District Intown Props. v. D.C. Dep't of Consumer & Regulatory Affairs
- Title: District Intown Props. v. D.C. Dep't of Consumer & Regulatory Affairs
- Citation: 680 A. 2d 1373 (D.C. 1996)
- Decided Date: 17-Nov-95
In March 1992, the Mayor’s Agent denied petitioner’s permit to construct a townhouse on each of eight vacant lots carved from the lawn of the landmark Cathedral Mansions apartment building, holding that the construction would be incompatible with the property’s historic landmark status. Petitioner filed a petition for review under the D.C. Administrative Procedure Act in the D.C. Court of Appeals. The petitioner did not, however, challenge the Mayor’s Agent’s authority to deny the permit on the basis of incompatibility; rather, it argued that the Mayor’s Agent had exceeded his statutory jurisdiction in addressing the issue of economic hardship under § 5-1007 (now § 6-1107). Because the petitioner had not been “adversely affected or aggrieved” by the decision and did not “suffer a legal wrong,” the Court dismissed the suit on justiciability grounds. The Court agreed, however, with the petitioner’s assertion that the Mayor’s Agent had exceeded his jurisdiction in addressing the issue of economic hardship and noted that the sections of the decision discussing the issue would have no preclusive effect in subsequent proceedings in another forum.
Collateral Estoppel / Res Judicata:
- The Court held that the Mayor’s Agent’s discussion of economic hardship would have no preclusive effect for two independent reasons: (1) the Mayor’s Agent had exceeded his statutory jurisdiction in addressing the issue of economic hardship; and (2) the discussion of economic hardship was not necessary to the resolution of the case (i.e., it was dictum). It noted that because “the Mayor’s Agent lacked authority to issue the requested building permits even if [the petitioner] ... proved that it would otherwise suffer unreasonable economic hardship, his disposition of that issue was not only dictum, but also was in excess of his statutory jurisdiction.”
- Citing United States v. Silliman, 65 F. Supp. 665, 669 (D.N.J. 1946), the Court noted that if “the Mayor’s Agent lacked the authority to issue these findings and conclusions, his decision was ‘ineffective as an estoppel.’” Therefore, the petitioner’s “apprehensions of preclusive consequences ... have substance only if the Mayor’s Agent was authorized by law to decide the issue of economic hardship.” Because the Mayor’s Agent did not possess such authority, the discussion of economic hardship would not preclude the petitioner from filing a takings claim in another forum.
- Citing Washington Medical Center, Inc. v. Holle, 573 A.2d 1269, 1283 (D.C. 1990), the Court noted that because the Mayor’s Agent’s “resolution of the issue of unreasonable economic hardship was not essential to his decision with respect to [petitioner’s] ... application for new construction[,]” the discussion “would have no preclusive effect in any future proceeding in which [petitioner] ... may claim an uncompensated taking.”
The Court held that § 6-1107 (previously § 5-1007) does not allow the Mayor’s Agent to grant a permit for new construction on the basis of unreasonable economic hardship. Economic hardship is a proper consideration only in the context of demolition, alteration, and subdivision permit proceedings under §§ 6-1104, 6-1105, and 6-1106.
The Court emphasized that “[c]ompatibility with the historic district or landmark is ... the sole statutory criterion for determining whether new construction shall be authorized. In contrast to other ... provisions [of the Act], which expressly authorize the Mayor to consider unreasonable economic hardship (as well as the public interest) when evaluating applications for permits to demolish, alter, or subdivide a historic landmark or a property in a historic district, Section 5-1007, which deals with permits for new construction, makes no mention at all of economic hardship.” (internal citations omitted) There is “no [statutory] basis for concluding that construction incompatible with a historic landmark may be permitted in order to avoid economic hardship to a developer.”
Standing / Justiciability:
The Court noted that “[j]udicial review in this court pursuant to the District’s Administrative Procedure Act (DCAPA) is available only to a person who has suffered a legal wrong, or who has been adversely affected or aggrieved by an order of an agency in a contested case.” The Court dismissed the suit because the petitioner had failed to satisfy this threshold requirement. The “findings and conclusions regarding economic hardship which are the subject of [petitioner’s] ... challenge do not, standing alone, impose an obligation, deny a right, or fix any legal relationship.” On the contrary, the “only threatened injury of which [the petitioner] ... complains in this case derives from the apprehended preclusive consequences, in possible future civil proceedings, of the findings and conclusions of the Mayor’s Agent regarding the question whether [petitioner] ... suffered an uncompensated taking.”
Decision and Order of the Mayor’s Agent, HPA Nos. 92-213 through 92-220 (March 18, 1992).
- District Intown Properties Ltd. Partnership v. District of Columbia, 23 F. Supp.2d 30 (D.D.C. 1998).
- District Intown Properties Ltd. Partnership v. District of Columbia, 198 F.3d 874 (D.C. Cir. 1999).
Files in this item
- Full Text of Decision.pdf
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