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Eagles Nest Ranch & Academy v. Bloom Township Board of Trustees

February 26, 2007

EAGLES NEST RANCH & ACADEMY, ET AL., PLAINTIFFS,
v.
BLOOM TOWNSHIP BOARD OF TRUSTEES, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Holschuh

Magistrate Judge Abel

MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER

Plaintiffs Eagles Nest Ranch & Academy, Scott Wayland, and Providence Acquisitions filed suit against the Bloom Township Board of Trustees; Anne Darling Cyphert, Bloom Township Zoning Inspector; and Bloom Township residents Brian Randles, Mark Mitchell, and Michael Orabella. Plaintiffs allege disability discrimination in violation of federal and state law, violations of Ohio's Open Meetings Law, and violations of their substantive due process rights. This matter is currently before the Court on a motion to dismiss filed by Defendants Mark Mitchell and Michael Orabella. (Record at 10).

I. Background and Procedural History

Plaintiff Scott Wayland is the proprietor of Eagles Nest Ranch & Academy, a not-for-profit corporation that has provided equine therapy and rehabilitative services for children with disabilities since 1993. It is also a working farm and ranch that hosts other activities open to the general public. Eagles Nest is located in Bloom Township. The relationship between Eagles Nest and Bloom Township residents has been contentious from the beginning.

According to the Second Amended Complaint, Mark Mitchell, Michael Orabella and other property owners in the area have repeatedly voiced opposition to the continued operation of Eagles Nest. Beginning on or about January 5, 2005, Mitchell allegedly hosted neighborhood meetings in his home, and invited various Bloom Township officials, including Zoning Inspector Anne Darling Cyphert, to discuss how they might close down Eagles Nest.

On January 14, 2005, Bloom Township filed suit against Eagles Nest, seeking a temporary restraining order prohibiting the ranch from conducting certain activities. In support of its claim, the township submitted complaints filed by ten Bloom Township residents, including Mitchell and Orabella, alleging that increased traffic and noise from motorcycle racing at Eagles Nest the weekend of January 7-9, 2005 had violated the township's zoning regulations.

On September 29, 2005, Bloom Township filed another suit against Eagles Nest. After learning that Eagles Nest planned to hold a fund-raising dinner-dance at which liquor might be served, the township sought another temporary restraining order. Although the court denied the township's request, the fund-raiser had to be canceled because by the time the matter was resolved, deadlines for confirming caterers and entertainment had expired.

In November of 2005, Plaintiffs filed suit against the Bloom Township Board of Trustees, Zoning Inspector Anne Darling Cyphert, and private citizens Brian Randles, Mark Mitchell and Michael Orabella seeking declaratory and injunctive relief as well as damages. Although the case was originally filed in state court, Defendants removed it to federal court. Count 1 of the Second Amended Complaint alleges that Defendants have engaged in a pattern and practice of discrimination against handicapped persons in violation of Ohio law. Count 2 alleges that Defendants have arbitrarily enforced zoning restrictions in violation of Ohio law prohibiting discrimination against the handicapped. Count 3 alleges violations of the Fair Housing Act, Count 4 alleges violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act, and Count 5 alleges violations of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Count 6 alleges violations of Ohio's Open Meetings Law and Count 7 alleges substantive due process violations.

Defendants Mark Mitchell and Michael Orabella have filed a motion to dismiss all claims against them pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6).

II. Standard of Review

Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides that a complaint may be dismissed if it fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. The purpose of a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) "is to allow a defendant to test whether, as a matter of law, the plaintiff is entitled to legal relief even if everything alleged in the complaint is true." Mayer v. Mylod, 988 F.2d 635, 638 (6th Cir. 1993).

When considering a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), the Court must construe the complaint in the light most favorable to the plaintiff and accept all well-pleaded material allegations in the complaint as true. See Scheuer v. Rhodes, 4l6 U.S. 232, 236 (1974); Arrow v. Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, 358 F.3d 392, 393 (6th Cir. 2004); Mayer, 988 F.2d at 638. Although the Court must liberally construe the complaint in favor of the party opposing the motion to dismiss, it will not accept conclusions of law or unwarranted inferences cast in the form of factual allegations. See Gregory v. Shelby County, 220 F.3d 433, 446 (6th Cir. 2000); Lewis v. ACB Business Serv., Inc., 135 F.3d 389, 405-06 (6th Cir. 1998). The Court will, however, indulge all reasonable inferences that might be drawn from the pleading. See Saglioccolo v. Eagle Ins. Co., 112 F.3d 226, 228 (6th Cir. 1997).

When determining the sufficiency of a complaint in the face of a motion to dismiss, a court will apply the principle that "a complaint should not be dismissed for failure to state a claim unless it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief." Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957). See also Swierkiewicz v. Sorema N.A., 534 U.S. 506, 514 (2002); Yushasz v. Brush Wellman, Inc., 341 F.3d 559, 562 (6th Cir. 2003). Because a motion under Rule 12(b)(6) is directed solely to the complaint itself, Roth Steel Prods. v. Sharon Steel Corp., 705 F.2d 134, 155 (6th Cir. 1983), the focus is on whether the plaintiff is entitled to offer evidence to support ...


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