State ex rel. Stoyanoff v. Berkeley
458 S.W.2d 305 (1970)
Stoyanoff wanted to build a
house in Ladue, Missouri.
The house was "unusual
in design," but met all of the existing building and zoning
Board" (led by Berkeley) denied Stoyanoff's building permit on the
grounds that the design was too outlandish. Stoyanoff sued.
Stoyanoff argued that he had
been denied due process.
Stoyanoff argued his case
under the Missouri State Constitution, not the 14th Amendment.
Stoyanoff wanted to keep
this under State law, probably the US Supreme Court had already held in Berman
v. Parker that aesthetic zoning
ordinances were legal. Stoyanoff would have lost if he went there.
Stoyanoff also argued that,
even if aesthetic zoning were constitutional, the Missouri had never
explicitly authorized cities to make these kind of zoning laws.
Stoyanoff also argued that
it was not constitutional (under State law) for the city government to
delegate their authority to a non-elected, private body such as the
At least not without giving
the Board very specific standards.
Berkeley argued that having
a "monstrosity of grotesque design" would seriously impair
property values in the neighborhood.
The Trial Court found for
Stoyanoff. Berkeley appealed.
The Trial Court found that
the city ordinances were unconstitutional because they were vague and
provide no standard or uniform rule by which to guide the architectural
The Missouri Supreme Court
The Missouri Supreme Court
found that the ordinances provided for clear rules, and that the purpose
of the ordinance was to increase property values. Therefore they were not
an improper delegation of authority.
Therefore they fell under
the general enabling law that allowed for zoning.
The Court found that that
there was sufficient due process.
Basically, this case turned on
the idea of protecting property values, not on whether it a zoning board
should have the power to tell people that their buildings were too ugly to
be allowed in the neighborhood.
If bad smells and loud noises
can be considered nuisances and
stopped by law, why not unsightly buildings too?
In all cases, there is a
subjective standard for what constitutes a nuisance.
Zoning laws have been held
constitutional under the police power as a form of nuisance control.
Different Courts have ruled
different ways on this issue. Some States have held that zoning laws can
be based solely on aesthetic considerations, other States (like Missouri)
require that there be some other consideration in addition to aesthetics.
Pennsylvania doesn't like aesthetic zoning laws at all.
This is a good case for law
students, because it gives a feeling for how internal State separation of
powers issues work. That's not in a typical 1L curriculum.