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The constitutional guaranty of protection for all private property extends equally to the enjoyment and the possession of lands. An arbitrary interference by the government, or by its authority, with the reasonable enjoyment of private lands is a taking of private property without due process of law, which is inhibited by the Constitution.
The landowners held lots that had been used as an open storage for lumber since 1910. Fifty years later, an ordinance was passed prohibiting the open storage of lumber in residentially zoned areas. The landowners received notice to cease the open lumber storage on their lots, so they filed an application for a certificate of occupancy for the lots for the pre-existing nonconforming use. The application was denied, and the landowners sought review. The denial was affirmed by the board of adjustment, and the landowners challenged that decision, arguing that the zoning ordinance and its amortization provision were unconstitutional because they deprived the landowners of their vested properly rights without just compensation.
Did the landowners have a vested right in the nonconforming use of their lots that could not be disregarded, thereby rendering the zoning ordinance and its amortization provision unconstitutional as applied to the landowners?
The court found that the landowners had a vested right in the nonconforming use of their lots that could not be disregarded, that the amortization provision terminated the landowners right to continue their nonconforming use, and that the prohibition of the landowners' use as open lumber storage amounted to an unconstitutional taking. Accordingly, the court set aside the decision of the board of adjustment.