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VILLAGE OF EUCLID V. AMBLER REALTY CO.

VILLAGE OF EUCLID V. AMBLER REALTY CO.

The VILLAGE OF EUCLID V. AMBLER REALTY CO., decided on 22 Nov. 1926, was a landmark U.S. Supreme Court case that established the principle and practice of land-use zones in the U.S. The Court reversed a lower federal court ruling in a 6-3 decision. Until then, zoning land in municipalities for specific uses had been a popular "city efficient" technique receiving lukewarm support in the nation's state courts. Euclid v. Ambler, the first federal test, established legal precedent and constitutional justification for ZONING and, implicitly, "comprehensive" land-use planning (see CITY PLANNING). Before EUCLID considered zoning in May 1922, the Cleveland Chamber of Commerce, especially its City Plan Committee under secretary CHARLOTTE M. RUMBOLD, had advanced zoning as a land-use control enhancing real estate values. Robert H. Whitten, a committee member and a drafter of the 1916 New York City Zoning ordinance, served as advisor to the Cleveland City Plan Commission (1917-22), and later as a city plan consultant (1922-24). In 1920 he drafted a LAKEWOOD zoning ordinance. The committee advanced ideas through subcommittees that later became semi-autonomous, e.g., the Univ. Improvement Co. (1918). Another, the Euclid Ave. Assn. (1920), promoted developing EUCLID AVE. within and beyond Cleveland's limits as a noble business and ceremonial thoroughfare. Fearing that the Ambler Realty Co., which owned 68 acres between Euclid Ave., the NICKEL PLATE RAILROAD, E. 196th St., and E. 204th St., might encourage industry, village officials and committee members corresponded about zoning. On 13 Nov. 1922, Euclid adopted an ordinance that prohibited Ambler's developing the Euclid Ave. frontage as industrial, an ordinance remarkably similar to New York City's.

Ambler Realty sued Euclid in state court and lost. Claiming its land had been "taken" without due process, Ambler went to federal court. James Metzenbaum, village counsel, defended zoning, while NEWTON D. BAKER, a City Plan Committee member, prosecuted Ambler's case before his friend, Judge David C. Westenhaver. The committee filed an amicus curiae brief for Euclid. In Jan. 1924 the judge ruled for Ambler. The village appealed to the Supreme Court. Ambler might have been sustained, but Alfred Bettman of Cincinnati sought a rehearing, at which time he filed a persuasive amicus curiae brief with the Supreme Court, led by his friend, Chief Justice William Howard Taft. Justice Sutherland redrafted the opinion, reversing the lower court's decision. The contested land, ironically, became the site of a plant of the FISHER BODY DIVISION OF GENERAL MOTORS.


Simpson, Michael. People & Planning (1969).

See also LAW.