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New Life Evangelistic Center, Inc. v. City of St. Louis

United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division

April 8, 2015

NEW LIFE EVANGELISTIC CENTER, INC., Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF ST. LOUIS, MISSOURI, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

JOHN A. ROSS, District Judge.

This case is before the Court on Movants Brad A. Waldrop ("Waldrop"), Neighbors of NLEC, LLC ("NNI"), 1426 Washington Ave. LLC, and 1401 Locust Street, LLC's[1] Motion to Intervene (Doc. 12). The Motion is fully briefed and ready for disposition. For the following reasons, the Movants' Motion will be DENIED without prejudice.

I. Background

Plaintiff New Life Evangelistic Center, Inc. ("New Life") is an interdenominational Christion church and Missouri non-profit corporation that operates a homeless shelter in its facility located at 1411 Locust Street in Saint Louis City (hereinafter the "Facility") ( Id. at ¶¶6, 12, 14, 19, 24) According to New Life, the Facility houses on average between 225 and 250 individuals per night and, on a cold night, this number may be as high as 300 individuals ( Id. at ¶22).

On March 16, 1976, the City of St. Louis, Missouri (''the City") issued New Life hotel permit No. 84777 (the "Permit"), which allows New Life to provide 32 beds at the Facility ( Id. at ¶¶17, 18; Doc. 1-7). On April 26, 2013, a petition was submitted to the City's Board of Public Service ("the Board") seeking a hearing before the Board to have the Facility declared a "detriment to the neighborhood" pursuant to Chapter 11.72.010 of the St. Louis City Revised Code (Doc. 1 at ¶55). Pursuant to Chapter 11.72, the Board has the authority to revoke a hotel permit if the hotel in question constitutes a detriment to the neighborhood in which it is located ( Id. at ¶57; Doc. 1-37). After confirming that the petition contained verified signatures, the Board held several hearings over the course of a six-month period (Doc. 1 at ¶¶61, 62, 63). On December 23, 2014, the Board voted to declare the homeless shelter a detriment to the neighborhood and to revoke New Life's Permit effective May 12, 2015 unless on or before that date New Life provided documentation that it is in compliance with the 32-bed requirement for at least 30 days or New Life provides documentation to the Board demonstrating that it has obtained the necessary permit and/or license to operate its facility ( Id. at ¶¶67-70). The Board thereafter issued an order memorializing its decision (Doc. 1-37).

On March 3, 2015, New Life filed this action against the City for declaratory relief, injunctive relief, and damages pursuant to the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA), 42 U.S.C. 2000cc et seq., the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution, the Missouri Religious Freedom Restoration Act, Mo. Rev. Stat. Sec. 1.302, and the Missouri Constitution. New Life specifically requests the following relevant relief: that the Court (1) declare the decision by the City to require it to possess a hotel permit in order to run its homeless shelter to be violation of these laws; (2) further declare that New Life is permitted as of right to use the Facility as a religious organization for all of its intended and stated purposes; (3) permanently enjoin the City from denying New Life the right to use the Facility as an overnight shelter for the homeless; and (4) preliminarily and permanently enjoin the City from enforcing its Revised Code, Building Code, or any other code to prevent New Life from using a portion of the Facility as a homeless shelter (Doc. 1 at 24-25). New Life accordingly filed a Motion for Preliminary Injunction concurrently with its Complaint (Doc. 3) and, on March 16, 2015, New Life moved for a temporary restraining order ("TRO"). In its Motion for TRO, New Life requests that the Court enjoin the City from enforcing the decision of the Board to either revoke its Permit or force it to drastically reduce the number of homeless persons it serves (Doc. 9). The hearing on the Motion for TRO is currently scheduled for April 9, 2015 at 1:30 p.m.

On March 20, 2015, Movants Waldrop, NNI, 1426 Washington Ave. LLC, and 1401 Locust Street, LLC filed a Motion to Intervene requesting, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 24(a)(2), that this Court grant them leave to intervene as Defendants in this action, as a matter of right or, alternatively, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 24(b)(2), that this Court grant them leave to intervene as Defendants in this action permissively (Doc. 12). Movants generally assert that they have a compelling interest in the outcome of this action and in preserving the viability and enforceability of the Board's decision because they have valid concerns about public safety in the vicinity of the New Life Facility and the very livability of that neighborhood (Doc. 13 at ¶13). The Property Movants additionally assert an interest because ''they have commercial operations in the immediate vicinity of the [New Life] Facility that have suffered economically" (Doc. 13 at ¶7).

II. Analysis

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 24 governs whether a movant may intervene. FED. R. CIV. P. 24(a), (b). In this Circuit, potential intervenors must establish Article Ill. standing in addition to the requirements of Rule 24. United States v. Metro. St. Louis Sewer Dist., 569 F.3d 829, 834 (8th Cir. 2009). See also Solliday v. Dir. of Bureau of Prisions, No. ll-CV-2350 MJD/JJG, 2014 WL 6388568, at *3 (D. Minn. Nov. 14, 2014) ("[A]lthough the Eighth Circuit has not ruled on whether standing is a prerequisite to permissive intervention under Rule 24(b), ... most courts in this District have required it.") (internal citation omitted) The Circuit further directs the Court to "address questions of standing before addressing the merits of a case where standing is called into question" as is the case here. Brown v. Medtronic, Inc., 628 F.3d 451, 455 (8th Cir. 2010).

"Constitutional standing requires a showing of: (1) an injury in fact...; (2) causation; and (3) redressability." Curry v. Regents of Univ. of Minnesota, 167 F.3d 420, 422 (8th Cir. 1999). An injury-in-fact is "an invasion of a legally protected interest that is concrete, particularized, and either actual or imminent." Id The requirement of imminence insures that the injury is not too speculative and is impending. Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 564 n.2 (1992). The Movants must also establish "a causal connection between the injury and the conduct complained of, in other words, the intervenor's alleged injury must be fairly traceable to the [opposing party's] conduct." Nat'l Parks Conservation Ass'n v. US. E.P.A., 759 F.3d 969, 974-75 (8th Cir. 2014) (internal quotations and citations omitted). Finally, the Movants "must establish that a favorable decision will likely redress the injury." Id (internal quotation omitted).

1. The Property Movants

The Property Movants are the owners of two buildings neighboring the New Life Facility. 1426 Washington Ave., LLC is a limited liability company that owns the commercial realty at 1426 Washington Ave., St. Louis, Missouri commonly referred to as the "Monkey Building." The Monkey Building is located immediately north of the New Life Facility and shares an alley with it (Doc. 13 at ¶4). 1401 Locust Street, LLC is a limited liability company that owns a commercial parking lot that is immediately east of the New Life Facility. The parking lot and the New Life Facility share a property line ( Id. at ¶5). The Property Movants assert that they have "suffered economically" as a result of New Life's "stockpiling of a massive homeless population that is then cast out onto the streets early each morning" ( Id. at ¶7).

Allegations of economic harm may establish Article III standing. Nat'l Parks Conservation Ass'n, 759 F.3d at 975 (finding a risk of direct financial harm establishes injury in fact required for Article III standing). However, general economic interests are not protectable nor are interests that are too remote from the subject matter of the proceeding. Metro. St. Louis Sewer Dist., 569 F.3d at 836; Standard Heating & Air Conditioning Co. v. City of Minneapolis, 137 F.3d 567, 571 (8th Cir. 1998). Here, the Property Movants fail to specifically state how they have suffered economically or how their economic loss ...


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