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Recovery Land Holding, LLC v. City of South Ogden

United States District Court, D. Utah

December 16, 2019

RECOVERY LAND HOLDINGS, LLC, a Utah limited liability company, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF SOUTH OGDEN, and DOE DEFENDANTS I through X, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT -DISPARATE TREATMENT CLAIMS

          TED STEWART DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment on Plaintiff's disparate treatment claims. For the reasons discussed below, the Court will grant the Motion.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff Recovery Land Holdings, LLC (“Brighton”) operates a residential facility for people recovering from alcoholism and substance abuse located in South Ogden, Utah. Plaintiff's facility is located in an R-1-10 residential zoning district. South Ogden City Code § 10-14-21 prohibits all “Group Living Arrangements” (“GLA”) in the City's R-1-10 Residential Zoning District.[1] The definition of GLAs includes a Residential Facility for Disabled Persons (“RFDP”).[2] However, a different provision of the City Code, § 10-7A-1, provides that RFDPs are a permitted use in R-1-10 zones.

         Plaintiff previously received an accommodation from the City allowing up to 20 patients at its facility. After Brighton received its accommodation, the City adopted Ordinance 16-20, which amended certain provisions of the City's zoning code. Relevant here, Ordinance 16-20 added the definition for GLAs, restricted GLAs to certain zoning districts, and banned any GLA within a 2, 460-foot radius of any other GLA. Additionally, Ordinance 16-20 increased the number of disabled persons who could live together in an RFDP to 8 people.

         On March 10, 2017, Brighton filed an application for a reasonable accommodation from the City to allow it to provide treatment for up to 32 people. After learning of Ordinance 16-20, Brighton supplemented its reasonable accommodation application. In that supplement, Brighton sought accommodation from the City's prohibition of GLAs in R-1-10 zones and the 8-person cap for RFDPs.

         The City's Accommodation Review Committee denied Brighton's application on May 17, 2017. Brighton appealed that decision to a Hearing Officer. On August 30, 2017, the Hearing Officer denied the appeal.

         Brighton brought this action on September 29, 2017. Brighton asserted claims under the Fair Housing Act (“FHA”), the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), and the Rehabilitation Act (“RA”). Brighton advanced three theories of liability under these provisions: (1) disparate treatment discrimination; (2) disparate impact discrimination; and (3) failure to grant a reasonable accommodation.

         The Court previously granted summary judgment on Plaintiff's reasonable accommodation claim. Defendant now seeks summary judgment on Plaintiff's disparate treatment claim.

         II. SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARD

         Summary judgment is appropriate “if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.”[3] In considering whether a genuine dispute of material fact exists, the Court determines whether a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving party in the face of all the evidence presented.[4] The Court is required to construe all facts and reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party.[5]

         III. DISCUSSION

         Before addressing the merits of Defendant's Motion, the Court must address Plaintiff's claim that the Motion somehow violates the Court's prior order denying Defendant's earlier motion for summary judgment pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(d). Put simply, it does not. Nothing in that prior order prevents Defendant from filing the instant Motion. Further, as is addressed more fully in the Court's Memorandum Decision and Order denying Plaintiff's Renewed Rule 56(d) Motion and Motion to Amend Scheduling Order, no further discovery will be permitted.

         Turning to the merits, a disparate-treatment claim requires proof of “differential treatment of similarly situated persons or groups.”[6] “There are two ways to prove intentional discrimination (or ‘disparate treatment'), ” direct proof and circumstantial evidence.[7]

         1.Direct Evidence

         “Direct evidence of discrimination is evidence which, if believed, proves that the decision in the case at hand was discriminatory-and does so without depending on any further inference or presumption.”[8] Thus, “if a city zoning official explicitly relies on a discriminatory policy in making the challenged policy decision, or if he makes discriminatory comments about the ...


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