the federal defendants to reject plaintiff's proposal and to continue the status quo lacks sufficient rational basis, and that the real reason for the decision was to avoid confrontation with the other carriage companies. Society Hill Carriage additionally points out that its plan represents the fairest allocation of the available spaces in the carriage stands in the Park area.
This court's standard of review of the decision of the NPS "is a narrow one. The court is not empowered to substitute its judgment for that of the agency." Id. (quoting Citizens to Preserve Overton Park v. Volpe, 401 U.S. 402, 416, 28 L. Ed. 2d 136, 91 S. Ct. 814 (1971)). The appropriate inquiry is whether the decision was rational and based on the factors relevant to the decision. Id. (citing Frisby v. United States Dept. of Housing and Urban Development, 755 F.2d 1052, 1055 (3d Cir. 1985)).
NPS articulated the reasons for rejecting plaintiff's proposed changes in the use of the carriage stands in its letter of April 12, 1988, which included a synopsis of the comments and proposals for changes to the terms of the carriage operation permits and the consideration given and action taken on each of the proposals. See Administrative Record at 23. In that letter, NPS stated that it had considered the circumstances surrounding the initial grant of a permit to Society Hill Carriage, at which time NPS had explained to Society Hill Carriage, the fifth company to seek such a permit, that permits covering the available spaces on Chestnut Street had already been issued. Id. NPS further noted that it had explained at that time, in 1986, that while there was space for one more carriage on Chestnut Street at the Sixth Street end, an additional space would be needed on Fifth Street, and that NPS would be willing to issue a permit for the carriage spot on Fifth Street should the city decide to establish a stand there. Id.
NPS, after reviewing the historical pattern of use of the carriage stands, reiterated its rationale that the newest permittee would receive the least desirable location, and concluded that this was not unfair in light of the awareness of Society Hill Carriage of this policy at the time its permit was granted. Id. NPS articulated this same position in the letter of April 27, 1988 and as the reason for the final rejection of plaintiff's proposal and the decision to continue the status quo as stated in the June 22, 1988 letter. See Administrative Record at 53, 56.
I conclude, after a review of the administrative record, the federal defendants' motion for summary judgment, and the plaintiff's response thereto, that the decision of NPS to maintain the current allocation of use of the carriage stands in the Park was based on a rational consideration of the relevant factors and circumstances and was not arbitrary and capricious. NPS has consistently relied on several reasons to support its allocation of the carriage stand spaces at the Park. NPS analyzed the historical pattern of use of the stands and concluded that continuation of that pattern would be fair, based on the rationale that the final permittee should receive the allocation for the least desirable space. The supplemental reason articulated as a basis for the decision of NPS was that at the time the fifth permit was granted to plaintiff, both NPS and the plaintiff understood that the plaintiff was willing to operate one of his carriages out of the Fifth Street stand in return for the support of NPS in getting the stand established.
Plaintiff Society Hill Carriage asserts that the federal defendants have distorted the character of the initial request of the plaintiff for the permit, and that plaintiff never specifically requested the exclusive allocation of the space in the Fifth Street stand. Nevertheless, the administrative record is clear. NPS originally issued a permit limiting plaintiff's second carriage to the use of the newly-created Fifth Street stand, and decided to reject plaintiff's proposal to change that pattern of space allocation two years later in 1988.
The decision of NPS was based on a rational consideration of the relevant factors, including the key factor of the historical pattern of use of the spaces, and on a conclusion that maintaining the status quo was fair in light of that historical pattern and the absence of any change in circumstances. This court is not empowered to substitute its judgment as to what is most fair in place of the determination of that issue by NPS, when, as is the case here, that determination is based on a rational consideration of the relevant factors and circumstances. Therefore, the motion of the federal defendants for summary judgment will be granted.
An order follows.
AND NOW, this 22nd day of March, in consideration of the motion of defendants National Park Service, Hobart G. Cawood, and Robert J. Byrne for summary judgment, the response of plaintiff Society Hill Carriage Co., Ltd. thereto, for the reasons stated in the foregoing Memorandum, it is ORDERED that:
1. Defendants' motion is GRANTED.
2. Judgment is ENTERED in favor of defendants National Park Service, Hobart G. Cawood, and Robert J. Byrne and against plaintiff Society Hill Carriage Co., Ltd. on plaintiff's claim.
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