Nectow v. City of Cambridge, 277 U.S. 183 (1928)
Case Citation: Nectow v. City of Cambridge, 277 U.S. 183 (1928).
Parties: Saul M. Nectow, Plaintiff / Appellant
City of Cambridge ET AL., Defendant / Appellee
Facts: The appellant owned a 140,000 square foot property in the City of Cambridge city of which a 29,000 square foot section (locus) was impacted by new city the zoning ordinances. While the rest of the locus was zoned as unrestricted, the newly implemented zoning restrictions caused a 100-foot-wide section of the locus to fall outside of the unrestricted zoning and fall into a residential zone. The appellant claimed that the new zoning restrictions caused the cancellation sales agreement for the locus amounting to $63,000.00. The appellant filed suit for an injunction to keep the city from enforcing the new restrictions on the locus.
Procedural History: The appellant filed suit in the Supreme Judicial Court for Suffolk county to obtain an injunction against applying the new zoning to the locus. The suit was dismissed. The case at bar is an appeal claiming an error in judgment.
Issue: Whether a zoning ordinance which is injurious to the use of a property should be enforced when enforcement of the ordinance does not promote the health, safety, convenience and general welfare of the community.
Holding: No. The invasion of the property by the zoning restrictions was a serious and highly injurious act by the city and did not promote the health, safety, convenience and general welfare of the community in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment.
Reasoning: The court considered the injury to the property caused by the zoning restriction and coupled that fact with the fact that a proposed widening of the frontage road to the locus would effectively reduce the depth of the locus down to sixty-five feet. The court agreed with the opinion in Euclid v. Ambler Co., 272 U.S. 365 (1926), where the court held that a court should not set aside the such zoning ordinances unless the ordinance “has no foundation in reason and is a mere arbitrary or irrational exercise of power having no substantial relation to the public health, the public morals, the public safety or the public welfare in its proper sense.” The court rationalized that the zoning and proposed widening would render the property useless in the newly zoned residential category because any investment in the locus would not yield any adequate returns on any investment required to develop the locus. The court concluded that the zoning of the property fell within the scheme of Euclid as it did not promote the health, safety, convenience and general welfare of the community and the only result of the zoning was to substantially cripple the appellant’s ability to develop or market the property. Because of these facts, the court concluded that the dismissal of the appellants case was in error and the zoning was an invasion of his property that violated his due process rights under the Fourteenth Amendment.
Decision: Reversed. The court found the zoning to be injurious to the locus and did not promote the health, safety, convenience and general welfare of the community.
Comment: This case has Fourth Amendment implications since the injury to the property caused by the zoning could be argued to be a seizure of sticks in the bundle of rights (the right to use and enjoy as well as the right to dispose of the property) without probable cause.