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Addicition Specialists, Inc. v. Township of Hampton

June 14, 2005

ADDICTION SPECIALISTS, INC., APPELLANT
v.
THE TOWNSHIP OF HAMPTON, THE TOWNSHIP OF HAMPTON COUNCIL AND THE COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA,



On Appeal from the United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania (D.C. Civil No. 04-cv-00696-1) District Judge: The Honorable Arthur J. Schwab

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Van Antwerpen, Circuit Judge

PRECEDENTIAL

Argued May 3, 2005

BEFORE: McKEE, VAN ANTWERPEN and WEIS, Circuit Judges

OPINION

Appellant Addiction Specialists, Inc. ("ASI") brought various constitutional and statutory discrimination claims against the Township of Hampton and Township of Hampton Council (collectively "the Township"). *fn1 ASI now appeals the September 9, 2004, Order and Opinion of the United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania granting the Township's Motion to Dismiss pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6). The District Court relied on the abstention doctrine articulated by the Supreme Court in Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37 (1971), and held that resolution of ASI's federal claims would impermissibly interfere with an ongoing state proceeding. For the reasons set forth below, we reverse in part, affirm in part, and remand to the District Court for further proceedings consistent with this Opinion.

I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

A. Background

ASI operates drug counseling and treatment facilities and seeks to open a methadone clinic in the Township of Hampton, which is located in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania. In February 2003, ASI entered into a lease for a property located on Route 8 in Hampton and promptly submitted a "Change of Use Application" with the Township. According to the Township's zoning ordinance, the subject property was located in a "highway commercial district," which includes drug stores, hospitals, medical offices and clinics, business and professional offices, retail liquor sales, and veterinary hospitals.

Pennsylvania state law distinguishes methadone clinics from other "medical clinics" and hospitals. The Municipalities Planning Code ("MPC") prohibits the establishment of methadone clinics "within 500 feet of an existing school, public playground, public park, residential housing area, child-care facility, church, meetinghouse or other actual place of regularly stated religious worship...." MPC § 621 (codified at 53 P.S. § 10621). ASI asserts that the subject property should not be affected by this prohibition. The Township apparently agreed at first and granted ASI's Change of Use Application on May 29, 2003.

One week later, however, the Township informed ASI that there was a "problem" involving their proposed facility. The Township decided to reevaluate whether the subject property satisfied the requirements of § 621 and held a public hearing on October 29, 2003, to resolve this issue. At the hearing, a number of Township officials and residents expressed their opposition to the establishment of a methadone treatment facility in Hampton.

At the conclusion of the hearing, the Township found that the subject property was within 500 feet of a school and a public park and therefore rescinded their approval of ASI's Change of Use Application under § 621. The Township found that a travel agency located next door to the subject property, which offers on-site training to students enrolled in a travel and tourism class at the Community College of Allegheny County, qualified as a "school" within the meaning of § 621. The Township also determined that the "Depreciation Lands Museum" was a "public park" within the meaning of § 621.

Shortly thereafter, State Representative Jeff Habay, who had spoken in opposition to ASI's Change of Use Application at the hearing, submitted a proposal in the state legislature to expand the terms of MPC § 621 to prohibit the establishment of methadone clinics in proximity to a museum, an emergency medical service provider, or a liquor store.

Moreover, the Township Council amended the Township Zoning Ordinance, adding section 12.400, which prohibits the establishment of methadone clinics within 500 feet of a cemetery.*fn2

B. State Proceedings

On December 24, 2003, ASI filed an appeal from the Township's zoning decision with the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County, Pennsylvania pursuant to MPC § 1002-A (codified at 53 P.S. § 11002-A). In this land use appeal, ASI alleged that the Township acted arbitrarily and capriciously and abused its discretion by determining that the travel agency qualified as a school and that the museum qualified as a public park under MPC § 621. ASI also alleged that the Township's denial of access to the public accommodations and health services that the ASI facility would provide to disabled individuals constituted unlawful discrimination under the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act ("PHRA"), 43 P.S. §§ 952, et seq.; the Americans With Disabilities Act ("ADA"), 42 U.S.C. §§ 12101, et seq.; and the Rehabilitation Act ("RA"), 29 U.S.C. §§ 701, et seq.

C. Federal Proceedings

While the land use appeal was pending in the state court, ASI filed its federal complaint, which contains seven counts alleging violations of the United States Constitution, the Pennsylvania Constitution, the ADA, and the RA. Specifically, Counts I and II of ASI's Second-Amended Complaint are brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Count I alleges a deprivation of ASI's right to due process, and Count II alleges a denial of equal protection, due to the Township's "pattern and practice of arbitrary and irrational government action...." Second Am. Compl. at 27. ASI seeks injunctive relief, declaratory relief, and damages for these alleged constitutional violations.

Counts III and IV allege violations of the ADA, and Count V alleges violations of the RA. ASI's claims under the ADA and RA allege two types of violations. First, ASI challenges the lawfulness of Pennsylvania's land use policies, alleging that the terms of MPC § 621 itself are in violation of the ADA and RA. Second, ASI alleges that the Township violated these two federal statutes through discriminatory application of the land use policies. In Counts III, IV, and V, ASI seeks injunctive and declaratory relief as well as compensatory and punitive damages for the alleged violations of the ADA and RA. In Count VI, ASI seeks a declaratory judgment that the Township's actions violated the United States and Pennsylvania Constitutions. Finally, in Count VII, ASI alleges that the terms of MPC § 621 and section 12.400 of the Township Zoning Ordinance violate the United States and Pennsylvania Constitutions, the ADA, and the RA. In Count VII, ASI seeks a declaration that these two provisions are null and void and unenforceable.

On September 9, 2004, the District Court held that Younger abstention applied to all of ASI's claims and granted the Township's Motion to Dismiss in its entirety. ASI argues on appeal that the District Court erred in finding that (1) the state land use appeal is still "ongoing" for Younger abstention purposes; (2) resolution of ASI's federal claims would interfere with a state proceeding that involves important state interests; and (3) the land use appeal actually afforded ASI the opportunity to bring its federal claims.

II. JURISDICTION

Federal district courts generally have subject matter jurisdiction over claims brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, the United States Constitution, the ADA, and the RA pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331 and 1343(a). If those federal claims were properly before the District Court in this case, it also had supplemental jurisdiction over ASI's Pennsylvania state constitutional claim pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1367(a). We have jurisdiction to review the District Court's final order of dismissal under 28 U.S.C. § 1291. As a ...


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