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Siena Corp. v. Mayor and City Council of Rockville Maryland

United States Court of Appeals, Fourth Circuit

October 13, 2017

SIENA CORPORATION, A Maryland Corporation; ROCKVILLE NORTH LAND LLLP, A Maryland Limited Liability Limited Partnership, Plaintiffs - Appellants,
v.
MAYOR AND CITY COUNCIL OF ROCKVILLE MARYLAND; BRIDGET NEWTON, Rockville Mayor; BERYL FEINBERG, Rockville City Council Member; VIRGINIA ONLEY, Rockville City Council Member; JANE DOE, Defendants - Appellees, and MAYOR AND CITY COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF ROCKVILLE, MARYLAND, Defendant, PACIFIC LEGAL FOUNDATION, Amicus Supporting Appellant, INTERNATIONAL MUNICIPAL LAWYERS ASSOCIATION; MARYLAND ASSOCIATION OF COUNTIES; CITY OF GAITHERSBURG, Amici Supporting Appellee.

          Argued: September 13, 2017

         Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Maryland, at Greenbelt. Roger W. Titus, Senior District Judge. (8:16-cv-00243-RWT)

         ARGUED:

          Ira Thane Kasdan, KELLEY DRYE & WARREN LLP, Washington, D.C., for Appellants.

          Kevin Bock Karpinski, KARPINSKI, COLARESI & KARP, P.A., Baltimore, Maryland, for Appellees.

         ON BRIEF:

          Bezalel A. Stern, KELLEY DRYE & WARREN LLP, Washington, D.C., for Appellants.

          Debra Yerg Daniel, City Attorney, CITY OF ROCKVILLE, Rockville, Maryland; Sandra D. Lee, KARPINSKI, COLARESI & KARP, P.A., Baltimore, Maryland, for Appellees.

          Joshua P. Thompson, Anastasia P. Boden, PACIFIC LEGAL FOUNDATION, Sacramento, California, for Amicus Pacific Legal Foundation. Erek L. Barron, WHITEFORD, TAYLOR & PRESTON LLP, Bethesda, Maryland, for Amici International Municipal Lawyers Association, Maryland Association of Counties, and City of Gaithersburg.

          Before WILKINSON and NIEMEYER, Circuit Judges, and Raymond A. JACKSON, United States District Judge for the Eastern District of Virginia, sitting by designation.

          WILKINSON, Circuit Judge

         This case arises from an amendment to Rockville's zoning ordinance that prohibited the construction of self-storage facilities within 250 feet of property on which a public school is located. Appellants Siena Corporation and Rockville North Land LLLP (collectively "Siena") complain that the enactment of this amendment amounted to a denial of their due process and equal protection rights under the Fourteenth Amendment. These claims are yet another attempt to circumvent the state's legitimate interest in zoning law and land use policy. We reject the attempt and affirm the dismissal of the action.

         I.

         Siena set out in 2013 to build an "ezStorage" self-storage facility in Rockville, Maryland. The property it purchased for this purpose was located at 1175 Taft Street, immediately adjacent to the intersection of Taft and First Streets. The property is zoned "Light Industrial, " which at the time Siena purchased the property allowed for its use as the site of a self-storage facility. The property also happens to be located down the block from Maryvale Elementary School.

         Upon learning of Siena's plans, Rockville's residents grew concerned that the ezStorage facility would pose a threat to the safety of Maryvale's students. A petition opposing the facility's construction was circulated and gathered 130 signatures. Maryvale's PTA unanimously passed a resolution decrying the facility's construction.

         Residents attended Rockville Council meetings to voice their opposition. They expressed a fear that the ezStorage facility would increase traffic that would in turn threaten the safety of the Maryvale students who crossed the intersection in front of the facility on a daily basis. As one resident explained, many of the items stored in self-storage facilities were transported in "U-Haul-style trucks, " which were not driven by professional truckers and were "not easy to drive." J.A. 234. The residents also worried that the facility would be used to store illegal or hazardous materials and therefore invite crime into the area. One speaker recounted an incident in which "12 bodies and 40 cremated remains were found in two storage units rented by a former funeral director." J.A. 179-80. Finally, the residents feared that the facility's construction would release asbestos into the air, an issue ...


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