Federal judge tosses case against Dunbar

By Justin Anderson | Jun 4, 2009

CHARLESTON – A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed by a developer targeting the city of Dunbar and one specific member of the city's council.

Robert Weidlich, through his company, Weidlich and Associates, claimed the defendants had effectively taken his property without compensating him by denying his requests to have the land rezoned so he could sell the property.

U.S. District Judge John T. Copenhaver on Monday dismissed Weidlich's case as being "unripe" for review, primarily because there were other avenues -– besides a constitutional lawsuit –- for Weidlich to explore.

Weidlich filed the lawsuit in October 2008 after the city's planning commission, and later city council, voted in 2006 to disapprove of his request to have his property rezoned from single family use to multi-family use.

Weidlich specifically blamed city council member Connie Boardman for the obstacle, due to her lingering opposition to the rezoning request because her property abuts Weidlich's.

The plaintiff's quest to have the property rezoned began in 1998, when Weidlich submitted a plan to build apartments on the property to the city's planning commission. At the time, Boardman was not a member of council, but was a voice of opposition against the plan to build the apartments, court records say.

Weidlich alleged that Boardman influenced the planning commission to interminably delay voting on his rezoning request by continually asking for more and more information.

Eventually, Weidlich abandoned the idea to build the apartments on the 100-acre property. In 2006, he again approached the planning commission about rezoning the land so he could sell it. He claimed having the land rezoned to permit multi-family use would make the sale more marketable.

Boardman was a member of council now, and the council's liaison to the planning commission. Again, Boardman voiced opposition to Weidlich's request.

In the end, the planning commission voted against the request and council upheld the decision. According to court records, Boardman did not vote in the matter.

Weidlich claimed that Boardman's opposition was based in her desire to keep people from seeing into her backyard, which has an in-ground swimming pool.

Weidlich's complaint in federal court alleged that the defendants had violated his constitutional rights by effectively taking his property without compensating him for it.

Weidlich complained that he's found it nearly impossible to sell the land due to its restricted use.

Copenhaver, in his order, said Weidlich had an avenue through West Virginia law to seek compensation for the land.

Copenhaver said that Weidlich could have initiated an inverse condemnation action in state court. He also could have requested a circuit judge compel the city to institute eminent domain proceedings on the land.

"Because Weidlich has not taken advantage of these state modes of redress, and thus has not been denied just compensation … its takings claims are unripe," Copenhaver wrote.

U.S. District Court case number: 2:08-1185

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