The opinion of the court was delivered by: BRUCE KAUFFMAN, District Judge
Plaintiff Deirdre Blain brings this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983
for alleged violations of her substantive due process rights by the
Township of Radnor, its Board of Commissioners, and Commissioners Clinton
A. Stuntebeck, William A. Spingler, James M. Pierce, Lisa Paolino-Adams,
Harry G. Mahoney, and Graham D. Andrews in their individual capacities
(collectively, "Defendants"). Now before the Court is Defendants' Motion
for Summary Judgment. For the reasons stated below, the Motion will be
Plaintiff owned two parcels of land in the Township of Radnor with a
combined size of 13.6 acres. Amended Complaint ("Compl.") ¶ 1. She
submitted her subdivision plan (the "plan") to the Township for
preliminary approval on July 2, 1999. Compl. ¶ 19. The Planning
Commission and Plaintiff agreed to extend the statutory period for
consideration of her plan through November 9, 1999. Plaintiff's Response to Motion for
Summary Judgment ("Resp.") at 3.
Although the plan complied with the Township's density ordinance,
several neighbors spoke at Planning Commission meetings about their
concerns regarding the density of the new development. Resp. at 4-6.
Relying on the opinion of the Township Engineer, Duncan Hubley, that the
plan violated two provisions of the Township's subdivision ordinances,
the Planning Commission recommended denial. Id. at 5-6.
According to Hubley, Lots 7 and 8 violated Section 255-25A (which
prohibited the formation of remnants), and Lot 6 violated Section
255-34E (which required that lots be "conveniently shaped").
Hubley made his recommendation despite advice from the Township
Solicitor that the lots conformed with the ordinances. After the first
Planning Commission meeting, the attorney for Plaintiff, John Snyder,
wrote to the Solicitor, Eugene Evans, to ask about the alleged
violations. Id. In response, Evans left the following voicemail
message for Snyder:
Hey John, this is Gene Evans. I'm getting back to
you on that letter of September 27, 1999 with
regards to the regular shaped lots. I spoke to
Duncan. I told Duncan that you were right. Once
you put those new lots together, they are very
regular shaped. I told him to leave you alone,
Resp. at 5. Evans did not attend any Planning Commission meetings
considering the plan because he was suffering from terminal cancer, and
Defendants claim that they never had a formal recommendation from him
that they approve the plan. Motion Ex. C at 30-31, Ex. F at 13.
After receiving the Planning Commission's recommendation, the Board of
Commissioners (the "Board") considered the plan for the first time on
October 18, 1999. Resp. at 7. After an additional meeting on November 8, the Board voted on
November 22 to deny the plan on the basis of its failure to comport with
Sections 255-25A and 34E. Id. at 9.
Plaintiff filed a Notice of Land Use Appeal in the Delaware County
Court of Common Pleas on December 14, 1999. Resp. Ex. 25. In the
meantime, Board members met with neighbors to discuss the possibility of
buying development rights from the developer of Plaintiff's property, but
this effort was unsuccessful. See Motion Ex. B at 114-120,
Resp. Ex. 35.
On June 8, 2001, after a lengthy analysis of Sections 255-25A and 34E,
the Court of Common Pleas concluded that because Plaintiff discussed the
remnant issue with the Solicitor and followed the procedures set forth in
the Township ordinances, the Township could not disapprove the plan on
the grounds that it violated 255-25A. Resp. Ex. 27 at 15-16. The Court
also found that the "conveniently shaped" language in 255-34E was too
vague to support a denial of the plan, and accordingly, the denial was
arbitrary and capricious. Id. at 19-20. The Court further
stated that the Board's written denial was insufficient because it "did
not specify the defects complained of or describe the requirements which
have not been met." Id at 21-22. In addition, because the final denial
was made after the November 9 statutory deadline, the plan was deemed
approved as of that date. Id. at 23.
The Court of Common Pleas ordered the Board to approve Plaintiff's
subdivision application "forthwith." Id. at i. The Township
appealed, but the day before its brief was due in October, 2001, it
withdrew the appeal. Resp. at 12. The Resolution authorizing withdrawal
stated in part that the appeal had been taken due to "the announced
interests of some neighbors in the immediate area to acquire some of the
development rights for some or all of the properties in question and because of some interest on the part of Radnor
Township in assisting those citizens in maintaining open space." Resp. at
Ex. 28. The Resolution further stated that it was "legally and
financially impractical to proceed" with the litigation and directed the
Solicitor to withdraw the appeal. Id.
Plaintiff submitted a plan for final approval on December 17, 2001.
Resp. at 15. At a Planning Commission meeting on January 8 and a Board
meeting on January 22, three proposed changes were discussed.
Id. at 15-16. On January 8, there was a discussion about the
Township Engineer's request that Plaintiff install a sewer line for
houses located off of the subdivision property, a request that apparently
was made of all subdivision applicants. Motion at 26; Resp. at 36.*fn2
On January 22, a discussion took place about limiting construction on
Saturdays. Resp. Ex. 33 at 13. Both conditions were included in a draft
resolution that was faxed to Plaintiff for her approval on February 7.
Id. Ex. 41. In a letter of that same date, her attorney
requested that the Resolution be revised to eliminate the two conditions,
and the next day they were eliminated. Id. Ex. 41, 42. The
third proposed condition involved the creation of walking paths across
the property.*fn3 At the January 22 Board meeting, Commissioner James
Pierce threatened to condemn land for walking paths if Plaintiff refused
to grant a right-of-way voluntarily. See Resp. Ex. 33.*fn4 Plaintiffs attorney asserts in his affidavit that Commissioner
Pierce's threats about condemning the land "imposed upon [Plaintiff] and
her buyer an obligation to disclose this fact to all future home buyers,
which would have the effect of lowering the value of the property." Resp.
Ex. 1 ¶ 35. The plan received final approval on February 8, 2002,
without any of the three proposed conditions. Resp. at 38.
In deciding a motion for summary judgment pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P.
56, the test is "whether there is a genuine issue of material fact and,
if not, whether the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of
law." Medical Protective Co. v. Watkins, 198 F.3d 100, 103 (3d
Cir. 1999) (quoting Armbruster v. Unisys Corp., 32 F.3d 768,
777 (3d Cir. 1994)). "[S]ummary judgment will not lie if the dispute
about a material fact is `genuine,' that is, if the evidence is such that
a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party."
Anderson v. Liberty Lobby. Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). The
Court must examine the evidence in the light most favorable to the
non-moving party and resolve all reasonable inferences in that party's
favor. Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp.,
475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986). However, "there can be `no genuine issue as to ...