Belle Terre v. Boraas

416 U.S. 1, 94 S. Ct. 1536 (1974)

 

RULE:

A quiet place where yards are wide, people few, and motor vehicles restricted are legitimate guidelines in a land-use project addressed to family needs. This goal is a permissible one. The police power is not confined to elimination of filth, stench, and unhealthy places. It is ample to lay out zones where family values, youth values, and the blessings of quiet seclusion and clean air make the area a sanctuary for people.

FACTS:

The Dickmans owned a house which had been leased to six unrelated college students. Due to the zoning ordinance of the Village of Belle Terre, New York, restricting land use to one-family dwellings, and prohibiting occupancy of a dwelling by more than two unrelated persons as a "family”, the Dickmans were served with an order to remedy the violations of the ordinance. Thereafter, the Dickmans and three of the six college students (collectively, the plaintiffs) instituted an action challenging the constitutionality of the ordinance. According to the plaintiffs, the ordinance violated equal protection rights and rights of association, travel, and privacy. The District Court upheld the constitutionality of the ordinance, but the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit reversed. Consequently, the appellant village appealed the appellate court’s judgment.

ISSUE:

Was the ordinance restricting land use to one-family dwellings constitutional?

ANSWER:

Yes.

CONCLUSION:

The Court held that the ordinance was not aimed at transients, thus, it involved no procedural disparity inflicted on some but not on others, and it involved no fundamental right guaranteed by the United States Constitution. The Court found that a quiet place where yards were wide, people few, and motor vehicles restricted were legitimate guidelines in a land-use project addressed to family needs. According to the Court, the legislature properly exercised its discretion in defining "family" to include no more than two unrelated persons.

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