property values and neighborhood arising from the approval of the variance, however, we will reverse the district court's dismissal.

I.

In 1960, Appellee Delaware County Redevelopment Authority acquired by condemnation a nine-acre tract of land in the Township of Darby ("Darby Township"). In furtherance of a twenty-year Urban Renewal Plan, an Agreement was entered into in 1967 by the Redevelopment Authority and a redeveloper, RUPACA, Inc. The Agreement contained a covenant binding the redeveloper and its successors and assigns until April 8, 1980, to devote the property to, and only to and in accordance with, the uses specified in the Urban Renewal Plan, i.e., for residential purposes. There was also a covenant, unlimited as to duration, for non-discriminatory use of the property. (App., Vol.II, 000218a.)

The Property was sold in 1969 to First Urban Redevelopers. First Urban subsequently sold the property to Charles Rappa, who sold it to Appellee Maureen Healy in 2002. No development had occurred between 1969 and 2002. Although located in a partially commercial area, (App., Vol. II, 000063a), the Property was still zoned R-1 residential, so Healy made a variance request to allow the construction of an 800-unit self-storage facility. That request was supported by expert testimony, which concluded that redevelopment to residential use was not economically feasible. (App., Vol.II, 000050a, 000136a.) At the behest of Appellants Lee Taliaferro and Samuel Alexander, the Delaware County Court of Common Pleas remanded an original grant of the variance for additional testimony and evidence, but after further hearings, the Board granted the final request for a variance on May 8, 2003. Appellants again appealed the decision to the Delaware County Court of Common Pleas, which affirmed the Board. Appellants then appealed to the Commonwealth Court, which affirmed the Court of Common Pleas decision. See Taliaferro v. Darby Twp. Zoning Hearing Bd., 873 A.2d 807 (Pa.Commw.Ct.2005), reh'g denied, (June 1, 2005), and appeal denied, 585 Pa. 692, 887 A.2d 1243 (2005).

II.

In the meantime, the Complaint in this matter was filed in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania on June 9, 2003. Plaintiffs Lee Taliaferro and Samuel Alexander are members of the African-American community in Darby Township and neighboring property owners to the land in question. Plaintiffs Beatrice Moore and Bernice Wilson were residents whose land was condemned pursuant to the Urban Renewal Project. Named as Defendants were the Board and its members, Darby Township and the Manager of Darby Township, the Delaware County Redevelopment Authority, and Maureen Healy.2

An Amended Complaint alleged that Appellants brought suit "as citizens and beneficiaries" of the Urban Renewal Plan and subsequent Redevelopment Agreement, because they were promised the benefits of residential redevelopment of the property. Despite the Redevelopment Agreement, however, Appellants alleged that "Darby Township, in order to perpetuate the white majority in the Township, continuously discouraged residential developments by various means, including without limitation, demanding that the developer construct an unnecessary bridge, refusing housing style modifications and informal discouragement." (App., Vol.II, 000147a.) Appellants complained that the Delaware County Redevelopment Authority failed to enforce the terms of the Redevelopment Agreement. They accused the Appellees of conspiring to inhibit and prevent the residential redevelopment of the Property for the purpose of preventing the African-American population in Darby Township from expanding and gaining political control.

Count I of the Amended Complaint sought enforcement of the Redevelopment Agreement, by way of an injunction in order to prevent the use of the property for purposes other than the residential use specified in the Urban Renewal Plan and Redevelopment Agreement.3 Count II alleged a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for violation of Appellants' rights of equal protection, substantive and procedural due process, and protection of property. Count III alleged a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1981 for intentional racial discrimination by Appellees "preventing the growth of the community and introducing improper uses into the community to decrease property values and diminishing or curtailing the voting power of the community," as well as "by denying them contracts which were required to protect and promote the [Appellant]s' community [and] by limiting the [Appellant]s' rights as parties before the Board." (App., Vol.II, 000154a.) Count IV alleged conspiracy under 42 U.S.C. § 1985(3) and Count V alleged a violation of the Fair Housing Act. Count VI, which attacked the Board's decision to grant the variance, was dismissed by Order of the district court dated September 22, 2004.

III.

In response to Appellees' motions to dismiss brought pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6), the district court concluded that the Appellants lacked standing to bring the claims asserted, and dismissed the Amended Complaint.

Lee Taliaferro and Samuel Alexander, as members of the African-American community in Darby Township and neighboring property owners, alleged they were injured: (1) by the racially discriminatory policies of the Appellees in curtailing the voting and political power of the African-American community, because the Appellees allegedly made a land use decision granting a variance to allow the construction of an 800-unit self-storage facility instead of the promised residential redevelopment in order to limit the effect of the African-American vote in Darby Township; (2) in that their property values would be diminished and their neighborhood blighted by the construction of an 800-unit self-storage facility; and (3) because African-Americans have been denied equal treatment under the law in government hearings and meetings in that, at a hearing before the case was remanded by the State court, Board members "discriminately, repeatedly shouted down the protestants who were African-Americans and threatened to expel them from the hearing," (App., Vol.II, 000149a), allegedly based on racial bias. The district court dismissed Taliaferro's and Alexander's claims, and noted that these Appellants had not alleged what, if any, benefit they would receive if the Urban Renewal Plan were implemented. Thus, they neither alleged nor demonstrated that they, as individuals, suffered a concrete injury as a result of Appellees' alleged actions that would be redressed by the relief sought in this action.

Beatrice Moore and Bernice Wilson were residents who were removed pursuant to the Urban Renewal Plan with the alleged promise of an opportunity to return. The district court dismissed their claims because they had not alleged they desired, or would be eligible, to move into residences that might have been constructed under the Urban Renewal Plan.

In summary, the lower court determined that Appellants had not contended that they had been injured personally by Appellees' conduct. Accordingly, because none of the Appellants would receive an actual benefit if the court granted the requested injunction, it found that they lacked standing to bring the...

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