Can a city be sued for rezoning a property?

Can a landowner who planned to build a shopping plaza sue a city for changing the land’s zoning to “residential”? Maybe … but only if the rezoning almost totally destroyed the land’s value. That’s the result of a decision by a New York appeals court. Parviz Noghrey wanted to build a shopping center in Brookhaven, N.Y., but before he could do so the town adopted a moratorium on commercial development, and then changed the land’s zoning so it could be used only for houses. Noghrey sued, claiming that the town violated the U.S. Constitution by “taking” his land without paying him compensation.

The court didn’t throw out the suit, but it made it very difficult. Noghrey doesn’t have to prove that the town made his land worthless, the court said. But he can’t claim that the town “took” his land from him unless he can show that he was left with only a “bare residue” of value. According to the court, Noghrey must show that the value of his land was reduced by around 95% in order to win in court.

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