We've had bridges on our minds lately. Plus, we've been meaning to post the Nebraska Supreme Court's opinion in Strode v. City of Ashland, No. S-15-956 (Oct. 28, 2016) for a while, and it is coincidentally about a bridge. So the title to this post came to us quickly, and naturally. But writing up the case didn't.
But while we dawdled, Dean Patty Salkin wrote the case up on her blog, Law of the Land. Which has now saved us the effort of writing the case up in its entirety, and we suggest you start by reading her post for the background and the court's ruling.
The case involved two inverse condemnation claims brought by husband and wife property owners, asserting the City's zoning regulations worked a taking of their land in two ways. They first that the regulations prohibited their use of the land for their fencing manufacturing business. They also asserted that a load limit on a nearby bridge -- the main access route to the parcel -- effectively cut off the land because it meant heavy loads couldn't reach them directly.
The court held that they waited too long on the first claim. Nebraska has a ten-year statute of limitations for inverse claims, but even that lengthy time window wasn't met, because they knew way back in 2003 of the limitations the zoning regulations put on their land when the City told them their use was illegal.
As for the bridge claim, the court held they didn't show enough to get around Penn Central's requirement that the property lose substantially all value:
The regulation prevents the Strodes from transporting their goods across the bridge in semitrailer trucks that exceed 14 tons. But the Strodes can use the railroad underpass for semitrailer trucks that exceed the 14-ton weight limit. Randy contends that this is not an adequate alternative, because the height of the railroad underpass is 11 feet 3 inches, and when he transports bulk amounts from his business, the semitrailer trucks usually reach 13 feet 6 inches. Randy testified that when he transports his fencing in smaller loads, he can use smaller trucks. The load limit on the bridge restricts Randy to using either semitrailer trucks that weigh less for access across the bridge or trucks of a limited height for access through the railroad underpass. This may be a “more roundabout way” to perform his business, in which he incurs some damages, but it does not constitute an injury different in kind than the general public, only different in terms of degree.
The Strodes have failed to present any evidence that the weight limit of the bridge decreases the economic value of the property. Randy testified that it cost two to three times more to transport steel in smaller loads rather than in bulk, but he did not conduct any analyses to either substantiate this claim or determine how the property has diminished in value by the weight limits on the bridge.
Slip op. at 65-66.