Knight v. e Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County, No. 21-6179 (6th Cir. 2023)Annotate this Case
Nashville passed a “sidewalk ordinance.” To obtain a building permit, an owner must grant an easement across their land and agree to build a sidewalk on the easement or pay an “in-lieu” fee that Nashville will use to build sidewalks elsewhere.
In a challenge to the ordinance under the Fifth Amendment’s Takings Clause, the landowner plaintiffs asked the court to apply the “unconstitutional-conditions” test that the Supreme Court adopted in 1987 to assess conditions on building permits (Nollan v. California Coastal Commission). Nashville argued that the Court has applied Nollan’s test only to ad hoc administrative conditions that zoning officials impose on specific permit applicants—not generally applicable legislative conditions that city councils impose on all permit applicants. For legislative conditions, Nashville argued in favor of the application of the deferential “balancing” test that the Court adopted to assess zoning restrictions in “Penn Central” (1978). The district court granted Nashville summary judgment.
The Sixth Circuit reversed, agreeing with the landowners. Nothing in the relevant constitutional text, history, or precedent supports Nashville’s distinction between administrative and legislative conditions. Nollan’s test should apply to both types, including those imposed by the sidewalk ordinance.