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Marianist Province of United States v. City of Kirkwood

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit

December 13, 2019

Marianist Province of the United States; St. John Vianney High School, Inc. Plaintiffs-Appellants
City of Kirkwood; Board of Adjustment of the City of Kirkwood Defendants-Appellees

          Submitted: September 26, 2019

          Appeal from United States District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri - St. Louis.

          Before GRUENDER, BENTON, and SHEPHERD, Circuit Judges.

          Gruender, Circuit Judge.

         Marianist Province of the United States and St. John Vianney High School, Inc. (collectively, "Vianney") appeal the district court's summary judgment rulings on their Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act ("RLUIPA") claims, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000cc(b)(1) and 2000cc(a)(1), Missouri Religious Freedom Restoration Act ("Missouri RFRA") claim, Mo. Rev. Stat. § 1.302.1, and inverse condemnation claim under Missouri's Constitution, Mo. Const. art. I, § 26. We affirm the district court's grant of summary judgment regarding Vianney's RLUIPA claims and inverse condemnation claim but vacate and remand the grant of summary judgment regarding the Missouri RFRA claim with instructions to dismiss that claim without prejudice.


         Vianney is an all-male Marianist high school that has operated in the City of Kirkwood, Missouri since 1960. Vianney is a leasehold owner of the school property pursuant to a long-term lease with Marianist Province. The school's mission statement provides that it is "dedicated to forming young men for spiritual, academic and personal excellence in the Catholic, Marianist tradition." Vianney states that its students and faculty use all of its approximately thirty-seven-acre property as a forum to evangelize by drawing people to the campus and sharing their faith. Student athletes and coaches pray before every athletic event and practice.

         The school campus includes classroom buildings, a track, an outdoor football and soccer stadium, and a sports field used primarily for baseball. Vianney's track, football, and soccer facility is equipped with lights and a sound system that were installed before 2012. The baseball field is bordered by residential homes and has been used to play baseball and other sports without lights for decades. Vianney's efforts, from 2012 to 2016, to install lights and an updated sound system on this baseball field form the basis of this dispute.

         Before 2012, Kirkwood's zoning code did not contain any lighting regulations. In November 2012, Kirkwood adopted a revised zoning code that included new regulations limiting the maximum level of light a property owner can cast onto nearby residential properties to 0.1 foot-candles. The stated purpose of the 2012 regulations was to "strike a balance of safety and aesthetics by providing lighting regulations that protect drivers and pedestrians from glare and reduce . . . the trespass of artificial lighting onto neighboring properties." Kirkwood also has sound regulations that prohibit "loud, unnecessary noises" that "unreasonably or unnecessarily disturb[] . . . the comfort, repose, health, peace, or safety of others in the city."

         Vianney began the process of installing lights on its baseball field in late 2014. In 2015, contractors told the school that no lighting configuration could both comply with the lighting regulations and be bright enough to play baseball safely at night. Vianney therefore applied for a variance from the regulations. Kirkwood's city planner told Vianney it did not need a variance, mistakenly thinking the baseball field already had lights. In October 2015, Vianney submitted a site plan for its improvements to the baseball field, which Kirkwood approved. Vianney then installed the lights at a cost in excess of $235, 000. In January 2016, Vianney also installed an updated sound system on its baseball field.

         After the lights were installed and tested, neighbors complained. Vianney submitted another site plan in 2016, which the city approved subject to several conditions on the use of the lights and sound system. Vianney took issue with the conditions, claiming they deprived it of all meaningful use of its baseball field at night.

         Both Vianney and the local public high school, Kirkwood High School ("KHS"), have football stadiums that are used for other sports, such as soccer, and were equipped with lights and sound systems before 2012. Both parties acknowledge that the city "grandfathered in" the lights on both schools' football fields after the lighting regulations were adopted, allowing unrestricted use of the lights and sound systems on those fields. Both high schools also have baseball fields that were not equipped with lights before 2012, and KHS has not installed lights on its baseball field.

         In January 2017, Vianney filed a petition against Kirkwood in state court, alleging two claims under RLUIPA, a claim under the Missouri RFRA statute, and inverse condemnation under Missouri's Constitution. Kirkwood removed the case to federal court based on Vianney's RLUIPA claims. See 28 U.S.C. § 1331. Both Vianney and Kirkwood moved for summary judgment. In September 2018, the district court granted summary judgment to Kirkwood, which Vianney now appeals.


         We review a grant of summary judgment de novo. Ball v. City of Lincoln, 870 F.3d 722, 726 (8th Cir. 2017). "Summary judgment is proper if the pleadings, the discovery and disclosure materials on file, and any affidavits show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact . . . ." Torgerson v. City of Rochester, 643 F.3d 1031, 1042 (8th Cir. 2011) (en banc) (quoting Fed.R.Civ.P. 56). "Where the record taken as a whole could not ...

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