2009 National Planning Conference

2009 Bettman Symposium

By Lora Lucero, AICP
Editor, Planning & Environmental Law

For at least the past 30 years, APA's Bettman Symposium has paid tribute to Alfred Bettman, the Cincinnati attorney who filed the amicus brief in the U.S Supreme Court case of Village of Euclid v. Ambler Realty Co. on behalf of the national planning association. The case declared zoning constitutional.

In Minneapolis on Sunday, April 26, 2009,  the symposium comprised four sessions: "APA in the Courts," "Euclid v. Ambler Comes Alive," "In Accordance with a Comprehensive Plan," and "Religious Land Uses, and Zoning and the Courts."

There were a number of highlights this year. The most memorable for me will be visiting with Professor Charles Haar before and after his presentation with Edward Sullivan in the comprehensive plan session. Professor Haar wrote an influential 1954 law review article, "In Accordance with a Comprehensive Plan," which inspired many attorneys, planners, and courts on the proper role of these plans. Many of APA's amicus briefs have cited to Professor Haar's work.

Last spring, Haar was traveling in Austria when he fell and broke his leg. In spite of physical therapy and recovery, he appeared at the symposium in Minneapolis and attracted a standing-room crowd of perhaps 300-350 people. When a member of the audience stood and thanked Haar for his contributions to the profession, the entire room erupted in applause.

On the way to the airport Monday morning, Haar mentioned that he is working on a book about President Lyndon B. Johnson (who appointed Haar as the first Assistant Secretary for Metropolitan Development of the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development). I'm so pleased I had an opportunity to meet him in Minneapolis.

The bar has been set high for future Bettmans.

Minnesota Supreme Court Justice Christopher Dietzen and Minneapolis attorney John Baker spoke about the role of the amicus brief in the appellate courts. Immediately following the session, Justice Dietzen generously shared a few additional moments to tape a podcast for APA.

After lunch, Michael Wolf, a law professor and a historian, brought the people and events surrounding the Village of Euclid v. Ambler Realty Co. case to life with his discussion of historical documents from the 1920s.

Four experts shared different perspectives about the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA). Attorney Dan Dalton believes RLUIPA has leveled the playing field for religious land use applicants at city hall, while attorney Michael Giaimo used the same phrase and said he believes RLUIPA has tilted the playing field in favor of religious land use applicants. Planner Graham Billingsley explained what steps communities should take to avoid RLUIPA challenges. Dean Patty Salkin, who is chair of APA's amicus curiae committee, provided a clear and succinct description of the act.

Finally, attorney Edward Sullivan shared the stage with Charles Haar and explained to the audience how the role of the comprehensive plan is treated very differently among the 50 states. Sullivan is a prolific writer and thinker about the role of planning and the comprehensive plan in our profession. I suspect that he will be the legend for current and future planners and land use attorneys that Professor Haar is for my generation.

The symposium culminated in a book signing featuring two books in the spotlight during the symposium:  The Zoning of America: Euclid v. Ambler by Michael Allan Wolf, and RLUIPA Reader: Religious Uses, Zoning and the Courts, co-edited by Michael Giaimo and Lora Lucero.


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