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G&H Development, LLC v. Penwell

United States District Court, W.D. Louisiana, Shreveport Division

May 21, 2015

G&H DEVELOPMENT, LLC
v.
NANCY PENWELL, ET AL

MEMORANDUM RULING

S. MAURICE HICKS, Jr., District Judge.

Before the Court is a Motion for Summary Judgment (Record Document 86) filed by Defendants, the Benton-Parish Metropolitan Planning Commission ("Benton-Parish MPC"), the Bossier Parish Police Jury ("Police Jury"), and the Parish of Bossier ("the Parish"). The motion addresses Claim for Relief III in Plaintiff G&H Development, LLC's ("G&H") First Supplemental, Amending and Restated Complaint, seeking a declaratory judgment that:

1. Any ordinances or regulations which have been written to establish any zoning within the metropolitan planning area, and specifically as to the Property, are null, void and without any force and effect;
2. The Property is not subject to any zoning ordinances or regulations and may be developed without regard thereto.

Record Document 36 at ¶¶ 143-144.[1] The motion focuses on the issue of whether the Benton-Parish MPC, the Police Jury, and the Parish have adopted a zoning plan for the Metropolitan Planning Area. See Record Document 86. G&H has opposed the motion. See Record Document 104.

Also before the Court are two additional motions filed the Benton-Parish MPC, the Police Jury, and the Parish relating to G&H's Rezoning Application of June 10, 2012. See Record Documents 87 & 91. G&H has opposed only certain aspects of these two motions. See Record Documents 105 & 109.

For the reasons set forth below, all of the defense motions (Record Documents 86, 87 & 91) are GRANTED. G&H's Claim for Relief III for declaratory judgment and all of its substantive due process claims relating to the Rezoning Application are DISMISSED.

I. BACKGROUND.

G&H is the owner of certain immovable property comprising 55 acres, more or less, located in Section 24, Township 20 North, Range 14 West, Bossier Parish, Louisiana ("the Property"), within the jurisdiction of the Benton-Parish MPC. The Property is located in Bossier Parish within five miles of the Benton corporate limits ("the Metropolitan Planning Area").

On February 25, 1980, the Benton-Parish MPC adopted a resolution to request financial assistance from the Louisiana Department of Urban and Community Affairs to help in the development of a Master Plan for the Benton MPC. See Record Document 86, Exhibit 84 (Affidavit of Nancy Penwell Regarding Benton-Parish MPC & Board of Adjustment Meeting Minutes) & Exhibit 67 (Benton-Parish MPC Meeting Minutes, February 25, 1980). Work elements to be funded for the 1980-1981 planning program included mapping, existing land use, zoning ordinance, and a transportation plan. See id. On October 13, 1981, the Police Jury adopted the proposed zoning plan as laid out in the zoning ordinances and zoning map by enacting Ordinance No. 922 of 1981, recommended by the Benton-Parish MPC, which was passed "[f]or the purpose of establishing zoning regulations for the unincorporated area of Bossier Parish within five miles of the Town of Benton...." See id., Exhibit 65 (Police Jury Meeting Minutes, October 13, 1981 with Ordinance 922 of 1981). Defendants maintain that this chain of events satisfies Act 558's[2] requirements with respect to a zoning plan by which the Benton-Parish MPC and the Police Jury could then exercise the powers granted in Article 5, Section 1 of Act 558. G&H does not agree, suggesting that Defendants have offered no master plan[3] that complies with Act 558 and, therefore, there is no authority to prevent the subdivision of G&H's property and the building of structures on it. See Record Document 104 at 5.

In 2003, the Police Jury adopted a Code of Ordinances. See Record Document 86, Exhibit 69, Ordinance No. 3882. The Bossier Parish Code of Ordinances includes a chapter (Chapter 126) containing zoning ordinances. Defendants have submitted the most recent version of the zoning ordinances of Bossier Parish affecting the Metropolitan Planning Area. See id., Exhibit 64. Defendants state that the Benton-Parish MPC and the Police Jury created the following additional documents as part of their on-going and continuing planning efforts, to wit:

• Comprehensive Bossier Land Use and Development Master Plan (Exhibit 73);
• Bossier Parish Proposed Parishwide Growth Management ...

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