The Alabama Supreme Court sided with the city of Auburn on Friday in a lawsuit contesting the city's ordinance regulating short-term rental properties.
Former Auburn City Councilman Steven Dixon, who began renting out a portion of his house in Auburn on Airbnb before the ordinance was passed, sued the City of Auburn in June 2021 after the ordinance passed.
According to The Auburn Villager, the ordinance, which the City Council approved in 2021, creates two short-term rental uses — short-term non-primary rentals and homestays, which includes the requirement that the home be the owner's primary residence. The ordinance prohibits both uses in traditional single-family neighborhoods, though, including those zoned Neighborhood Conservation, among others.
Dixon had rented the basement of his home, located in a Neighborhood Conservation zone, on a short-term basis since 2018, before the city had any ordinance regulating short-term rentals. Dixon was elected to the city council in 2018 and didn't run for re-election in 2022.
Alabama Supreme Court Justices, in a per curiam decision, wrote, "In the present case, Dixon has presented no evidence indicating (1) that the City intended, by not enforcing the previous zoning ordinance against him, to communicate that Dixon would be exempt from any future ordinance's regulation of short-term rentals or (2) that he relied on the City's alleged enforcement inaction before commencing his short term-rental use of the home's basement."
"Dixon also has not alleged that he ever sought a use interpretation, zoning certificate, or business license from the City before the enactment of the short-term-rental ordinance or that the defendants took any other affirmative action to recognize the legality of Dixon's short-term-rental use of the home's basement," the justices wrote in the opinion.
Alabama Supreme Court Justice Tommy Bryan wrote, "I concur in the main opinion. I write specially to note that, insofar as Steven Dixon alleges a "regulatory taking" of his property, his claim is, unfortunately, not a viable claim under Alabama law."
He continued, "It appears to me that Dixon, among other things, attempted to allege a regulatory taking, i.e., that the City of Auburn's zoning ordinance, as amended by the short-term-rental ordinance, is so onerous that it amounts to a taking of his property under the Alabama Constitution despite the absence of a physical intrusion onto the property.
"However, as the circuit court correctly observed, under Town of Gurley v. M & N Materials, Inc. this Court does not recognize a regulatory-takings claim based on the Alabama Constitution. I dissented regarding that issue in Town of Gurley, and I continue to believe that that issue was wrongly decided in that decision. As I observed in my special writing in that case, Alabama's failure to recognize regulatory takings 'is out of line with the vast majority of states, which recognize the concept of a regulatory taking under state constitutions.' Had Dixon asked this Court — which has significantly changed in composition since Town of Gurley was released — to overrule that decision, I would have voted to overrule it and to recognize the concept of a regulatory taking under Alabama law."
A City of Auburn spokesperson and an attorney for Dixon didn't return requests for comment on Friday.
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