If by the term "aesthetic considerations" is meant a regard merely for outward appearances, for good taste in the matter of the beauty of the neighborhood itself, the court does not observe any substantial reason for saying that such a consideration is not a matter of general welfare. The beauty of a fashionable residence neighborhood in a city is for the comfort and happiness of the residents, and it sustains in a general way the value of property in the neighborhood.
Plaintiff applicants filed an action against defendant building commissioner (commissioner) contending that certain city building permit ordinances were unconstitutional. Plaintiffs were refused a building permit for the construction of their proposed residence upon the ground that the permit was not approved by a city architectural board (board) which was set up to assure that plans for buildings conformed to minimum standards of appearance. The Circuit Court of St. Louis County (Missouri), upon summary judgment, issued a peremptory writ of mandamus to compel the commissioner to issue a residential building permit to the applicants. The trial court found that the ordinances setting up the board violated Mo. Const. art. I, § 10, in that the restrictions placed on the use of property deprived property owners of their property without due process of law. The commissioner appealed and the court reversed.
Can the city government deny a building permit to a landowner on the ground that the proposed home does not aesthetically conform to the other homes in the area?
The court held that in the matter of enacting zoning ordinances and the procedures for determining whether any certain proposed structure or use was in compliance with or offended the basic ordinance, the court would not substitute its judgment for the city's legislative body if the result was not oppressive, arbitrary, or unreasonable and did not infringe upon a valid preexisting nonconforming use. The court held that the denial of a building permit for the applicants' highly modernistic residence in the traditional area did not appear to be arbitrary and unreasonable when the basic purpose to be served was that of the general welfare of persons in the entire community.