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Williamson County Regional Planning Commission v. Hamilton Bank of Johnson City

United States Supreme Court
473 U.S. 172 (1985)


Hamilton Bank of Johnson City (Hamilton) (plaintiff) acquired property (the Property) in Tennessee by foreclosure. Prior to Hamilton’s acquisition, the Williamson County Regional Planning Commission (the Commission) (defendant) had reversed itself more than once on whether the 1973 ordinance or the 1977 ordinance governing density should apply to the development of the Property. The Commission’s most recent decision was that the 1977 ordinance should apply; however, the prior owner of the Property had appealed to the County Board of Zoning Appeals (the BZA), which had determined that the 1973 ordinance should apply. After acquiring the Property, Hamilton resubmitted two plats for subdivision approval. The Commission did not follow the BZA’s recommendation, but instead rejected the plans for reasons based on the 1977 ordinance and reasons based on the 1973 ordinance. Neither Hamilton nor the prior owner of the Property sought variances under the 1973 or 1977 ordinances from the Commission, and Hamilton did not seek compensation for being deprived of the use of the Property. Hamilton brought suit in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee, alleging that the Commission’s application of zoning laws to the Property amounted to an unconstitutional taking. The jury found for Hamilton and awarded damages of $350,000. The trial court granted judgment notwithstanding the verdict in favor of the Commission, reasoning that Hamilton had only suffered a temporary deprivation, which was not a taking. The trial court further ordered the Commission to apply only the 1973 ordinance. The court of appeals found for Hamilton. The United States Supreme Court granted certiorari.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Blackmun, J.)

Dissent (White, J.)

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