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Hunter v. City of Highland Heights Jaysac Co. LLC

United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Northern Division

March 16, 2017

GARY HUNTER JENNIFER HUNTER PLAINTIFFS
v.
CITY OF HIGHLAND HEIGHTS JAYSAC COMPANY, LLC GREG MEYERS DEFENDANTS

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          WILLIAM O. BERTELSMAN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This is a civil rights action, in which Plaintiffs bring claims under 42 U.S.C.A. § 1983 to vindicate alleged violations of the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment and Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Plaintiffs' complaint also includes state law claims for relief under Ky. Rev. Stat. Ann. §§ 82.405, 92.330 and 92.340, as well as a claim for declaratory relief.

         The matter now comes before the Court on Motions for Summary Judgment by the Plaintiffs (Doc. 31), Defendants the City of Highland Heights and Greg Meyers (Doc. 32), and Defendant JAYSAC Company, LLC (Doc. 37).

         Having previously heard the parties, the Court now issues this Memorandum Opinion and Order.

         I. Factual and Procedural Background

         The entirety of this case involves a 100-foot stretch of land at the end of a currently dead-end street just south of Northern Kentucky University in Highland Heights, Ky. The street is in a subdivision called University Estates, which was platted and mostly constructed in approximately 1993. (Deed, Doc. 31-4, PageID# 142; Plat Map, Doc. 32-1, PageID# 206; Whitacre Depo., Doc. 33, PageID# 247).

         Most of the streets in University Estates end in cul-de-sacs. Jillian Court, the subject of this case, is an exception. When planning the subdivision, the City of Highland Heights and the subdivision planners intentionally left the end of Jillian Court unpaved to allow access to undeveloped land in the future. (Whitacre Depo., Doc. 33, PageID# 243-45). Thus, the final 100 feet of Jillian Court was unpaved, even though it was platted as a City street. (See Plat Map, Doc. 32-1, PageID# 206).

         The Plaintiffs, Gary and Jennifer Hunter, own the property abutting the 100-foot undeveloped stretch of Jillian Court on the north. (Plat Map, Doc. 32-1, PageID# 206; Hunter Depo., Doc. 34, PageID# 250, 252). To the west of the Hunters' property is 13 acres of undeveloped land which Defendant JAYSAC Company, LLC purchased in 2014. (Crawford Depo., Doc. 36, PageID# 296).

         Prior to that purchase, the City of Highland Heights Planning and Zoning Committee voted 7-0 to allow the 100-foot unpaved grass portion of Jillian Court “to be treated as a driveway unless there are more than two lots developed, [in which case] it would have to be developed as a public right-of-way according to the City's subdivision regulations.” (Jan. 14, 2014 Minutes, Doc. 31-5, PageID# 146; Crawford Depo., Doc. 36, PageID# 295)(emphasis added).

         The use of the term “driveway” is an erroneous characterization. The area in question remained an unpaved (or “paper”) street. Yet, other City employees eventually adopted this erroneous designation. (Whitacre Depo., Doc. 33, PageID# 232, 233, 235, 238, 239; Meyers Depo., Doc. 35, PageID# 275).

         In the following months, Plaintiffs and their neighbors became upset with JAYSAC accessing its 13 acres by crossing the 100-foot unpaved section of Jillian Court. They filed open records requests and drafted a signed petition asking City officials to either create a cul-de-sac or other turnaround at the end of Jillian Court or leave it in its current grass form. (See Petition, Doc. 32-4, PageID# 209; Hunter Depo., Doc. 34, PageID# 256).[1]

         Eventually, the City expended $9, 369.69 and JAYSAC spent some of its own money to extend the paved portion of Jillian Court by 10 feet, add a drainage area at the end of the street, remove bushes and trees, add dirt and level the unpaved portion of the street, plant grass, and place a temporary block at the end of the paved portion to prevent vehicles from driving on the freshly planted grass. (Whitacre letter, Doc. 31-8, PageID# 159-60; Expenses, Doc. 32-5, PageID# 231; Whitacre Depo., Doc. 33, PageID# 245-46).

         Dissatisfied with this resolution, Plaintiffs filed this action under 42 U.S.C.A. § 1983 alleging violations of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments, along with two Kentucky state law claims and a claim for declaratory relief. (Doc. 1).

         II. ...


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