City of Eastlake v. Forest City Enterprises, Inc.
426 U.S. 668 (1976)

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U.S. Supreme Court

City of Eastlake v. Forest City Enterprises, Inc., 426 U.S. 668 (1976)

City of Eastlake v. Forest City Enterprises, Inc.

No. 74-1563

Argued March 1, 1976

Decided June 21, 1976

426 U.S. 668

Syllabus

The Ohio Constitution reserves to the people of each municipality in the State the power of referendum with respect to all questions that the municipality is authorized to control by legislation. Respondent real estate developer applied for a zoning change to permit construction of a high-rise apartment building on land it owned in petitioner Ohio city. While the application was pending, the city charter was amended by popular vote so as to require that any changes in land use agreed to by the City Council be approved by a 55% vote in a referendum. The City Planning Commission recommended, and the City Council approved, the proposed zoning change, but the Commission rejected respondent's further application for "parking and yard" approval for the proposed apartment building on the ground that the Council's rezoning action had not been submitted to a referendum. Respondent then filed suit in state court, seeking a judgment declaring the city charter amendment invalid as an unconstitutional delegation of legislative power to the people. While the action was pending, the proposed zoning change was defeated in a referendum. The charter amendment was upheld by the trial court and by the Ohio Court of Appeals, but the Ohio Supreme Court reversed, holding that the amendment constituted a delegation of power violative of federal constitutional due process guarantees because the voters were given no standards to guide their decision.

Held: The city charter amendment does not violate the due process rights of a landowner who applies for a zoning change. Pp. 426 U. S. 672-679.

(a) A referendum, which is a means for direct political participation by the people, allowing them what amounts to a veto power over legislative enactments, cannot be characterized as a delegation of power. In establishing legislative bodies, the people can reserve to themselves power to deal directly with matters that might otherwise be assigned to the legislature, and here the power of referendum was specifically reserved to the people under the Ohio Constitution. Pp. 426 U. S. 672-674.

Page 426 U. S. 669

(b) The doctrine that legislative delegation of power to regulatory bodies must be accompanied by discernible standards is inapplicable where, as here, rather than power being delegated, the power exercised is one reserved by the people to themselves. P. 426 U. S. 675.

(c) A referendum result that is arbitrary and capricious, bearing no relation to police power, is open to challenge in state court, where the scope of the available state remedy would be determined as a matter of state law and under the Fourteenth Amendment. Pp. 426 U. S. 676-677.

(d) As a basic instrument of democratic government, the referendum process does not, in itself, violate the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment when applied to a rezoning ordinance. Eubank v. Richmond,226 U. S. 137; Washington ex rel. Seattle Title Trust Co. v. Roberge,278 U. S. 116, distinguished. Pp. 426 U. S. 677-679.

41 Ohio St.2d 187, 324 N.E.2d 740, reversed and remanded.

BURGER, C.J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which STEWART, WHITE, MARSHALL, BLACKMUN, and REHNQUIST, JJ., joined. POWELL, J., filed a dissenting opinion, post, p. 426 U. S. 680. STEVENS, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which BRENNAN, J., joined, post, p. 426 U. S. 680.

Page 426 U. S. 670

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