Dolan v. City of Tigard

Following is the case brief for Dolan v. City of Tigard, 512 U.S. 374 (1994)

Case Summary of Dolan v. City of Tigard:

  • Petitioner Dolan sought to make changes to her business property.  The City of Tigard placed two conditions on granting Dolan permission — a public greenway to mitigate flooding, and a pedestrian/bicycle path.
  • Dolan appealed in state court, claiming that the conditions amounted to an uncompensated taking in violation of the Fifth Amendment.
  • Both the Oregon Court of Appeals and Oregon Supreme Court rejected Dolan’s argument.  They found that the conditions were reasonably related to the proposed changes to the property.
  • The U.S. Supreme Court reversed.  The Court held that because the conditions were not roughly proportional to the proposed property changes, the conditions were in violation of the Fifth Amendment’s Takings Clause.

Dolan v. City of Tigard Case Brief

Statement of the Facts:

Petitioner Florence Dolan owned a plumbing and electric supply store in the City of Tigard. Dolan wished to expand the size of her store and allow for a bigger parking lot.  The City, consistent with the State of Oregon’s land use management program, required two conditions of Dolan in order to obtain approval for the changes on her land:

  1.  dedicate a portion of the land for a public greenway to minimize the flooding that would result from an increase in paved surfaces on the property; and
  2.  dedicate a strip of land for a pedestrian/bicycle pathway to relieve traffic congestion in the city center.

The conditions required a dedication of approximately 10% of Dolan’s property.  The City would not give variances for those conditions, and Dolan appealed to the Land Use Board of Appeals (LUBA).

LUBA found that there was a reasonable relationship between (i) the increased paved/impervious surfaces and requirement of a greenway to handle the additional water runoff; and (ii) the increased traffic from an expanded business and the requirement of a pedestrian/bicycle pathway to relieve some of that traffic.

Procedural History:

  • Dolan appealed to the Oregon Court of Appeals, arguing that the City’s two conditions are an unconstitutional taking in violation of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments.  The Court of Appeals affirmed the decision of LUBA.
  • The Oregon Supreme Court also affirmed the decision of LUBA.  It found that the two conditions were reasonably related to the expansion of Dolan’s business.
  • The U.S. Supreme Court, noting a possible conflict between the Oregon Supreme Court’s decision and its own decision in Nollan v. California Coastal Comm’n, 483 U.S. 825 (1987), granted certiorari.

Issue and Holding:

Do government conditions on allowing a landowner to expand property amount to an unconstitutional taking if those conditions are not roughly proportional to a legitimate governmental interest?  Yes.


The judgment of the Oregon Supreme Court is reversed and remanded.

Rule of Law or Legal Principle Applied:

A government’s conditions on property expansion amount to an uncompensated taking of property if they are not roughly proportional to a legitimate government interest.


There is an essential nexus, consistent with Nollan, between the City’s conditions and Dolan’s proposed expansion.  More impervious surfaces on the property means more water runoff, and a bigger store means more traffic.  Thus, conditions to minimize flooding and offset traffic have a nexus to the proposed expansion.

However, there is not a “rough proportionality” between the proposed property changes and the government conditions.  First, the fact that the greenway required by the City must be public rather than private is not roughly proportional.  Dolan is unnecessarily being forced to relinquish her right to exclude people from her property.  Second, the City did not make findings regarding traffic that were specific enough to justify the pedestrian/bicycle path. Therefore, the conditions amounted to an uncompensated taking of Dolan’s property.

Dissenting Opinion (Stevens):

The Court’s new and unnecessary “rough proportionality” test runs counter to traditional treatment of these types of cases.  Indeed, it appears to be a resurrection of the type of substantive due process rejected decades ago.  Most importantly, the Court made a significant error in ignoring the traditional presumption of constitutionality of government action. Instead, the Court has now improperly placed the burden on the government rather than on the property owner when a property owner seeks to make changes to her property.

Dissenting Opinion (Souter):

There was no need for the Court to fashion a new test when it appears that it is ultimately applying the standard set in Nollan.  Further, the Court does not apply the standard appropriately because the government is entitled to a presumption of constitutionality.


Dolan v. City of Tigard is a landmark decision on zoning and land use law because it gives courts the ammunition to limit a government’s ability to ask for public improvements when property owners seek to make changes to their properties.

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