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Two suits against city dismissed

One issue involved a zoning claim and the other accused the city of racial discrimination against a business at the Southwest Georgia Regional Airport

Photo by J.D. Sumner

Photo by J.D. Sumner

— ALBANY — A federal judge has dismissed two separate lawsuits, each alleging the city violated the constitutional rights of the plaintiffs.

In the first case, Joseph Howard, et al. v. Country Club Estates Homeowners Assoc. Inc., et al, the plaintiffs were suing the city of Albany in federal court, contending their Fifth and 14th Amendment rights had been violated by the Albany City Commission when, in 2009, the board voted to rezone a piece of property the plaintiff was planning to develop after the board had approved the development.

According to court documents, the plaintiffs paid an architect and engineer $105,000 to draw up the plans for what they had anticipated would be a $2 million multi-family residential development consisting of duplexes and townhouses. After they paid that fee, the city rezoned the property from multiple-family residential district to single-family residential, in effect rendering the property “useless” for further development.

Court documents also show that Howard had been working with an Atlanta-area financial consultant, who, in turn, sought out additional financing from an unidentified Korean investor.

After two-years of federal court proceedings, U.S. District Court Judge Louis Sands granted the city’s motion for a summary judgment against Joseph Howard, the property owner, based both on technical, procedural and substantive grounds, saying that Howard didn’t follow the prescribed method of challenging a zoning issue through state court before bringing the case into the federal realm and that he failed to show that the city’s decision had rendered the property useless.

“It is well established that a plaintiff may only establish a Takings Clause claim if the challenged regulation or state action ‘destroys the value of the land entirely, even if temporarily, without compensating the property owner,’” Sands wrote in his opinion. “... It is undisputed that under the rezoning plaintiffs may still develop the property as (42) single-family homes. Therefore, any assertion that the decrease in value of the subject property as a result of the rezoning rendering the subject property as ‘worthless’ is an exaggeration. While the rezoning does create a diminution in value to plaintiffs’ investment, there is no evidence that plaintiffs’ property is now useless as defined by applicable law.”

In the second case, Cross Landing Inc. v. City of Albany, Georgia et al, Cross Landing, a private company that is a tenant at the Southwest Georgia Regional Airport that provides food and beverage services, sued the city on the claim that Airport Director Yvette Aehle took actions to “stifle commerce, drive away potential customers, and inconvenience current patrons of the company’s restaurant” because the company was black-owned.

Cross Landing contends that while the company was planning to extend its hours to better serve the traveling public and the public at large at the airport, Aehle made the decision to close the parking lot adjacent to the airport at 5 p.m. on weekends. Cross Landings argues that was done specifically to hamper its efforts to expand and that the airport chief’s decision to close the terminal one hour after the last passenger arrived for the last flight of the day further hampered the company economically.

In his order granting the city’s request for a summary judgment against Cross Landing, Sands wrote that Cross Landing failed to state any facts to show that it was deprived of anything based on the race of its owners. The mere facts that they were African American and an action hurt their business do not meet the federal standards to levy a racial discrimination suit, the judge said.

“Put simply, the sole fact that plaintiff corporation has a minority identity, or that putative plaintiffs are African-American, does not alone make out a claim for racial discrimination in the form of factual allegation. Plaintiff is not relieved from asserting or putting forward some evidence or factual allegation of discrimination, or evidence or alleged facts from which discrimination could be inferred, simply because it has alleged it belongs to a protected class. Plaintiff could have shown the court some evidence of discrimination through a variety of methods. Here, plaintiff has failed to show a single fact in support of its contentions that racial discrimination occurred,” Sands wrote.

Jenise Smith, the city attorney who argued both cases, said it was good to get them dealt with.

“I think our civil rights lawsuits are our most challenging to deal with just because they often are more complex and multi-faceted,” Smith said. “It’s good to get these put behind us.”

Comments

TrixibelleBento 2 years, 9 months ago

It's so refreshing to have a judge with some common sense.

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Alb5any 2 years, 9 months ago

Amen...about time black people stop thinking that all white people in Albany are racists. You just prove your ignorance and incompetence when you do.

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Margie 2 years, 9 months ago

Alb5any, when you reference in your post "Amen...about time black people stop thinking that all white people in Albany are racists," is very obvious of your racist thinking and attitude. First all, Albany comprise of thousands of African-American, and not ALL "black" people think that ALL "white" people are racists. That statement in itself has racial undetone and ignorance. But, yes, there are some black people and white that strongely feel that racism exisit amongst the races and class of people. It would be wrong of me to assume that ALL white people believe as you do, because you have elected to put all black people in the same pot, Racism does exisit, and will forever exisit in Albany, New York, and every city town and state in these United States, and in the world. It is not how we should live, but it is fact. But, because it is a part of our society, doesn't mean that everyone that lives within our society feel the same way nor live the same way. I am African American, but I don't believe that ALL white people are racisn, just as I know that not all black people are racist. I have friends whose skin pigmentation is different, and we are friends. Now as for the article, and the law suit, the Judge Sands based his ruling on the law, and the case.

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KaosinAlbany 2 years, 9 months ago

Margie, thank you for your comment. I am glad you spoke up. You are informed and smart person.

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RedEric 2 years, 9 months ago

Let's get this straight. There is only one race...the human race. There are different cultures that fuss with each other. The culture you belong to is largely of your own choosing. You can choose to belong to a contributing culture or you can choose to belong to a victim culture. You can choose a wealthy culture (which involves a lot of work) or you can choose a welfare culture. The sum of values of each culture determines the society as a whole. If you do not like this society maybe you ought not blame others.

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Alb5any 2 years, 9 months ago

Never said All black people. And saying the word "black" doesn't mean I am a racist. It's the same thing as you calling me "white." I am not a racist by any means, whatsoever. Never have been and most certainly never will be. I agree that there is only one race, the human race. However, I do feel that a lot of the black people I run into still hold harsh feelings towards the white race...it is over and done with. I do not believe that a person has to use every excuse in life to try to get by. And the comment has no racial undertone...of course it would by someone who is looking for it. Black people are black, and white people are white. There's no difference so don't try to act like there is. I guess you're saying that, if you call me white, then I can call you out about having racial undertone. Unfortunately, there will always be racism...I wish it was not like this. God did not create our world to live this way and life is most definitely too short for us to be bitter about anything. I am just saying from my view point of having worked in Albany for years and years now, black people seem to hold more negative feelings towards white people then white people do towards black people.

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