This article is reprinted with permission from the November 2003 issue of The Legal Intelligencer's Real Estate Quarterly.
Unsurprisingly, existing businesses would prefer to avoid competition from new businesses, and will do what they can to stop or lessen new competition. Land use and zoning laws, with their complexity and time-consuming nature, present a tempting opportunity for existing businesses to stop (or at least slow down) new competition. But how far can competitors go in manipulating land use and zoning laws?
The courts have enforced standing requirements fairly rigorously, holding that competitors lack standing to appeal land use permits and approvals where the alleged harm is merely increased competition.
But the courts have also protected competitors' First Amendment rights in connection with public hearings and the approval process.
A recent Pennsylvania Superior Court case, however, suggests that competitors can still go too far and even be found liable when their statements are demonstrably false and their efforts too underhanded.